28 Jun 2022

Learning Delivery – Online vs shoulder-to-shoulder

We have come a long way in learning delivery over the past decade or so, with pod classrooms being used more in public schools, online and virtual training being offered, and Covid having pushed a lot of that forward. We have also recognised that not everyone likes online learning, and not everyone likes shoulder-to-shoulder learning, the new name for face-to-face seeing as we’re still face-to-face on camera.

Both have their pros and cons, but which is best? Is one best, or does it depend on the subject matter? Is there anything we can’t learn online that would be best delivered in person?

I have been an adult educator for nearly ten years, and I have taught both in-person and virtual lessons. When we were unable to have groups come for training, we had to adjust our content for an online environment. The hardest part here was ensuring a connection with participants. Most people turn the camera off, making it hard to build rapport. I have noticed though that even those with their cameras off during content delivery tend to turn these on during one-on-one discussions in breakout rooms, making it easier for their fellow participants to interact with them.

We had to adjust some of our interactive activities to better suit an online environment. For one of our workshops, we have an activity with chocolate – obviously, we couldn’t guarantee the chocolate would reach the participant, or that they would save the chocolate for the workshop, so we adjusted the activity and instead of savouring chocolate (which I still highly recommend!) we now savour memories of travel and family events.

If you are learning a new role, you can learn some virtually, but you would probably need an extra something to build those connections with your new colleagues that way. At Everest, we used quizzes and shared fun stories and photos about ourselves, meeting online each Thursday afternoon. We shared work stories, from our least favourite to most enjoyable roles held in the past, and shared three pictures of our favourite things (mine were my Kindle, my puppies, and my partner). Everyone shared their favourite pictures and, as a new recruit, it gave me a great insight into my new work whanau.

For some, it’s the sense of community that comes from being part of a cohort that online learning has diminished. How can you build rapport with other participants if you never talk to them? Is it more difficult to be heard in an online discussion, or do you get spoken over at in-person training and get a chance to have your say when everyone has to share online?


Jo Stuart | Trainer