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We’ve all heard the (apocryphal) Chinese curse ‘May he live in interesting times.

It doesn’t get a lot more “interesting” than 2020 does it?

Covid-19 has turned the work on its head in just a few short weeks. According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, “We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives, allow Australia to keep functioning and keep Australians in jobs.”

I actually prefer a quote from Bobby Kennedy “These are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.” 

For most organisations, WFA (Working from Anywhere) has been used as a ‘by exception’ model, for example to cover maternity or injury recovery leave. These are generally short-term periods and can if needed (at least in theory) be supplemented when needed by a ‘visit to the office’. However now many of our staff are now WFA whether we like it or not.  We’re looking for ways to switch activities from in person to online.

Last time, we spoke about the duty of the trainer during a pandemic and the reality that our roles have changed for good, because our trainees have changed for good.

If there really is anyone still out there holding onto the myth that people won’t return with the expectation that they will be able to work in a remote, self-directed way, they are in for a shock.

Q: “I’ve heard that before”

A: I doubt it.

You may have heard “eLearning is the future” from those with vested interests, but that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying we need to adapt to a new reality. Much as the advent of connected schoolchildren forced teachers to re-invent themselves for the “inverted classroom”, the lot of the educator is to be a step ahead when technology changes people.

Now is one of those times.

In spades.

Q: “But online learning is inferior”

A: Look in the mirror.

Many of us have suffered though tiresome, boring, e-learning which consists of text or videos that the learner is expected to read or watch, followed by a series of questions, the latter addressing the condescendingly obvious. Weirdly the so-called educators responsible for this rubbish have managed to deflect the blame to the extent that it seems to be accepted that eLearning is inevitably like that, and even that it constitutes some form of training…

Repeat a false message often enough and it becomes true.

So yes,  a set of slides with a quiz at the end is inferior, but so was that lecture series I attended where the teacher did precisely the same thing face to face. Not a word was spoken as he transcribed his notes to the whiteboard week after week, then set an exam.

What I call “e-reading” (because I refuse to mislabel this as “learning”) can be delivered in any form. The medium’s not the issue; the degree of effort is.

If you want to teach people as imaginatively in this new world as you did before COVID, the time to start imagining is now.

Q: how?

A: I’m glad you asked…!

Let’s start by recognising that every medium has limitations. I would not recommend the classroom as the best way to teach a learner driver. I wouldn’t recommend “hands on” learning for “introduction to asbestos removal” and I am not arguing that everything is well suited to online training either.

Equally, I don’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater by dismissing an entire mode of delivery because of one problematic aspect to it. For example, a final assessment might require observation. This doesn’t mean the preparation is not suited to online delivery.

Ths is where it gets fun. The creative teacher sees opportunities where others see obstacles.

The starting point (regardless of the medium) is in the planning.

For me, this commences with Cathy Moore’s “Action Mapping“. If we have a clear goal (ONE!) and map skills to it, then map knowledge to those, we can make tough decisions on inclusions… and exclusions (one of the most common faults is including something without clear reason beyond the fact that “we have this cool asset…”).

With a focused set of inclusions driven by a set of actions, it’s amazing how liberated you will feel. Suddenly the story tells itself. Suddenly we avoid unnecessary detail. Suddenly we’re focused on the practical.

Now… let’s use all the wonderful technologies to develop activities as part of the story! Teaching is a matter of being prepared to be flexible and innovative in our approach, and we pride ourselves on being able to do that, don’t we?

Q: The secret to great eLearning?

A: Pure imagination

Have fun!

In the words of Gene Wilder… Wanna change the world? There’s nothing to it!