"Teachers can't simply take a face-to-face lesson and put it online and expect great learning to happen." -- Callie Bush
Virtual is Here to Stay
Although virtual teams and collaboration have been in practice in recent years as an extension and addition to traditional work processes, the recent pandemic has turned auxiliary virtual into a permanent feature of how we live and work. Learning and professional development are no exception.
Management Training Lost in Translation
Since this is a time of great challenge and change, effective management skills are now needed more than ever. Managers need to develop new competencies and create new management systems that are appropriate for a virtual world. It is imperative that management development programs continue—but how to do this effectively is not a simple matter.
The transition of traditional face-to-face management development training programs to an online format has, by necessity, been very rapid and often rocky. Some programs have been more successful than others at becoming virtual. Redesigning six or eight-hour sessions to be effective in much shorter virtual formats is not easy. Simply putting the handouts and PowerPoint online with a video lecture is not enough to engage learners and create the behavioral changes that are needed for the challenging times ahead.
Peer Learning: A Perfect Fit for the Virtual World
There is a management development program that requires no conversion or reinvention to adapt to the virtual world. Peer learning groups naturally lend themselves to virtual settings because they are self-facilitated and based on group discussion for self-discovery.
Peer learning groups involve 5 or 6 managers who come together to learn how to handle a pressing management challenge better. They meet in two 90-minute sessions separated by a month of practice and experimentation.
In the first session, they explore current and potential methods for handling the challenge. During the practice month, they try out new methods. They come back for the second session to report on their experience, reflect on what they learned, and commit to the continued use of new methods.
These peer learning group sessions can naturally occur online. The small number of participants in each group is easily accommodated by virtual platforms, such as Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams. The member whom the group selects to be the facilitator hosts the session and keeps the discussion on track and on time.
The agenda and learning materials are provided electronically in pdf, so every member has ready access. If necessary, the group facilitator or one of the members can share the materials on their screen.
The agenda apportions separate times for each of the group members to speak, and the facilitator can ensure equal participation during the all-group discussions.
The different activities and their brief duration ensure active engagement and participation throughout the 90-minute sessions. Because of the security features of the different virtual platforms, the conversation between the members can remain confidential.
Peer learning groups are ready-made for virtual team building and learning. The self-directed group discussion approach lends itself well to a virtual format.
Don't feel that you need to stop your management development efforts. Use peer learning groups instead.