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Learning Virtually

Online training is most successful with the right presenter

I was vehemently opposed to online training for pool technicians when the pandemic first hit. It didn’t make any sense to me. Over the years, I’d molded the classes I taught in person into something that was my own.

Some enjoy that whole “death by PowerPoint” lecture environment, but it’s not my thing — and if I can’t imagine sitting through it, I certainly can’t teach that way. My classes are usually like a two-day field trip, so this online thing sounded like the industry was about to shift into reverse without coming to a full stop. Still, with gathering restrictions in place nationwide, what choice did we have?

Can you slow down? I didn’t get that.

Originally I thought I would tell you how my opinion changed, share the benefits of this wave of virtual training sessions, and suggest it might be better than face-to-face training. But I couldn’t support that. Even in the classes I teach myself, my online courses are not better than my in-person sessions. But they are not worse either.

The presenter and the student automatically associate a face-to-face session with an onslaught of information. Online classes are perceived to have a slower pace of information delivery. This is all attributed to the platform when the credit, or criticism, actually belongs on the presenter.

In line with how we learn

When a person is learning something, it takes time and reinforcement before information is retained. New information served rapid fire due to a time crunch is the equivalent of skipping stones across a pond. It is not a format conducive to retention.

When your brain is exposed to something new, it has to work to analyze it, and figure out how to file and where to store it. Moving quickly from subject to subject, even if it is a related topic, may unintentionally ‘overwrite’ data.

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Is online better for learning new information? It can be, but it is not the platform. The same holds with an in-person class: It can lend more toward retentiveness, but again, it is not the platform. It is now as it always has been, and always will be, the presenter.

If an individual learns better in a hands-on environment, the virtual format will not be the best method for that person. If there are time constraints or travel concerns, Zoom or an equivalent will have its advantages. However, when we are looking at the actual value of education, it falls 100% upon information delivery.

Veterans vs. Newbies

When someone new to the industry sits in a class, they need to have a slower-paced delivery if there is a snowball’s chance in a fire pit of that person remembering anything they are taught. We have all heard people snipe at industry educational programs from time to time — “Yeah, well, he attended blah blah blah course and still doesn’t know anything.” That’s not the program at fault, that’s not the platform, it’s the delivery, and that is the presenter’s skillset.

A more experienced individual will find it easier to bridge data, even if it is new, because they already have learned data and ‘files’ in place. Learning something related takes much less effort. Here we find our seasoned professionals can more easily handle information in a fast-paced format. This is especially true if the information falls into the category of review.

It’s the singer, not the song

Too many people choose classes based on location or timing. It is usually worse when an employer randomly picks a session on a topic they need for a candidate. With the emergence of online classes coming into their own, we should not make the same mistakes. These are every bit as valuable as face-to-face classes and will forever be an asset in the swimming pool industry’s educational arsenal. However, if there is a course you are interested in taking and want to get the most bang for your buck, the student should be matched to the instructor no matter what the class. All teachers are not the same. Do your homework and pick an educator who will deliver the information in a manner that most benefits you or your employee.

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