Using Skype to break down barriers of distance, time, money, and language.
As I closed my Skype call with a laser eye surgeon in Rome, it occurred to me how easily we can adopt new technologies to help us do so things we couldn’t easily do before.
My usual format for training involves standing in front of a group of people for two consecutive days either at the client’s facilities or in a hired room. This involves the client taking their team off-line for those two days and in some cases travel or an overnight stay – and the related costs incurred by those things.
Schedules must coordinate, which isn’t always easy when you consider staff holidays, busy periods and other scheduling constraints. Even with the best laid plans, unexpected busy periods, staff turnover, and staff illness, can still get in the way.
I thought of all of this as I considered the advantages of a new format for training that I’ve been recently conducting. This training is done in front a webcam using Skype. My client and I spend no time or money travelling or staying overnight in rented accommodations. The space in which we hold training sessions doesn’t cost anything extra; I teach from my desk in London; he learns from his desk in Rome.
My client and I meet weekly. Each lesson is 90 minutes, similar to my live courses, except there is a week separating each lesson, instead of 15 minutes. So instead of 2 days, this process takes 12 hours over 8 weeks. There are some advantages to this.
Spreading the lessons enables my client at least five working days in which to practice what I’ve taught in the previous lesson, building a body of experience over the weeks as he does. The questions asked can be richer and more relevant, because they borne from real world situations, instead of role play.
Spreading the lessons also allows both of us to schedule them in ways that do not eat up entire days, preventing us each from addressing the many other things we need to do in our days.
The workbook is online in Google Drive. This allows us to jot additional notes in the manual in real time, further clarifying things as we do. In the spaces in which answers are required, he can type those answers in the manual as I watch him do so, enabling me to provide either instant feedback, or wordsmith a particular turn of phrase or word. During breaks, he can add comments or questions to the manual which I can answer in context, again in the manual.
If I want to send a file, or a link, I can easily just add that to the Skype text box.
The training is one to one, so we can spend plenty of time on specific issues that relate only to my client’s specific questions and challenges. There is no reason this training couldn’t be done one to many as well, and in fact, we have another person on the video call with us.
Apart from the obvious advantages in remaining in our respective offices during the training lessons, I should also add that my client speaks very little English, and I speak almost no Italian. We have a translator on the phone that efficiently communicates between us, breaking down yet another barrier: language.
It’s not the first time we’ve done this, and it certainly will not be the last. I can think of numerous use cases, with current and past clients, where this option would be an excellent addendum, or even replacement, for live, co-located training. I’m excited by these possibilities and what the future brings.
To participate in this type of training, you’ll need:
- the latest version of Skype
- a webcam or webcam enabled computer
- a microphone and speakers, or preferably a headset
- a high-speed broadcast connection (the faster, the better for more participation)