My name is Petra Drahoňovská and I am 40 years old. I have been working under the CareerDesigner.eu brand as a career counsellor/coach, trainer and methodologist developing projects and products in the “self-career management” field. I have been working in the field of adult education since 2004. I have worked as a freelancer since 2012 and work privately for both individuals and companies, NGOs and the government sector. I studied sociology and public policy, specialising in education, at Charles University, as well as pedagogy at the Technical University. I enjoy design, drawing, dance, studying Spanish and learning about Latin cultures.
I have known about EPALE for several years through the DZS (an organisation operating under the MEYS), which also oversees Euroguidance – an institution that provides training and networking for career counsellors. I have given offline courses for EPALE (topic: mind maps and sketchnoting in education), as well as a webinar this year (topic: personal content marketing for trainers on LinkedIn). Thanks to the fact that online courses are now available on YouTube, I subsequently watched inspiring training tips from other colleagues. The most interesting aspect was to see what topics trainers currently “live off” and how they have transposed a given topic into this short online format.
This year’s pandemic has clearly affected everyone, but the major impact it has had on education is yet to appear.
HR professionals are already announcing huge budget cuts for employee development. We trainers will have to learn to scale our offer of all educational products and make them available in various formats. This means that the partial transition to online learning during the period of quarantine was, in my view, only a small trial run for what we can expect on a grand scale in this area. I am grateful for the fact that I first became aware of online education and accepted it as something normal as far back as 2012, when I worked for an IT cloud company. At the same time, for the last six years I have been spending several months of the year working from Central America. Because I am bound by clearly defined training seasons under this “regime”, my clients (B2B and B2C, mostly from Europe) already know this in advance and we always discuss together what can be done online during a given year and which sections they would prefer to cover onsite, on my return to the Czech Republic.
So, when Coronavirus caught up with me this year in Guatemala, not much really changed. I had already planned to spend that period working remotely. Also, with the whole world under quarantine, my clients are even less likely to care whether I am training them from Nusle or from Central America.
At the beginning of the crisis, I was pleasantly surprised by the flexibility of the NGOs, where I also teach on some of their educational programmes. They reacted immediately and quickly adapted their planned courses. Then, when it became obvious that we were going to be at home for more than a week or two, the public sector, and some corporations also began to open up to this solution.
I think it was an enormous challenge for all trainers during the most intensive spring training seasons, when we are often training every single day, to quickly convert, in their spare time (and often at night) content prepared for classic training to an e-version.
Everyone working in education knows that this is not simply “a choice between Zoom and Hangouts”, but that the entire concept has to be re-designed, the training course has to be divided up into more units, tasks have to be processed for ClassRoom.
We had to discuss the length, format, tools, assignments to groups, with education project managers, etc. Some of my clients come from corporations, but the ones who come through the NGOs included young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, mothers tutoring children at home during the pandemic, people caring for disabled family members, teachers, women retraining in IT, and children choosing their secondary school… I had to decide very quickly, for each individual course, what would work best for each particular person. I have to say that it all went very successfully, and I received extremely positive responses. People were open to new things and benefitted from the excellent relations and open communication I enjoy with my clients. Without that, we would never have managed to react so quickly to immediately offer people the training they had counted on for April and May.
I think that a lot of people were surprised to find that online education and consulting are demanding, not only in terms of preparation, but also in terms of energy.
And a number of limitations have also revealed themselves – not so much in terms of the content, but on a socio-economic level, such as families only having one or no laptops. I see thematic limitations as being more in the minds of us trainers: I think that most types of course can be transferred online. Some are better delivered in person, but at least a part can always be given online and I think that this does not even depend on an understanding of thousands of tools, but often simply on the trainer’s imagination.
After years of virtual training, I am personally in favour of not involving too many technical tools during the course of a session. People do not come to us for consultations or training because of the dozens of applications we have prepared for them. They are there with us because they can discuss things, ask questions. I like to follow trends, new tweaks, which I will use, particularly when I assign certain “play” tasks between individual training sessions, or before them, i.e. particularly during the asynchronous part of the training programme. In the synchronous section, I try to make myself totally available to people, to answer their questions, and to facilitate their discussions with each other. This is probably a good subject to conclude on. For me the ideal trainer is one who knows how to achieve a methodological balance in his/her approach to an educational programme between components that are delivered both in person and online, asynchronous and synchronous.