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Reinvention, Rebirth, Renaissance

Should we move to more online training?
Emma Eynon

Emma Eynon
Co-founder
Fantom Factory


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Control Solutions, Inc
As a sponsor of the SkyPosium and Haystack events last year, we gave some presentations about Fantom Factory that you may have seen. Well, since then, we have been working very hard to produce eLearning training for the SkySpark community which are now available. Self-paced learning, available through an internet browser, with interactive exercises and assessments that give a true and practical experience of using SkySpark technologies. 

We'd also like to announce that our new eLearning training courses are being brought to market in cooperation with SkyFoundry distributors.

For new SkySpark users, we offer SkySpark Analyst for immediate online training.

Our dedicated eLearning website hosts our own SkySpark software in a browser, so you can work through practical SkySpark exercises, from any networked device. No need to install software or licences, get started within just a few minutes, and continue through the course at any convenient time.

Recommended as a great prerequisite to establish a good basic level of knowledge before booking onto SkyFoundry Essentials training.

We also have a programming course, Axon Core, that teaches a deep understanding of Axon scripting language, without the complications of SkySpark. 

Renaissance is an interesting word, and I particularly like this definition from the Cambridge online dictionary:
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/renaissance

Meaning of renaissance in English:
 
renaissance
noun [ S ]
UK  /rəˈneɪ.səns/ US  /ˈren.ə.sɑːns/
 
  "a new growth of activity or interest in something"

There has been a steady increase over recent years to produce more online tools and entertainment. Remote working is becoming recognised as a big money-saver for many businesses, who can then spend less on the employee workspace and associated costs. To work remotely, different needs to have to be met, collaboration tools, time management tools and let's not forget my favourite topic - online training. So is online training better than face-to-face or classroom training?

Well, every tool has it's place, and there are many flavours of training which suit different needs. The problems that many businesses face with training are myriad, and it all starts with understanding what training actually is.  There can be confusion with the difference between presenting and teaching. Presenting information is a different entity altogether, as I'm sure those who give regular public talks and "presentations" will attest to. Presenting is the art of giving lots of information to others, hopefully in an engaging and memorable way. Teaching, however, requires the ability to understand your student, adapt your content and delivery, and to use various techniques to consolidate the information and skills they need to learn.

To be a good teacher actually means you need to be a good listener. Being able to read your student and anticipate their best and most effective learning style makes for a far better experience on both sides. Many teachers and trainers are simply not taught these skills and have perhaps received poor quality training themselves! In my own experience, training sessions in the corporate world are largely disappointing and the truly good teachers stand out by a mile. Training (which could be described as the corporate world of teaching) still needs to go through a renaissance of it's own.

So, how to deliver good online training - which surely loses a lot of the human element? Well, many online training courses fall into the same trap of simply presenting lots of information, for example with the dreaded "death by PowerPoint". I recently engaged in some market research by undertaking various online training courses, which all seemed to boil down to memorising text from presented information. Even worse, was the common format of multiple choice questions to pass a test at the end. Most of the time, you can just skip through the content, click each answer until you get the right one - and thus pass the online test. What did I learn? I learned that there really needs to be an evolution of online training.

Good teaching or training comes down to understanding your audience. There are different forms of training that all have their place.

* Demonstration - perhaps using an easily distributed video to be viewed any time.
* Demonstration - over a live webcast means more restricted timings but has the benefit of taking realtime questions.
* Presentation - yes even PowerPoints have their role to play! Sometimes you just need to read the facts.
* Practical - learning by doing which is perhaps best for new skills - remember learning handwriting in school?

All of these styles can be taught in the same session, and there are many schools of thought on what makes for good training. Personally, I believe firmly in the learning cycle and the ability to take the student through, arguably, four main stages of learning:

Learning Cycle

Imagine we're about to learn how to fry an egg for example!

1. Presentation - reading or hearing new information. We now understand that we need to fry an egg, using a pan and some heat and an egg.
2. Demonstration - seeing (or hearing) an example. The teacher now demonstrates how to fry an egg.
-This is where a lot of training stops, but we've actually just reached the important bit!
3. Practical - a consolidation phase where the student can now try to fry an egg and practice that new information.
4. Analysis - evaluation of results and reflection. I mean, what happens if you've rubberised your egg?

Let's also not forget about student learning styles, with personal preferences towards reading, aural or practical learning. Accessility should also be considered, with individual physical requirements and perhaps conditions such as colour blindness or dyslexia can also affect the quality of learning, if not adequately catered for.

