Our interview with Wiley’s trainers provides more insights into online training and Everything DiSC Workplace® certification. The first part of the interview focused more on certification and DiSC.
Robin and Jeannie are both part of a larger training team at Wiley, the publisher of Everything DiSC assessments, profiles, and reports. We spoke with them about developing their online certification course.
Developing the certification program
Wiley’s education team designed the curriculum for Workplace certification so it’s focused on learning outcomes rather than on product familiarity. All the content and most activities were created and developed in-house and they now have the capacity to handle all future development themselves.
We asked if there were things they wanted to do online but couldn’t due to limitations of their training platform. Robin explained that they recently moved to the Cross Knowledge suite and she’s particularly happy that it allows participants indefinite access to their class and those learning resources. “Really what we’ve found is that for online learning in 2017 it’s pretty great. It can be really comprehensive and really engaging as well. As you’re putting input into an activity, you’re getting feedback directly based on your input. It’s no longer only listening to a recording and watching a little animation; it can be really responsive.”
Jeannie admits to being skeptical about online training at first. Now she reassures reluctant online participants, with one caveat. She said, “Being an online learner myself, I know what the power behind it can be — but it’s up to the learner. The learner can be passive or they can be fully attentive. It is up to the learner to get the most out of that experience.”
She explained how the Wiley training has changed over since adding an online certification. “One of the things we added in for the online session is a needs assessment portion. So it’s taking Workplace as a whole and then identifying specifically: what does your customer, what does your client need. Do they need to improve communication? Do they need to work better together? Do they need to understand how to collaborate? Why do I want to work with this particular group? What do they need to get out of it? And then defining how am I going to meet that need. And we put that on each one of the individuals and also offer them the tools to figure out how to meet the how or the why or the what.”
Jeannie is passionate about the needs assessment that is now also included in the classroom option. “I will say that it is one of the best additions that we’ve provided to any learner in our trainings. You don’t understand how many times in any of our trainings we’re asked, ‘How do I use this?’ ‘When should I use this?’ and how many times we’ve said, ‘who does a needs analysis or a needs assessment?’ In a room full of trainers I’d say maybe three people raise their hands. A lot of people might not even know what a needs assessment is. And a lot of times you don’t have the time to do it. So this provides a space to let the trainer know that you actually do have the time; it’s not that scary. It doesn’t take that long. And we provide you with a resource on how to do it quickly.”
She continued. “You are solving a problem. What is the real problem? You might get—you-know—the big guy at the top of the organization saying ‘we need leadership training here.’ But it’s really that these guys just don’t know how to work together. So it’s not a Work of Leaders profile, it’s Workplace. You need to figure out your own style to better work with other people on your team. Why am I going to go over vision, alignment and execution (Work of Leaders aspects) when that’s not really the issue? That’s maybe something down the line, but let’s start here. That’s why you do a needs analysis. To solve the issue that really is in front of the problem.”
Keeping students engaged
We were curious about how an instructor can generate energy and keep students engaged online. Robin reported that Wiley’s online classes are very engaging: “We have to be very present and we also expect a lot from participants.” Trainers purposefully keep students involved in their learning. “We’ll do some sort of a poll or ask for a response every three minutes or so from the audience to show that they’re engaged. It’s not a webinar. It’s not a lecture. There’s lots of to-ing and fro-ing,” added Robin.
Jeannie said, “You can tell who’s not engaged even in an online platform.” Robin agreed: “If you’re taking a poll, you can tell what percentage you’re getting of people who are responding. If we ask them to give some sort of virtual sign like raising their hand, giving a smiley face, agreeing or disagreeing, that’s another way we can tell. In addition I know there’s some technology – we could turn it on for Adobe but we choose not to—that we can see if somebody is paying attention to a different screen. I don’t turn it on because honestly I don’t want to know. I don’t want to be distracted. Again, we’re not doing webinars, we’re doing interactive education.”
“We’re not doing webinars, we’re doing interactive education.”
