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December132021
Promoting Equitable Learning Experiences in Hybrid Training

Berdon LLP Director of Learning and Development

12.13.21 | Operations Chat

Pre-pandemic, there were three main scenarios for corporate training.

  1. Everyone was in the same room,
  2. there were two or more offices connected with video conferencing, or
  3. everyone was fully remote through a web-conferencing app.

Rarely was there a need for all of those to be happening simultaneously. But now, in the brave new hybrid-work world, corporate training classes may have learners in all three of those situations at the exact same time.

With 2022 looming large, I have been thinking a lot about how to create equitable learning experiences for each person, regardless of how they participate. So, what can we do? Preparation is even more important than ever. Here are some ultra-practical considerations.

Have a producer. This is the person who handles logistics for every location, such as monitoring attendance, providing tech support, controlling the mute button, helping people who can’t access materials, running the polls, deploying IT help to conference rooms, and everything in between. The instructor can’t do all that AND teach their content, so keep your producer close by.

Access to the instructor. All learners should have an equal opportunity to ask questions of the instructor in a timely fashion. If you have 2+ physical classrooms plus people in a web-conferencing app, you need someone to act as an instructor in each location. Monitoring all those spaces is difficult for seasoned presenters; it is nearly impossible for a novice. Inevitably, inexperienced instructors concentrate all their attention where they feel the most comfortable, leaving everyone else out. Get ahead of this by involving other instructors to cover each location.

Instructors should greet and acknowledge all audiences. If 2/3 of the audience knows that the instructor will ignore them, then 2/3 of your audience won’t learn very much. Engaging everyone is as simple as greeting each audience, repeatedly inviting everyone to ask questions, and calling on people who aren’t in the same location. Without this, the instructor will lose control of the presentation in the other locations because people will talk to each other instead of paying attention.

Ensure everyone can see and hear equally well. Unfortunately, I have seen hybrid presentations where the online audience could only see the instructor’s torso because they failed to position their webcam correctly. If they walked away from the webcam, the online audience couldn’t hear either. Have instructors present from where they are visible and can be heard clearly in each location. In addition, consider how the presentation materials are shared. Is the instructor communicating with tiny handwriting on a dry-erase board that is barely visible to the room, much less online? That’s not good for anyone! Consider using online apps so that regardless of where you are, you can see.

Ensure learners can interact with each other. Adult learners usually report learning just as much from their colleagues as from instructors. This will be easy for those who are in the same location, but what about people in a satellite office or online? Can they be grouped together as well? You can still create learning communities by considering this in advance. This is one area where your producer and other instructors can be immensely helpful.

Can in-class exercises be completed by everyone? Do you have a sticky-note activity that everyone in Conference Room A is going to do? Make sure you have an online equivalent for those connecting remotely. (Miro is great for this.) Do you want everyone to work in small groups on a case study? Provide materials to everyone digitally and group people according to the location from which they are participating, or risk leaving a ton of people out.

2022 is going to be an interesting year as learning professionals seek to equally engage everyone. The items listed above are just the beginning, but I hope they provide a good place to start. Each learner is important and doing everything we can to provide equitable learning experiences not only supports our learners, but ultimately our businesses.

Happy Hybrid Learning!

Questions: Contact Nicholas Romanowski at 212.331.7609 | nromanowski@berdonllp.com

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