‘I am ready to learn although I do not always like being taught’ – Sir Winston Churchill.
The Learning Gym recently conducted a very successful workshop on ‘Interactive Techniques for Improved Performance’. The aim of this workshop was to find quick and easy alternatives to lectures in the virtual space and maximize participant engagement.
This is our primary aim at The Learning Gym where we are constantly working towards enabling teachers, trainers, facilitators to arm themselves with an arsenal of tools and skill sets in these rapidly changing times. The core focus is to design an engaging ecosystem with interactive virtual programs for them to stay relevant and driven.
We had a healthy mix of participants from all over the world who were quick to agree that they have been battling this antiquated dinosaur, Lectures, for a while now. While we believe that lectures still have their place in our education systems, we cannot ignore the fact that the world is gradually moving away from this traditional interface to more hands-on learning techniques, to capture diminishing attention spans in a hyper connected and engaged online space.
We use these alternatives to Lectures to enable the discovery of new information without delving too deep into it, to connect different pieces of information in a coherent manner, to enable reflection and assist with planning, to create clear steps in a process, to deepen the understanding of concepts and frameworks and match those to one’s reality.
Some of the most common alternatives to Lectures are: breakout rooms, scavenger hunts, kahoots, brainstorming, videos, games, small group activities, and pre-designed worksheets. Lectures, synonymous with constant instructions, are giving way to techniques that enable you to delve deeper into information, build on it, flex one’s imagination around it and finally tone up all that is gathered and leverage it to one’s advantage.
Here are the 7 activities we conducted that can help with your own interactive training sessions, whether online or in-person.
Pick an Object
Participants are asked to pick out 2 objects from their surroundings and characterize one as an ‘activity’ and the other as a ‘lecture’. There were very interesting picks. The most common pick for an object denoting a lecture was a book, while for the activity the picks ranged from a dice to a microscope. This was a simple analogue activity which helped trigger the participants’ imaginations and completely engage them with the opportunity to think, feel and perform simultaneously. Our participant Alex summarized this activity very well for us: ‘This activity can be connected to the classical concept of the Head, Heart and the Hand – the combination of which takes people into a deeper sense of activation’.
3 questions were framed and participants had to search for the answers in a handout shared with them. This activity is very helpful when one has large text information and is good for process training. It’s a low-tech simple method with no dependency on technology. You can even run this in groups or in breakout rooms. Participants commented that this activity was very effective as a quick recap or review tool for sales people and also a good technique for introducing a new concept. Moreover, it is a completely participant driven activity.
A PowerPoint file, an easily accessible tool, was shared and the participants were placed in breakout rooms to solve the puzzle. This activity is another low-tech option. Participants felt that it was simple to build and easy to use. The focus was on the content rather than on their technical prowess. We had this Jigsaw Puzzle especially designed by our team but if you have any trouble designing it yourself, a number of formats of such puzzles are easily available online.
For this exercise, teams are created. Each team is responsible for individually strategizing concepts based on their topics assigned. Our participant Alex was of the opinion: “I fell into this scientific pitfall of generating quantity instead of quality”. This was an insightful observation which can be easily tackled if we can prioritize, combine, and discuss strategies before listing them down. A very powerful tool for leveraging knowledge.
Here participants had to unscramble a few letters to create the right word. Participants had mixed reactions. Most felt it didn’t fit their style. They felt that being familiar with the language was important and could prove to be a hindrance to non-native speakers. At The Learning Gym, we believe as training designers we should not confuse our preferences or likes and dislikes with the activities. Rather we should create activities to fit an objective or purpose and sometimes work outside our comfort zone which may invariably be the right fit for the participant for whom we are designing the program.
In this activity participants were placed in groups of 4, in breakout rooms. The role of one person was to share his or her biggest constraints in avoiding lectures while the rest of the group acted as consultants and helped tackle the challenge. Most participants were of the opinion that this activity helped surface the wisdom they already had, it was just about collating and piecing it together. Our participant Carolina put it deftly, ‘It creates interdependence amongst the team members and makes them feel empowered as a whole’. The role of the facilitator is just that of a timekeeper.
Match the Following
The final and seventh activity was a very simple activity which enabled participants to start thinking about how to address or introduce a new concept. A simple and powerful tool.
The session came to a close by asking participants which activity they would employ in their training program. All activities received a positive response, although Collective Consulting received the maximum hits.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning, but as training designers and facilitators it is our job to create and deliver learning solutions through innovation to keep learners engaged and empowered, a constant endeavor here at The Learning Gym.