The Challenges and Rewards of Delivering Virtually – an Insights Spotlight

The Insights “Spotlight on” series talks about the experiences of Insights Partners to help other partners see how their fellow L&D professionals are solving their business challenges. This spotlight is on Agar Management Consultancy, and how they integrated some of the virtual delivery best practices over the lockdown period.
Jack Orchard and Dee Cooper are both co-founders for Agar Management Consultancy. Dee has been credited since 2011, and Jack more recently. Like other Partners, they’d already incorporated digital within their delivery methods before COVID-19, but during the lockdown months they had to become familiar with the best interactive live delivery tools to give their clients the same quality of learning experience. Some of the main challenges encountered over this time include the following:

“With clients you have a varied confidence with technology too so it needs to work for them.”

Dee and Jack quickly realised that their level of expertise with the technology would only get them so far. Their learners would only see the full benefits of a virtual sessions if they were comfortable with the tool being used, and its functionality. They didn’t try to showcase what they – or Zoom – was capable of; what they needed to do was make it practical and easy-to-follow, not complex or flashy.

“We’ve had to double up on facilitation for co-production and facilitation. It’s important the the experience, from a client perspective, is slick.”

They discovered that keeping the flow going in a virtual classroom is much harder than in a live environment. It’s not easy for a single facilitator to deliver the content and keep the group engaged, while monitoring the chat and setting up breakout rooms. As a result they would always use two facilitators: one to focus on delivery and the other to manage the chat and technical set-up that the virtual environment demands. This partnership helped to keep the flow going and the experience as seamless as possible.

“We tried to create that buzz and find that blend of what we love for the F2F and bring it to the virtual delivery.”

One thing that is particularly hard to re-create is that buzz and energy learners get from entering a physical classroom and seeing all the materials laid out for them. Jack and Dee were urged into a creative zone to try and find a solution. They set out parcels to all their learners in advance of their virtual session which included brinks, profiles, pens and sweets, to help build up the same excitement for their upcoming experience.

“We have online leadership courses that we made available free for anyone who had a profile.”

Something else they’ve been doing to support their clients digitally during this period is making some of their e-learing modules available for free. They offer e-modules around five topics and over lockdown they offered every learner who already had a profile one free course of their choice. Not only did this support their clients during a difficult time, but it also helped to the learning alive as learners attended courses and then shared the learning from their topic back with their wider teams.

“People have really benefited from a more reflective approach. It was a massive learning curve.”

Although they offered blended learning solutions before, being forced more prominently into the virtual space made Jack and Dee reflect on their methods and client experience. They believe their clients and learners have benefitted from this, but it took a lot of reflection and preparation: “For our first two-hour virtual Insights Discovery sessions we had 18 hours of practice, but the feedback has been great. One client even said: “I see that Zoom in the right hands can really work.”

Insights 2020

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