How to Successfully Go Virtual

This blog is excerpted from episode 24 of the Performance Matters Podcast where Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher discuss our new “normal” and the absolute need to go virtual with our training—in the workflow.

Bob Mosher (BM): Welcome back friends! It’s an interesting time in our world and industry. I am more than honored than to be joined by my dear colleague, Dr. Con Gottfredson, as we go into our topic today.

Con Gottfredson (CG): Thank you, Bob. As always, it’s great to be with you and talking about these important things that we are privileged to discuss.

BM: It truly is. This is a challenging time. We are thinking of all of you. Thoughts and prayers are out in our industry as we all struggle to deal with this personally, while at the same time, we continue to do our best to serve those that we do through learning. In many ways, re-evaluating and re-inventing who we are. And that is what today is about.

We’re hearing a lot, Con, in the world today about virtual instruction. I was on a call the other day and I must have heard, literally 50 to 100 times, “We’re going virtual! We’re going digital!” And we all get it. That’s the only current option as we are being required to literally work out of our homes. But almost immediately after those comments, came, “Who knows how to do this? How do you design it?”

Just “going digital” is the easy part. How do you design learning and how do you deliver it? That’s tougher, right?

CG: Yeah, well. There’s a vast chasm between the word virtual and the word learning. Or the word virtual and the word instruction. Making sure that people can actually learn virtually and that we are instructionally sound in what we do virtually. That’s a big deal. And unfortunately, it’s not going to happen if you just dump a traditional face-to-face learning model into the virtual world.

BM: And Con, I think I’d push it a bit farther than that because, of course, this is our rallying cry, I’d even push it past learning to performance. How do you go virtual and impact performance? I think the means is instruction. The means is delivery. The design. But I think with The 5 Moments and our performance-first mentality, I think we have a unique opportunity.

Out of anything in life there is opportunity. Now is the time to get the funding, to get support, and to do things radically different. And I think our opportunity here as learning professionals is to turn this industry on its ear so that when we emerge from this, we may not be who we were.

BM: So, let’s talk about the GEAR model which we came up with a number of years ago.

CG: Yes, our virtual workflow learning model. We have since operationalized it again and again and again with remarkable success. Today, we want to take a high-level look at this model to help you understand the instructional elements behind it.

BM: So, friends, GEAR. G-E-A-R—the word “gear.” I’ll take a crack at the first part, Con. And to Con’s point, we’re going to stay fairly high-level today.

“G” for Gather. Why not? That’s what we pivot on now. We get people in the classroom. We gather virtually. I think when people think of virtual instruction they put a whole lot of weight, if not everything, on the fact that this is what we’ll do. We’ll get people together virtually versus physically and we’ll teach them.

So, one to two-and-a-half hours was the average people could cognitively handle, depending on the complexity of the content. The other thing that’s powerful because we have that EPSS running—we’re going to keep coming back to that—you do not need to, nor should you, teach everything. Don’t chop up eight hours of class into eight different hour breaks. You probably can do four hours of an eight-hour class in smaller chunks because you have the EPSS to help during the workflow work. So, the Gather is saved as a gather should always be—physical or otherwise—for what we call the most critical skills that you identify that an instructor must be sure are taught, practiced, and communicated.

CG: Gather initiates the learning process. It doesn’t close it. Gathering initiates learning and then you move from that Gather, or virtual session, to the workflow where with the help of an EPSS or performance support, you have what we call Expand and Apply activities.

The Expand activities in the workflow are intended to provide access to resources that would allow people to deepen their understanding of what they need to know. But also to translate what they’ve learned in that Gather session and what they need to be able to do in their Apply activities to translate all of that understanding to their own work environment—to think about that, to reflect on that in terms of their work. So, it’s a deepening and expansion of knowledge and adapting that to their world.

That’s the Expand—the “E” part of GEAR.

The Apply part of the Gear Model is just that. This is where, in the workflow, the learners apply what they have learned and what they have picked up in their Expand activities to the real world of their work in meaningful chunks and in meaningful groups of activities that will further their skill development. All of that supported by the EPSS.

BM: Sure. And one another thing with Apply that I think is important to emphasize too, Con, is that in Apply you can go beyond Gather. Right? We said earlier we were only going to cover the critical skills in Gather. But in the Apply activity—and when you wrap a real-life scenario around it—the less-critical skills are going to be needed. They are going to need to be learned. They are going to need to be discovered.

One of the common things we get with Critical Skills is, “So you say you’re skipping stuff.”
We’re not skipping anything. Especially with the Gear Model, we’re going to move those lessons, those learnings, into the workflow while doing. They’ll still be covered, they’ll still be learned, and in the final stage of Receive feedback, we’ll be sure it’s all understood.

So, here’s where I want to circle around to the beginning. When we do our final analysis, you Gather them in groups. You let them review their work. They turn it in. We give them feedback. We use rubrics to give all kinds of feedback and such. They learn from each other. They Gather as a group. They hear each other’s experiences and they see some remarkable examples.

And in the end, friends, this is where the real learning happens. Because we’re not talking and reflecting on a practice. We’re not talking and reflecting on something said during Gather. That’s all covered during Gather.

Here, they get to talk about what they did in Apply, which is the application of true learning. And they get great feedback, positive and otherwise, and they get to learn from each other. And the pilot group said unanimously—that in the end—through Gather we think that’s virtual learning, getting them on line, virtually gathering—they unanimously told us that of the four letters G, E, A, and R, R was by far the most popular, that’s where the most learning occurred, followed closely by Apply. The last thing was Gather. They knew it was important, they knew they had to do it. But the least impactful part was what we think of as an industry and traditionally view as virtual instruction.

So, a really powerful model to take people through.

To learn more on the GEAR model and how you can begin implementing it—listen to the entire episode.
And don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

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