In any case, applied learning is really key for understanding, and by using consolidation techniques (involving all of these stages) we make that learning more memorable and long lasting. All great in the classroom, or perhaps in live video conferencing sessions where evaluations and feedback can take place. Online training most of the time covers the Presentation and Demonstration stages, but is rarely set up for any practical exercises or individual feedback.

Enter - eLearning training. In theory, good eLearning is interactive, self-contained and accessible at any time. It should be stimulating and engaging, responsive, and of a high presentation standard. Many open university courses rely on these for adult remote learners. Ideally, eLearning should cover the complete learning cycle. In practice, this seems to be hard to achieve. Many times, I've been forced into corporate Induction Training which is a day or two of terribly produced videos, meaningless company values and the dreaded multiple choice questions requiring memorised text from the last hour! Ticking multiple choice boxes is really not consolidation - and it really gives eLearning a bad reputation. https://www.fantomfactory.com/articles/2020-01-03/what-makes-good-or-bad-training

There are so many benefits to eLearning, especially for remote or home workers, and for those who work outside of typical office hours. More businesses now have multiple offices, many in different countries, so classroom training can often be expensive and inconvenient if you need to travel. The native language, skill level and even personality of your trainer can really vary the experience received in each classroom session - but with eLearning it's the same every time. We can publish the same training in different languages, measurement units and even display styles. You can pick up your eLearning from where you last left it, and choose your own study pace. We can use analytics to get detailed feedback and analysis of your performance. For the younger students amongst us, gamification and rewards are now becoming ever more important with learning, which can be easily incorporated.

In the destructive wake of Co-vid 19, and the ever pressing need for everyone and everything to be online, eLearning and online training is now receiving more attention. Is it better than classroom training? Well quite frankly, I hear this comparison often, and it honestly frustrates me. Instead, the question should be, which training is right for me? Each style of training has it's place and it all depends on what you need to learn! I watched a youtube video to quickly learn how to build a brick wall while landscaping the back garden. I think I did a pretty good job, but honestly the mortar mix wasn't quite right. I had no means of getting feedback on my own attempt to mix up a batch!
So, probably not the best way to learn, but it was quick, accessible and I feel I learned a lot from my own mistakes.

Brick Wall

I'm actually pleased that there is more drive to create a broader range of online tools and training solutions, but unless we set and maintain a level of quality, they can be ineffective and of little benefit to anyone. If classroom training is the right solution for a particular skill or topic, an online alternative can surely be created, with enough thought to the learning cycle and teaching methods. Consider a cookery class over a video conference, with the right equipment and time allocation, this is very achievable with modern technology and home internet. To truly get value from this shift to more online training, it needs to be effective, of a good standard, and appropriate for your requirements - otherwise, you're just wasting money.

At Fantom Factory, we have put our heart and soul into creating a great eLearning solution, that has substantial content, interactive exercises and covers all of the stages in the learning cycle. We have incorporated gamification, high quality displays and engaging graphics and storylines. Much thought has gone into our international offerings, and so we have the preliminary feature of locales, which currently offer a choice of British or American! This isn't just for the difference in spelling and even our jokes! It also allows for different measurement units - Europeans really love SI units! Eventually, we would like to broaden this to other languages like dutch and spanish for example. you can read more about our struggles to create a Learning Management System that has it all!  https://www.fantomfactory.com/articles/2020-02-14/our-e-learning-is-built-in-fantom

Control Solutions, Inc One last thing I'd just like to take the opportunity to mention to you, avid reader, is that we have created everything - in the Fantom Programming Language. Our websites, Learning Management System and even our training courses are all completely built and presented in Fantom. If you would like to know more about our achievements in Fantom, including the world famous Escape the Mainframe browser game - visit our website here:  https://www.fantomfactory.com/why-we-are-industry-leading-fantom-experts

I welcome any feedback on items raised in this article, and eLearning in general! Feel free to contact me via our website, or on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/fantom-factory/

Emma Eynon
Co-founder Fantom Factory


About the Author

Emma Eynon is a partner and co-founder of Fantom Factory, a UK company specialising in Fantom software development and eLearning training. Emma has "many years" experience of working in technical training, across finance and government sectors. At Fantom Factory, Emma handles the training, operations and finance elements, while her (husband and) partner Steve Eynon is the technical brain behind the business.

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