Several years ago, I did an onsite editing consultancy at one of the big banks. Although I wasn’t working with customers at the teller, I still had to complete a sizeable chunk of eLearning modules ranging from understanding privacy legislation to recognising potential money launderers.
Given the tight editing deadlines, and the compliance nature of the learning, I dragged my feet. But the modules had to be done. As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did I learn a great deal, I found myself looking forward to doing the modules. They were well written, interactive and provided a brain shift from the painstaking, detailed editing work.
But could this type of compliance training be transferred to the highly subjective skills of business writing?
Individual virtual training options
Concise Writing Consultancy has been offering remote learning for the past 10 years through individual mentoring. A bit like having a personal trainer to help you meet your fitness goals, the writing mentor sets learning goals and provides detailed written comments on a live document the learner is writing in their job. If needed, the mentoring can be supplemented by face-to-face coaching.
Not only does this approach increase a team member’s skill but it releases supervisors from much of the pressure of giving feedback. We have had very positive feedback to this service, including from supervisors who have reported significant improvement after only 2 to 4 hours of coaching and/or mentoring.
Group virtual training options
Hit with multiple workshop cancellations likely until the end of 2020 due to COVID-19, we needed to create an alternative group training option that would still provide the same learning outcomes as our popular 1-day face-to-face workshops. It was critical to offer a professional program that could achieve a high-quality experience rather than a hastily cobbled-together poor relative of the original.
A hallmark of our face-to-face workshops is the high level of customisation and interactive group activities. We wanted to make sure our client organisations and participants did not feel they had been given a lesser experience by virtue of the training being online. To achieve this, there were a few challenges we needed to overcome.
Challenge. Would a whole day in a virtual classroom be too tedious?
Solution. We sensed that it would be difficult to engage people online for a whole day of writing skills training without the variety of games and interactive exercises we use in our face-to-face workshops. Instead, we opted for a 3-stage approach that combines self-paced individual learning with a group interactive session (via Zoom).
Challenge. Would participants find reading notes about business writing too dry?
Solution. For the self-paced learning component, comprising of 4 eLearning modules, we wanted to create an enjoyable as well as instructional experience. To keep the learner interested, the modules use a variety of question styles including question and answer, multiple choice, rating scales, and short answer written responses.
Each module takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete (equivalent to half a day of face-to-face training). The modules are supplemented with handouts, cheat sheets and checklists.
Challenge. Could the value of group discussion be replicated online?
Solution. In the era of COVID-19, the whole world is getting more and more comfortable with online interaction from meetings to training sessions to Friday night drinks. During the online component of our training, participants have an opportunity to discuss writing examples and work as a team to create clear, concise rewrites.
To make sure no one is left behind and to give our clients the best value, participants complete 2 assessment tasks and receive individual feedback. While the focus of the training is on improving writing skills, we also want our participants to enjoy completing the eLearning modules and getting together with their peers under the guidance of an experienced writer.
Having faced these challenges head-on, we are excited that our new group online training option is due to launch this month. We are also continuing to offer our tried and true mentoring model with face-to-face coaching replaced by an online one-on-one session.