‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ has been the reality for many small businesses during the COVID-19 lockdown, not least for the training team at Concise Writing Consultancy. Referring to the idea that ‘if you really need to do something, you will think of a way of doing it’, the Cambridge Dictionary follows this definition with a list of inspirational synonyms. These include ‘succeed’, ‘achieve’, ‘fulfil’, ‘accomplish’, ‘strength to strength’ and many others. Concise Writing Consultancy has adopted this as their mantra.
Learning at your own pace
Many training workshops, including those conducted by Concise Writing Consultancy, are typically run over a full day and cover a lot of ground. A traditional workshop is ideal for interaction and group work, although can become tiring for participants by the end of the day. With so much new material to process, participants may also find it difficult to retain everything they have learned.
‘Faced with the COVID-19 restrictions, we decided not to simply replicate the Concise Writing Consultancy traditional model onto an online platform. Instead, we went back to the drawing board and created a new training experience,’ says Patricia Hoyle, Director of Concise Writing Consultancy, a Sydney-based writing consultancy specialising in plain English for the government and corporate sectors.
Designed for groups of up to 10 participants, the new online training program is divided into 3 distinct stages over a 4-week period:
Stage 1: Individual skill development through online self-paced learning
Stage 2: A 3-hour, real-time virtual workshop for all participants
Stage 3: Post-workshop assignment and individual assessment.
Concise Writing Consultancy is offering 2 online programs focusing on plain English writing: general business writing and report writing.
Keeping it interesting
Although participants have a deadline to complete modules and activities in Stage 1, they are still able to work at their own pace and complete the writing exercises at a time of day when they are most receptive to learning. Self-paced learning also gives participants the opportunity to go over the theory and principles several times or contact their coach if they get stuck.
During Stage 1, the coach marks participants’ responses to activities and returns them to each individual. Not only does this help consolidate learning, the coach is also alerted to the possible need for a revision session in Stage 2 (virtual group session).
The best of both worlds
‘In our face-to-face workshops, the ability to discuss and create “before” and “after” examples with their peers is often cited as one of the most beneficial aspects of our training,’ says Ms Hoyle. ‘So, we didn’t want to lose this element in our new online program. We will continue to provide this group experience via a real-time Zoom virtual classroom.’
This approach of combining individual self-directed learning with an interactive session with peers allows learners to get the best of both worlds. The self-paced individual learning gives team members a solid grounding in the theory, while the opportunity to share ideas with peers gives them new outlooks and ideas, not to mention a break from the isolation of working from home.
A whole new flexible learning approach
Although online training might be the only option for organisations in 2020, in the future these flexible learning options will provide a cost-effective and environmentally respectful way to train team members scattered around the state, the country or the world.
‘We anticipate that when we come out the other side of COVID-19, our new approach to training will remain an attractive option to our clients,’ confirms Ms Hoyle. ‘For example, even when team members all work in the same building, organisations may opt for the new 3-stage training approach but swap the virtual classroom in Stage 2 for a face-to-face onsite session.’
With English being a global language, clear communication is critical. Regardless of where and how we are working, good business writing remains an essential skill now and into the future.