What the Zoom is Virtual Training?? An inside perspective

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What the Zoom is Virtual Training?? An inside perspective

As I packed away my computer on March 10th last year and headed down the long drive of Citi West hotel, I was pleased to be heading home after a successful 1-day HACCP refresher course. Little did I know that 13 months later, I would not have returned to a venue that I had used frequently for the past number of years. Risk was in the air as the Corona virus had reached our shores but like most people I was oblivious as to what lay ahead.

The company that contracted Food Safety training courses to me issued an invite to attend Zoom training- I had absolutely no idea what Zoom was, it could have been a boy band for all I knew but as I logged on I was soon to find out as in a state of panic I tried to get my head around screen sharing, white boards, reaction buttons, break out rooms and much more besides. I was completely and utterly out of my comfort zone and instead of break out rooms I was breaking out in a sweat of nerves and panic.

This was not for me so in my naivety I decided to hold tight until my beloved classroom would come back again probably in September 2020 so the Zoom Boat sailed away from me and I cheerfully waved it off. September became Christmas and as the New Year dawned so did the realisation that the virtual training world was ever present and I would have to step up to the plate or be left behind forever. So, taking my courage into my hands and supported by colleagues and many practise sessions I logged on to my first HACCP refresher course exactly 1 year after my last live course in CitiWest.

Virtual Training – Is it here to stay?

As I admitted my delegates in from the waiting room, I prayed that all would go well and my internet connection would not let me down and that all the other catastrophes I had dreamed about the previous night would not come to pass.

The session started and as I settled, I was soon sharing screens, using whiteboards and break out rooms like a pro and as the course closed and my delegates waved goodbye with a grateful thanks for an excellent day, I headed out for a walk with the dog which on a nice spring evening in West Cork was decidedly more pleasant than a 3-hour drive and thought about the question was virtual training here to stay?

Advantages V. Disadvantages

The advantages are many as delegates can log in from literally anywhere with the benefit of reduced time in travel for both delegate and tutor.

There is a reduction in paper use as manuals and other course material are shared electronically.

There are cost savings also in terms of travel and accommodation but there is an obvious downside to this also for hotels who gained an income from hosting training courses.

The disadvantages are that as a trainer it is much more difficult to interact and engage as you would normally do in a classroom setting and this is even more difficult if delegates have their camera turned off.

The energy that the tutor gets from the live session is absent so at the close of the virtual session one may be left exhausted and feeling as flat as a battery but as tutor competency grows one learns how to increase the energy levels by engaging more and more with delegates through questions, workshops, and the bit of banter.

Top Tips for a Better Virtual Training Experience

So back to my question is virtual training here to stay? ISO 22000/2018 defines Risk as ‘The effect of uncertainty’ and in section 0.3 it states that risk can have positive or negative effects which in essence means risk can lead to threats or opportunities. The risk of the Corona virus has led to severe threat to lives and livelihoods but in the world of food safety training it has led to many opportunities.

I think the answer therefore is a definite YES and from one who railed rallied and rebelled against it I can now say that I am happy the answer is YES.

However, I would also say don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and ensure that going forward we take the best of virtual and the best of classroom particularly for longer courses and blend them into a world class training product.

So, what advice can I give to those of you who may be struggling with taking the leap into the virtual world?

  • Well as it is with all things its Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.
  • Have excellent content and practise all the zoom features before you go live.
  • Have a checklist to ensure that you have everything covered such as the documents you wish to use are opened, that you have checked your internet speed particularly your upload speed- I am reassured when I see it close to 1.0 Mega Bytes/per sec.
  • Have another device such as IPad or Phone logged onto the call so you can see at all times what your delegates are viewing on the screen.
  • Ask your delegates to keep in gallery view and to keep cameras on and mics off if there is a lot of background noise.
  • Ask them to remove their mask if they can without breaching any company rules as it helps build interaction between tutor and delegate.
  • Build in breaks – a maximum session is 90 minutes and before every break go around the gallery and check in with everyone to see how they are doing.
  • Use breakout rooms as it replicates the syndicate rooms of a live session and gives you the tutor a bit of time to gather your thoughts and the delegates a break from you so it’s a win- win.
  • Last but not least believe in yourself and if you are a good trainer in the classroom you will be a good trainer on the virtual platform whether it’s ZOOM or Teams the two platforms most commonly used today.

If I can do it I can assure you that you can too, so Good Luck to all.

Edel Jones B.Sc.M.Appl.sc, Member of Food Safety Professionals of Ireland. SQT Tutor, April 26th 2021

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