Thu, 13 May 2021
It has been over a year since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic which has disrupted labour markets around the world and pushed companies to rapidly adopt new ways of working.
At TechSwitch, we were midway through one of our bootcamps when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020. Fortunately, we had the capability to respond quickly and were able to migrate our course online so the remainder of the bootcamp (and future bootcamps) could be delivered remotely. We have since adapted our training processes to ensure we provide the same high quality of training, and learners continue to get the most out of the 12-week course.
However, remote training is not without its challenges, here are some of our key takeaways from the past year:
1. Choose the right remote training tools
When training in-person, we used to use Slack as our primary means of internal communication but once we moved to remote training, we found it difficult to cultivate the sense of community we wanted through Slack so decided to switch to Discord for our first bootcamp of 2021.
We have found the platform to be much better suited to our training needs. It allows us to set up a number of voice channels, we created smaller ‘study rooms’ for pairs of learners to work together; a channel for drop-in sessions with the trainer; as well as a main presentation channel for more formal group sessions (e.g. stand-ups, retrospectives, and demos).
One feature which has helped to encourage greater engagement and a sense of community is the visibility learners can have on the participants of each channel, learners can easily see where everybody is and drop into another pair’s ‘study room’ or into the channel where the trainer is based. The ability to screen share smoothly facilitates collaborative learning and the excellent video and voice quality means that everyone can be understood and feel included.
2. Increased focus on providing wellbeing support
We understand that making a career change can be a daunting experience so wellbeing support has been an integral part of our programme, even before the pandemic.
Over the past year, work-life balance became an increasing challenge for many, especially due to last-minute childcare commitments or distractions when working from home (something which I think we can all relate to!). Feelings of isolation can also develop so ensuring learners have someone they can talk to and listen to them without judgement is important; our regular 1-to-1 wellbeing chats with learners have become much more meaningful.
Due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, we also noticed that it took longer for learners to bond with their peers. Where we would previously have been able to organise a welcome lunch or a trip to the pub to help break the ice, we now have to be more creative and find activities that learners can do from the comfort of their own home. Our recent cohort connected over their shared love for baking (and for food in general) and as a morale activity, they chose to do a taster lesson in jujitsu!
3. More individual attention needed to ensure no one falls behind
When in person, trainers are able to observe learners’ reactions and body language to see if they are following and adjust the training pace accordingly. It is also easier for a trainer to spot when a common issue comes up amongst multiple learners and to grab everyone’s attention for a quick ad hoc explanation on the topic.
In a remote environment, it becomes much more difficult to do so. Learners may stay silent or be more hesitant in speaking up when they don’t understand something and as a result, feelings of frustration and confusion can arise. To combat this, more attention and support for each individual or pair is needed, requiring a greater time commitment from the trainer. On several occasions, we have brought in an assistant trainer to provide additional support, ensuring no one falls through the cracks.
4. Presentations are less effective
With the trainer being unable to read the room as effectively as before, and to try and maximise engagement levels, we decided to shorten our presentations where possible. We generally don’t rely on presentations for teaching key concepts, more as a tool for introducing concepts that may be of interest or useful to know about, and this has lent itself well to remote training as it doesn’t demand long attention spans.
We would also share a copy of the presentation in advance so learners have an idea of what to expect from the session and prepare any questions they might have.
5. We can’t wait to return to in-person training!
Although we are confident in our ability to deliver high quality training remotely, we believe our learners have more fun when the bootcamp is in-person. Remote training has taught us a number of great things which we will continue to apply once we return to our Academy but the most notable takeaway has been how much we have all missed the face-to-face interaction and sense of community that comes with training in-person.
We can’t wait to welcome future learners to our Academy in person again!