e-Training Conflict Management skills: How to keep it interactive and experiential?

I got much of my classroom-based conflict management training through the Justice Institute of BC (JIBC), over a decade ago.  I really enjoyed it.  It was immediate, face-to-face, conversational, with lots of role-playing and discussion.  Interactive and experiential.  Since then, I, and many others, have wrestled with how to generate a similarly satisfying experience, online.  After reading Larry Susskind’s latest post,  An Online University – Are you crazy?, the challenges are clearer to me, as are potential solutions.  A welcome paradox!

photo credit: mikecogh (on flickr)

photo credit: mikecogh (on flickr)

Why online universities fail

Susskind says there are 3 main reasons why universities drop the online ball: (same applies to training professionals, in other contexts).

  1. no real-time Q&A
  2. no learning with cohorts in ‘safe’ ways… most people learn more from cohorts than from the instructor
  3. no smaller classes that support hands-on “failure” opportunities (what I call “make it safe to fail”, the duty of every innovation leader)

“There will never be an online university that offers more than minimal vocational training — learning the material, step-by-step, by yourself, at your own pace and taking a machine-graded test.  That doesn’t come close to generating mastery (i.e. an ability to use concepts and methods in an improvisational way). Mastery can only be achieved through trial-and-error-and-coaching-and-correction-and-question-asking in a continuing group of trusted peer learners.”

The better e-training approach

Summing up Susskind’s basic 4-step approach to e-training:

  1. before class: use videos, with relevant content, to prime the training to come
  2. in the class: pose new learning scenarios… and interact around those
  3. shift to small groups: groups interact internally, to create response to yet another real-world focused scenario
  4. cross-group sharing: each small group shares their “best” stuff

What I like about Susskind’s  approach is that its hybrid (it mixes communications channels),  iterative (think/do, repeat), and diverse (self-help, big group, small group…).

The question is not how to adapt this model for in-person professional development training. That’s being done, all over the place; e.g., JIBC.  The challenge is to do it all online… to create the “mastery” model, online.

E-training delivery options

I see 3 basic options for delivering e-learning:

  1. online real-time… all online, instructor-led, interacting with participants in real-time, with virtual breakouts (small groups)…
  2. online hybrid… some of the online components are replaced by in-person class time; e.g., for group work… this is a nice option, if location co-operates
  3. online self-help… the user goes at their own pace, everything is still online, synchronous discussion is replaced by asynchronous quizzes, tests… not quite as rich a learning experience, though still of value

With all of the above, there are many web-based tools which can be used, either together, or pretty much “as is”, to support online delivery.

The technology is not the big issue.  The big challenge is coming forward with vision , commitment, and a game plan, for what needs to be done, and acting on that.

What do you see as a good way to deliver experiential conflict management training, online?    Examples you like?

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