Centriq’s Virtual M365 Training Evolution: COVID-19 and Beyond
In the years leading up to COVID-19, Centriq Training stood apart from other training companies because we offered a true classroom experience, in-person, with a live instructor. Although we have offered the option for learners to attend most of our classes virtually since 2012, Centriq has generally encouraged in-person attendance for optimal learner experience. And the new M365 user courses we developed weren’t available virtually for public audiences. But in March 2020, the pandemic created an immediate need for every Centriq course to be offered virtually with optimal student experience.
You would think as a team of M365 experts, our transition to virtual classes would be easy. But just like many of our clients, we also struggled but have learned a lot along the way – particularly on what virtual learning should be for this content.
our analysis and preparation to go mostly virtual
Our first step was to decide what meeting platform we wanted to use for virtual M365 trainings. And yes, since we are a Microsoft Partner, Microsoft Teams was an option. Because Teams at the time did lack some higher-level features, we nearly went another direction, but ultimately, we decided to “walk the walk” since we already “talked the talk.” We decided to use Microsoft Teams, which also allowed us to grow as instructors being able to use and demonstrate new features in Teams first-hand as they were released.
After the decision on the meeting platform for trainings, we needed lab environments for our learners to have a safe place to try new things. Luckily, we already had capabilities in place for that from previous virtual endeavors. So now with instructors prepared, Teams in place, and virtual labs ready to go we embarked on our reimagined, all-virtual approach to M365 training.
What we have learned along the way is that there is more to it than just people and tools.
incorporating learner experiences
Many professionals in our industry know the standard, tried and true learning styles. For those that are not familiar with the 6 learning styles I’m referring to, they are:
• Visual learners need written material or diagrams to be most successful in learning the topic or skill.
• Aural learners need to hear or read out loud to be most successful in learning the topic or skill.
• Print learners need to write things down to be most successful in learning the topic or skill.
• Tactile learners need hands-on activities to be most successful in learning the topic or skill.
• Interactive learners need conversation or Q&A to be most successful in learning the topic or skill
• Kinesthetic learners need to physically move or role-play to be most successful in learning the topic or skill
What I have found to be true both in my own learning style and what I see from most of my learners is that people aren’t simply one style or another; many do their best with combined styles.
Even more important than learning style is WANT; the learner must WANT to learn and feel like they have a choice or control over how and what they are learning. This can be a challenge for an organization to find out from their users, even if they have an internal training team familiar with best practices.
Personally, I need a purpose behind what I am learning so I can apply it directly, but I know others that just love to learn for sake of learning. There is no right or wrong reason for why you want to learn, and no single learning style is better than another because we are all different.
As Centriq’s M365 team became more comfortable training virtually, we then challenged ourselves again to make sure we were giving our learners purpose, choices, and variety in what and how they were learning. I believe with the constant changes in M365 features and functions, or any technology for that matter, learning is now an ongoing effort for organizations and individuals. At Centriq, we’ve fine-tuned our approach and use our research and experiences to make sure we are the best learning partner for our clients. We are incorporating engagement activities both during and outside training sessions. We produce original content for our new eTraining portal which contains self-paced video, assessments, and references used in self-paced courses and learning pathways. And, as always, we continue to innovate with our existing public and private course offerings, creating and maintaining our own original curriculum, user guides, and lab experiences.
We’ve come a long way since our mostly in-person M365 training catalog first started evolving to almost entirely virtual. We’ve found that our students respond positively, our instructors are able to engage in new ways, and our content is more accessible. We are excited to see what things look like in 6 months or even next year.
As you can see from our experience, I believe businesses can keep up with changing technology if they embrace the mindset of, “We don’t know what we don’t know, but we plan to learn as we go.” The focus shouldn’t be on what’s failing, but what improvement opportunities exist along your organization’s continual improvement journey. Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it.