By Mindy Gregory, MHA
My first experience with hybrid learning was on the cusp of COVID. It was early March 2020 and the company I was working for at the time encouraged me to take some training during what they considered downtime.
I think we all agree there ended up being no downtime for learning and development in March 2020. Like many of you, I quickly had to figure out how to become more masterful in producing live, online and enduring experiences for learning.
In August I started a certification course with the Association for Talent Development. During the 16 weeks I would be assigned reading, asked to be a part of an online community of 20 to 30 participants, submit assignments online and attend a two-day, instructor-led, online experience. For the final, I would present a 10-minute training to myself (or a group of stuffed animals) that was recorded and analyzed after two attempts. This is how I came to know and admire new software to record and analyze a transcript of spoken text.
I had participated in Zoom courses during COVID for my nieces and nephews, and my expectations were that it would feel like any other Zoom experience. I expected a one-way communication with some sprinkling of self-paced online learning where the burden of teaching, retention and learning was on me.
Boy was I wrong. This was hybrid, engaging, live-online and interactive. This instructor was everything. She sent me emails following up on assignments and used the portal to house documents and outline assignments. It also allowed us to upload assignments and interact with our classmates on topics. Our breakouts were timed group projects during the online course.
Much to my surprise all cameras were turned off during the full-day training as to remove all bias of what people look like. That was just when everyone was insisting on cameras-on.
The course sparked a fire in my support of online learning for both our customers and associates. The experience exceeded all my expectations of what live-online, hybrid, interactive and engaging can feel like. It felt good!
Oh my, I thought, what if our customers can experience the same multi-aspect approach to learning about the safe and effective use of our products? This became the inspiration of my efforts to create an enterprise-wide global learning management system to advance clinical professional development.
The learning management system launched this year and after a careful proposal process. It is powered by Docebo, integrating with Microsoft Teams and Salesforce to service an online community of learners. Sure, there are many compliance and legal hoops to cross with a learning community for customers, but the path forward is there enterprise-wide globally.
As I had my head down working as a member of the external learning management system governance committee, my counterparts in Europe, who already had an online repository of courses, were busy creating a portal for instructor-led live webinars. These webinars carried our European education team during COVID. When the United States was opening to live learning, the EU faced the challenges of a second round of COVID strains and, as a result, was a mix of live-online, hybrid and live offerings.
One unique approach to learning happened in Geneva inside a rented TV studio. The professional education team needed to tiptoe back into live learning. So, they created a small studio audience of about 25 to 30 physicians who spent the day in a talk-show environment as physicians lectured instudio and over the airwaves from places like the United States, Canada and Asia.
All the lectures were live and with the TV studio’s audio/visual prowess, everything was easier. At the end of the day, the professional team turned out the lights and left. There was no tear down or wrapping up of countless wires and projector cords.
About 500 viewers joined online and the entire experience was recorded by a professional TV crew. With minimal editing, the team had a full day of high-definition, video-quality learning to cut, chapter and add to their online arsenal. By renting the studio, the company created a professional backdrop environment for recording and archiving the one day of learning, all the while teaching in person, face-to-face to the studio audience and engaging them for questions and comments live as if conducting a talk show.
You may be thinking that with enough planning this is possible. Anyone’s online live, engaging, interactive dreams can come true if you have an unlimited budget. The amount to rent a studio during off-peak hours mirrored the fee to rent a conference room and outfit it for a 500-person audience. We all have learned that recording an in-person, on-stage experience – even with the best AV team – sometimes produces a less than desirable recording. Often we find ourselves hiring a studio recording experience days after or before, in addition to the online learning experience. The TV studio recording was perfection.
Think about becoming more masterful at online live, engaging, interactive, hybrid learning experiences, even as live learning returns. This came in handy at my last live on-campus event when the course director (and master of ceremonies) was exposed to COVID. He let me know that he would love to direct the course virtually as we had worked really hard on the concept for months and this was a new advanced one-day course offering with several Slido polls. He didn’t want to miss this inaugural experience.
I knew my vice president well, and she was against hybrid learning. But with some sweet talking, I convinced her to allow me to ask the AV team to bear the burden of this risk, which was elevated by the fact that we would be streaming him into our brand-new auditorium. We would be the guinea pigs.
Career suicide or pure genius? Either way, I was willing to be accountable.
The auditorium was like an IMAX theatre for 200 people; it was top-of-the-line. By keeping things simple, we nailed that hybrid experience. We created a Microsoft Teams meeting and the key physician partner opened the ceremony from Chicago with a full screen and two-way communication. He was available throughout the day for comments and discussion using picturein-picture features.
We selected an on-site co-director to help keep the course on time. The choice to create a hybrid experience that was engaging set the stage for what will become an annual course.
To begin your journey to creating hybrid, online-live, engaging courses, I invite you to take a first step. Here are a few suggestions:
The pandemic was disruptive to learning professionals, but it also created an opportunity to master new skills, providing a return on investment in education within a year of upskilling. I invite you to be a key partner in the global acceptance of hybrid, interactive, engaging online teaching and learning by taking one step toward personal mastery this quarter.
Mindy Gregory, MHA, is physician program director for Abiomed. Email Mindy at Mindyggregory@gmail.com.