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Digital learning counselor – the future role of trainers

From trainer to digital learning counselor: How does COVID-19 change the working world for trainers and what role will digital teaching and learning play in the future?

I am happy to take up the idea of the Webparade (a blog format in which different people present their personal view on a set of questions), initiated by Dr. Sammet & Wolf. In the following, I am going to share my personal assessment of the future of role the trainer as digital learning counselor.

What will COVID-19 change for trainers?

As in many other industries, from one moment to the next practically the entire business for trainers has collapsed: through no fault of their own, without warning, indefinitely. In my case, all face-to-face events for the following weeks were cancelled within a few days or, in the best case, postponed indefinitely. Fortunately, I had started working with some of my clients via Skype long before COVID-19 and was able to continue and even expand this part of my business.

Online trainerApart from the issues of securing their immediate livelihood, which for many trainer colleagues resulted from the cancellation of face-to-face sessions, the entire business model of face-to-face training was suddenly called into question. Many trainers will ask themselves whether their previous services will be in demand again in the future or whether they might become completely worthless.

I can imagine that this feeling of a sudden, undeserved drop in value of previously highly valued training services – similar to a fall in prices on the stock market – has plunged many trainers into a personal crisis and is accompanied by a loss of self-esteem.

On the other hand, I see many colleagues who – like me – have been looking for solutions to the crisis and have thrown themselves into the adventure of ‘digital training’. In our industry, too, the pandemic has led to an enormous boost in digital formats of teaching and learning. Personally, I very much welcome this development, as it is an enormously valuable addition to the previously predominant face-to-face formats.

What are the biggest challenges for trainers in dealing with these changes?

Here too, I think that securing one’s personal income is definitely the first priority. If this can be achieved through reserves and/or support programmes, trainers can turn to alternative business models.

In my view, in future practically all trainers who want to work in education and training will be expected to offer digital services. Depending on the personality and technical affinity of each trainer, this insight is met with more or less enthusiasm.

However, I see a completely different aspect that weighs much more heavily: experienced trainers are used to convincing with their expertise and methodological competence and to controlling the training process with confidence.

However, most trainers are absolute novices when it comes to digital training, some with some prior knowledge, and only a few really experts. This means that trainers feel insecure and vulnerable, suffer from a lack of self-confidence and feel thrown back to the early days of their training career, when they had to work hard to build their reputation without experience and references. What is their previous reputation still worth?

Apart from the use of technical tools and learning platforms, trainers offering digital trainings need completely new methodical and didactical concepts to enable sustainable learning, interactivity and transfer into practice. Photographing flipcharts and assembling existing PowerPoint slides into presentations and presenting them in the form of a monologue via a video conferencing tool may have been an opportune emergency solution in the first weeks of the crisis, but in the long run it does not meet the criteria of a sustainable digital training format.

What is helpful in dealing with these challenges?

Of course an openness to digital learning methods is extremely helpful. Personally, I already started to get to know and use digital training formats in 2006 alongside my face-to-face trainings.

I have always been enthusiastic about the sheer endless possibilities that digital learning brings with it and have gradually qualified myself in numerous professional development programmes. And yet it was Corona that gave me the decisive push to get certified as a Live Online Trainer and e-Learning Moderator very quickly, knowing full well that I can now apply my newly acquired skills directly. (Until now, the lack of digitalisation or readiness in companies has very often been a highly limiting factor).

I can only encourage all my trainer colleagues to try out and get to know this incredible wealth of additional possibilities. It is simply very, very much fun to draw on the full potential of multimedia.

In my opinion, two aspects are essential:

As trainers, we should abandon our claim to perfection and instead try out technical tools together with our participants.

In my experience, participants are not nearly as well versed as we often assume. Yes, they are familiar with classic office applications and social media. But when it comes to digital forms of learning, we as trainers can also score points. Provided we familiarise ourselves intensively with the tools and are prepared to make mistakes.

As a second aspect, I would like to point out the diverse skills we have acquired over the years as trainers: communicating, appreciating, encouraging and promoting, developing teams, solving conflicts and much more. Trainers need all these skills in digital formats as well, because this is also about people with whom we interact.

What are the benefits of the changes for organisations and trainers?

I personally like changes and challenges and like to try out new things, even if the trigger must not necessarily be a pandemic. And yes, I do see positive things in these changes.

From a practical point of view: I save a lot of time and money by not conducting on-site training sessions at my clients’ premises. I conduct digital trainings from the comfort of my desk. This results in a considerable gain in quality of life and health for myself.

Moreover, digital training formats allow for a much greater reach. I can work completely globally and thus make my training offer available to worldwide operating companies for all locations (as long as the language fits). I can also merge the best of both worlds – face-to-face and digital training – into a blended learning concept, making my portfolio more attractive and flexible. This also includes mobile services for mobile phones, which in the form of micro-training and self-learning units complete my training portfolio and bring a gain in learner autonomy, flexibility and sustainability for my clients.

What should trainers be able to do to continue to be successful?

I think that trainers should now train as online trainers in order to be able to work as holistic learning counselor in the future. If trainers have a methodically and didactically well-filled toolbox for face-to-face and online training, they can react very flexibly to the requirements of their clients, as well as to changing conditions, such as the current pandemic.

And in addition: many customers are also inexperienced in the use of digital training. Here, appropriately trained and interested trainers can advise their customers individually and work out solutions together with them, showing them the added value of digital or blended learning formats. You will thus become a holistic learning counselor.