As an instructor who is used to teaching workshops in-person, I initially had some concern about transitioning to Internet based teaching. When making the decision to take the workshops in that direction, my colleagues and I wanted to make sure that the classroom experience could be effectively replicated in an online conflict resolution training platform. As instructors, we wanted to make sure that we were able to connect as effectively with our participants as we do in-person and that the programs would be engaging and as effective in developing dispute resolution skills. The idea of virtual instructor-led conflict resolution training may sound impersonal but luckily we have found this not to be the case. Not only have we found ways to build the personal connection we like to have with our in-person participants, we have also been able to identify some specific benefits to teaching online.
We have developed a number of strategies to develop the personal connection with participants. One strategy that we use to build connections is taking time to talk to participants individually or in small groups throughout the workshop. We set aside specific times during the online conflict resolution training to allow individuals to raise questions or make comments privately as they would be able to do quite naturally during breaks or over lunch during in-person training. We save comments made in the chat area and track who said what, so that we can refer back to a comment a participant made earlier in the program. Lastly, one of the topics discussed in the virtual instructor-led conflict resolution training is how to resolve conflicts using web-based platforms.
Another benefit of online conflict resolution training is the time saved by the participants. With the ability to attend the workshop from their home or office, virtual instructor-led conflict resolution training allows participants to simply turn on their computer, tablet or phone and be in the classroom. Not having to travel to the workshop venue provides participants with additional time to complete other tasks. Historically, participants have struggled at times to carve out the time necessary to attend a workshop in-person when they have other work and personal responsibilities to manage. Many participants have shared with us that not having to travel to a workshop venue has made attending workshops much easier and allowed them more time in the evening to prepare for the next day.
Something else that we noticed while providing virtual instructor-led conflict resolution training is the need for some additional breaks. We know that it is not easy or good for anyone to spend too long staring at a computer screen. Based on this, our online conflict resolution training includes additional short breaks that we did not have in our in-person workshops. The breaks give participants the ability to step away from their computers for a few minutes to rest their eyes and gather their thoughts without missing any content. Our experience has been that this is a great time for participants to reflect on the most recent exercise or lecture and to determine if they have any comments or questions.
One additional benefit of virtual instructor-led conflict resolution training is that it allows a much larger and more diverse group of participants to attend the workshops. In the past, unless the workshops were offered in their location or the participant could afford the time and money to attend a program away from their home, they were unable to access live workshops. With online conflict resolution training those participants can now attend the workshops, and all participants can benefit from participating in a program where they are drawn from a larger demographic area. We have run small workshops that included participants from three or more countries at a time, which enhanced the opportunity to learn in a cross-cultural setting.
Overall, as instructors we have been quite pleasantly surprised by how well our virtual instructor-led conflict resolution training has gone. We were confident in the value of the content that we were teaching and that we could address many of the same learning objectives from the in-person workshops. What we couldn’t know was how the transition to web-based training would impact the experience of the participants. The feedback we have received from the participants in our online conflict resolution training has been overwhelmingly positive and, as instructors, that is what we are always hoping for.
The Stitt Feld Handy Group conducts many types of virtual instructor-led conflict resolution training. Learn more about these programs at adr.ca.