Robin continued: “We’re putting them into small groups. They are responsible for the content that they are delivering. If you’re in a group of 3 and only 2 people are engaged, it’s pretty hard to hide in that case.” Jeannie agreed, “Peer pressure — you’re responsible for something and if you don’t show up and are not prepared, others can tell.”
Even the in-person certification that takes place in Minneapolis now incorporates some online learning. Jeannie told us that face-to-face and online certification share all the same interactives. The differences are when they are completed and where. Both certification courses begin with an introduction to DiSC, learning about some of the common misuses, learning about the characteristics of each of the DiSC styles, reviewing information about the research and diving into the Supplement for Facilitator Report (a short additional report with some specifics regarding the learner’s responses to the Workplace profile.) In-person students do these learning portions online before coming to class. Both versions of the course then require practical application of that knowledge by participants.
Both certification options also incorporate group work. “With online, what’s so great is that we can put people into small groups. So even though we have class sizes of 20 people, we do a lot of small group collaboration. It’s something that was a surprise about online being so engaging is that you can put people in a room and they’re speaking to each other and they’re responsible for the content that they’re delivering,” explained Robin.
Moving from classroom to online
We asked the trainers how they adapted from the physical to virtual classroom. Robin said, “It is a different animal. You have to learn how to engage people in a different way.” Jeannie added, “You have to learn the technology—to get comfortable with it and confident in it. Confidence is key. And facilitators have this natural tendency to talk with their arms and hands. When we’re doing our online training we’re doing this [gesticulates]. It’s like your energy translates.” She also said, “You have to slow down and make sure not only are you teaching and informing about content, but you’re doing the same with technology at the same time.”
Robin explained another difference. “Where you can catch eye contact with people in a live classroom and ask them to expand on something, online you need to invite people to ask questions. You need to invite people to engage. The language is so different, too. So if we ask a question in online, we have to tell them how to answer the question, too. So we say ‘go ahead and write on this white board what you think and you can do that using the Adobe tools’ or ‘if you’d like to ask us a question we’d love to hear from you, please raise your hand.’ We really have to tell them how to do it. Jeannie added “Or put your initials next to something that you’re writing so I know who said it so I can call on you.”
And what about the loss of visual cues showing student engagement or who you should call on? Robin explained, “In the live classroom it’s obvious who you should and should not call on. If the person is leaning forward, they so badly want to be called on. But it becomes very random online. If I want to hear about what people have to say I have to go ‘I want to hear what somebody has to say so can I hear from Bob, Suzy or Bill.’ And Bob, Suzy or Bill has to answer has to answer the question.”
What about the difference in simply starting class? Robin gave an example: “When we’re welcoming people online we do have lobby slides for people to play with. So we ask them to engage as soon as they enter the room. And we’re not just asking people to engage in the whiteboard, but we’re doing a little shtick when they’re coming in as well and making it so that we’re trying to simulate the small talk you’d have if you walked into a live room.” Jeannie added, “We have fun with that lobby. But you don’t see that if you don’t show up 10 minutes before.”
The online team
In our previous post we talked about the quality of their education team. Teamwork matters during online training, too. Robin told us “We don’t team facilitate it as much as we have a main facilitator and a producer. Because with technology we’re teaching global classes and sometimes a phone line won’t work. The facilitator doesn’t have the space to work with that person, but the producer does. And the producer is able to help figure out what rooms people go into as well. So it’s really important to have two people in an online environment.”
Robin explained how the team responded when the Internet connection went down in their office. “It did happen twice. Fortunately, I live a mile and a half away from here so the first thing I do is like — I’m out! I ran home and produced from there. Lisa hot-spotted it from the office.” (Lisa is another member of the education team.)
During our interview with a participant in the classroom training we learned that her group of learners created their own group on social media so they could keep discussions going. We shared that and Robin responded, “That tends to happen a lot. A bunch of people in a room – whether a virtual room or a real room—have the same objective — that sort of do the same thing, have the same interests. We get a lot of that sort of sub-groups and friendships that are born out of these classes and go long term.