Chances and risks of hybrid training
A lot has changed since March 2020 and the outbreak of the Coronavirus. Whether it’s how we socialize, meet up with friends and family or simply go out for grocery shopping. But it's not only our everyday lives that have been impacted by the Coronavirus restrictions. Our professional lives and the way we work has not been the same ever since. One domain that has been hit hard is the training sector. While on-site training and workshops were established formats, it became clear very quickly that this is no longer possible and different solutions were needed.
Since then, there has been a massive shift from on-site to virtual forms of trainings and workshops. These solutions are a huge step in the direction of digital and e-learning. It's been almost 1.5 years now, but we adapted fast after the start of the pandemic to remote standards. Much of the content can be taught without a problem thanks to the increasing offer of sophisticated digital collaboration tools and platforms. Nevertheless, there is one thing we are more and more missing: Personal interactions with the person next to us.
While holding lectures and sharing content may be easy to replace digitally, the person sitting right next to you is not. Therefore, we see an increasing development going in the direction of hybrid trainings. This form is a combination of participants on-site and participants joining remotely at the same time. However, the concept of hybrid training is not a new one. Like many other things, it just needed a push. And like with many other things, there are risks and chances that need to be considered and that we have collected for you.
What you get – chances of hybrid training
One fundamental aspect of this changed environment, which has been strengthened enormously, is the increased flexibility and accompanying support for mobile working. This aspect enables several advantages in terms of hybrid training to arise:
Economic advantages: Due to the elimination of travel and hotel accommodation costs, a lot of money is saved. Because of hybrid formats, smaller event locations are needed, and with it tickets can be sold at a lower price. In addition, there are reduced opportunity costs arising from traveling to and from the event. We save a lot of time by not having to attend every meeting in-person since we can easily join a meeting from home. It is usually not possible to work as efficiently on a plane, car, or train as it is at a fixed desk, so this also has an impact on productivity.
Environmental benefits: Traveling less, especially by airplane, is not only good for our wallets, but also good for the environment. And that’s that.
Third-party integration: People who would originally not be able to attend certain events e.g., due to money or time issues, especially when it comes to longer journeys or events lasting several days, now have a possibility. Access to digital courses makes it possible for these groups to participate as well. Furthermore, it is easier to integrate and invite external experts. For example, business professionals, scientists, or other lecturers can join from anywhere. This not only saves the experts' time, but also reduces other costs borne by the participants.
Internationalization: Whereas on-site trainings were limited to a specific region in the past, hybrid training opens the door for people to join from all over the world. No matter where the participant physically is, hybrid trainings enable everyone to take part. This is an enormous driver for diversity. Different time zones can be, at least partially, eliminated by means of suitable training times. Training times can additionally be supported by recordings for those who might have to leave earlier due to the time difference.
As illustrated, conducting hybrid trainings has many benefits these days. So why is there still hesitation when it comes to this new format? Simply because every new format also carries risks. And these risks should not be ignored. For example: Is there an opportunity to enrich the training experience through hybrid delivery? Absolutely! But does it also increase the complexity in structuring and conducting a training course? Definitely!
What to watch out for - risks of hybrid training
When Corona started, many companies, including LucaNet, were forced to transfer their classroom trainings into remote social distancing solutions from one day to the next. In unprecedented times like these, there was, understandably, no way to ensure that the adaptations to the new format were successful. In addition to the limited time resources (which certainly plays a major role in every ad-hoc changeover), lots of companies had to react rapidly and ramp up their technical set-up. These new possibilities, as well as the experiences from first trials, had to be integrated into the training concepts to meet professional demands. The positive aspect: Companies are now faced with the pleasant situation of having two fully developed training concepts on hand. One for in-person trainings and one for remote ones.
However, it also highlights the different nature of this format, which is sometimes underestimated. It is not possible to just go with the same concept for both formats since virtual trainings need a different approach and preparation than in-person trainings. Therefore, hybrid trainings require a completely new approach, an examination of these concepts regarding the demands of a hybrid approach as well as a proper adaptation. A renewed effort, but with rewarding results. The following risks of hybrid training may occur due to the format:
Group dynamics: In a hybrid training situation, you have the ones who attend the meeting in-person and the ones who join virtually. The group physically present during the meeting has the advantage of experiencing a sense of community due to the interaction with participants in the same room. This can quickly create a bad group dynamic between the two groups because the virtually attending participants might feel left out. Careful interventions by the trainer as well as mixing up remote attendees and in-person attendees for smaller group work can be a solution.
Group bias: Depending on how experienced trainers are in their field, it can happen that one group is subconsciously favored compared to the other. This again leads to losing the attention of one group. It is important to check beforehand whether a specific training is suitable for a hybrid format at all and give the trainer enough time beforehand to get comfortable with the set-up to avoid a possible drift.
Stressful situation: Trainers face the great challenge of not only conducting workshops online and offline simultaneously, but even having to merge them. This is a task that requires the utmost attention and a certain training routine.
Keeping up with Techniques: "You are on mute" was probably one of the most common phrases in 2020 (and probably is until today). Having to get used to virtual formats was new for all of us. But sometimes techniques like a stable internet connection or simply a working headset can be unpredictive as well. These are things we all already know but we should always keep in mind. So maybe have a backup plan for unplanned incidents to be able react quickly. Depending on the size of your training, you should check in with your IT department beforehand to ensure proper support for the event.
We have all learned from experiences during these unpredicted times. So, when we are aware of possible risks, we can also use them as a checklist towards a successful hybrid training.
As someone who regularly conducts trainings and workshops at LucaNet, I am looking forward to tackling this issue and mastering it further as successfully as we did during the last year. Switching from in-person formats to virtual trainings during the pandemic and finding our way to hybrid events - everything’s possible with a great team, lots of good ideas and strong cooperation.