Thomas Feron and Vinciane Deldime have 10 years of experience in adult education. They are pedagogical coordinators in charge of pedagogical development and innovation at "Design Innovation". “Design Innovation” is the Walloon competence centre dedicated to design. Its missions is three-fold: information, training and networking for workers, teachers and job seekers. “Design Innovation” inspires and supports the development of their activities and projects, provides them with essential skills to meet the challenges they face or will face and helps them to expand their network.
They found out about EPALE through the newsletter. However, this is their first contribution on this platform.
COVID-19 has been a source of many changes in our working lives. It has made us rethink our development and production processes in an uncertain environment. Four of our work habits have been particularly impacted:
- online selection of learners and distance information sessions (videoconferencing bearing in mind the participants' computer equipment);
- human and administrative follow-up of the trainings, as well as moral support for the group of learners during long training sessions;
- in-depth review of training contents and modalities;
- openness to the outside world preserved by the organisation of virtual juries and round tables with great success via teleconferencing software.
Online tools have provided a solution to these challenges. We have:
- rethought the courses and adjusted the duration of the training sessions;
- reduced the amount of time spent on theory in favour of group exercises;
- split up the work (reflection, breaks, energy, creativity, theory...);
- identified, tested and validated digital supports and tools (Zoom, Teams, Mural, Google Sites, Canva, photos of participants' productions...).
Above all it has been the “agility” of the teams and trainers that has enabled the response to the situation to be so effective, with more time devoted to adjustment and coordination with the trainers, follow-up of participants and evaluations.
Like any change, it was a learning opportunity.
After 10 weeks, the main lessons learned are as follows. From the trainers’ point of view:
- More so than in face to face situations, it is essential to keep the session moving in order to keep the students’ attention!
- A variety of activities are necessary in order to ensure engagement (individual or plenary ones, sub-groups, theory, exercises...);
- the more intense the session, the more concentration is needed and the more tiring the session is for everyone;
- the start of the training is more time-consuming as time is spent training the group to use the tools;
- trainers have benefitted by adopting a facilitator's position during the workshops or in the sub-groups, (individual points or "irruptions" in the virtual room where the group works);
- individual coaching sessions are beneficial for participants.
From the participants’ point of view:
- Distance learning is sometimes a real challenge for people who are less comfortable with digital tools;
- there are less distractions than during a face-to-face training;
- high concentration and fatigue (visual (screen) and physical (sitting) fatigue) levels. The duration of a day of training and the training as a whole must be taken into account;
- Learners seem to progress more quickly at a distance than in the classroom (especially in a group);
- remarkable punctuality and very low absenteeism;
- participants enjoy training during this slow-paced period without incurring travel costs;
- each situation is different and is influenced by the environment (family, teleworking spouse, possibility of isolation, quiet, quality of equipment and internet connection) and by the physical and psychological health of the participant.
Some issues which are yet to be solved and which relate to the differences between face-to-face and distance learning:
- Loss of feedback provided by non-verbal communication despite the videoconference:
- loss of physical contact for training including prototyping or production of materials;
- loss of quality of exchanges during breaks.
In conclusion, this situation was an opportunity to dive directly "into the deep end" of distance learning.
The collaboration between the team and the trainers made it possible to take up this challenge in a very positive way. By taking several steps backwards it is possible to improve practices and to consider distance learning as an integral part of the training offer. Distance learning can be considered as a real solution in its own right to meet specific training needs or as a complement before entering face-to-face training (prerequisites) or as a way to go further (specialisation modules).
We're looking forward to hearing your story. Share your story today!