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My Preferred Teaching Formats ... and Those Not So Much

Live/In Person and L
ive/Online/Interactive Courses (High Touch)

In my years of adult learning education, there's simply nothing like teaching live/in person when there's a situation where everyone in the room "gets it" at the same moment. While online teaching gives us the ability to reach people anywhere and can be more cost-effective than bringing in a live educator, I feel badly for those whose adult Learning Experience has only been virtual as they are missing out on that magic, and the spontaneous experiences that not being wedded to a tight script and time window can bring. And yes, the shared stories that provided valuable "real life" anecdotal evidence - and even the laughter and strong emotions that spontaneously arise that make every live Learning Experience unforgettable are why I prefer it over other types of learning formats. It is collaborative, energetic, high-touch and socially engaged, builds empathy, and brings us the POV from sometimes very completely different experiences of others. Depending on how well it is Developed, Designed and Delivered, the attendee's Learning Experience is often given live on the spot via their faces, body language, and level of active and interested participation before they fill out a formal evaluation afterward.

My preference for in-person delivery is followed close behind by live/online/interactive teaching, but only if there is the ability for all attendees to be active participants. I first taught in this format beginning in when I was first contracted in 2011 to teach weekly mindfulness skills courses to corporate employees of large organizations, and was one of a team of educators hired to do so.

Group Lecture

Even though these organizations have a large number of employees across the United States, we kept the six-to-eight-week long class sizes to a maximum of 25 - 30 attendees. Attendees were given handouts and homework between each session, lots of in-class review and practice reinforcement time, and were able to contact instructors privately between each session with comments and questions. Attendees could choose to attend an optional half-day follow-up knowledge and skills practice feedback, refinement, reinforcement session after the initial course was completed. It was truly interactive as we didn't teach "at them" - there was lively discussion between students and teachers during every class. My students actually taught me a lot as well! It was almost as good as being in the same room together - and set a standard for how I prefer to teach online ever since

Not So Much:
Massive Onl
ine Webinars, Online/On-Demand/eLearning Courses, and AI (Low Touch)

The past decade+ has seen an explosion of non-live virtual education and delivery technology, as well as new degrees in Instructional Design to craft these types of computer-delivered educational offerings. Some are great - and many are not. I have heard countless stories from employees in a wide range of professions who say that they can't stand eLearning, especially when it's in isolation with no live exchange between instructors and students, and there is often no practical application to make what is taught sustainable over time. I can relate, as I received both my Psychology and Organizational Leadership B.A. degrees from Arizona State University's shortened semester online programs and never met any of my instructors of fellow students. I had begun my college education on campus at ASU, and the lack of face-to-face engagement negatively impacted my overall Learning Experience. And even though I did graduate Summa Cum Laude for both degrees, the accelerated time frame coupled with multiple concurrent classes vying for my "brain space" adversely impacted my long-term retention. 


Once Covid put a halt on most live/in-person learning opportunities, whenever I've signed up for a live/online/interactive webinar attended by dozens (or even hundreds) of learners that is billed as "interactive," I've experienced it is simply impossible for all attendees to be seen, have their comments heard, and/or have their questions answered. It's also easy to become distracted and check your email, texts, and social media. These are also often presented as "one-and-done" sessions, and while attendees may get some very good handouts afterward in an attempt to reinforce what was taught, there's rarely an ability to engage in what will help ensure retention and embodiment of a new Mindset or Skillset: consistent practice with repetition over time. 


How many webinars have you attended wherein the teacher asks for questions or comments to be placed in a chat window - yet so many are flying by at lightning speed and therefore most go unnoticed or unaddressed? How much retention of the material presented did you have afterward? I can't stand this myself, and so I don't offer live/online/interactive webinars where is happens, as the overall learning experience suffers.

While an upside of live/online delivery is the number or people one can reach in a session, that's also a downside when learners are not heard or able to contribute because of the number of people makes true interactivity impossible and moves it into the "Low Touch" category.


While I will always prefer live delivery, online/on-demand and scheduled eLearning workplace education that provides essential skills knowledge for employees is a vital learning tool that has benefits over in-person education. During the pandemic it was a boon for all organizations to continue to be able to provide instruction regardless of whether employees were at their workplace or remote. It is also not time-of-day dependent for attendance, and of course is generally much more cost effective when there are numerous employees in multiple geographic locations. What's necessary in every eLearning Mindset or Skillsets is to be Developed, Designed and Delivered as a sustainable behavioral upgrade. 


Artificial Intelligence (AI) might be a valuable tool for some technical/task-oriented/low touch Skillsets instruction, however, in my strong opinion it has no place in "soft skills"/adaptive/high-touch Mindsets education. It is simply impossible (and potentially extremely dangerous) for a robot/machine to "teach" about human being behavioral habit and learning upgrades.

Additionally, we are beginning to see problems where people are plagiarizing written content via chatbots like ChatGBT that search and lift from copy-written sources because it's fast and cheap to do so. As a writer I've had content stolen, and this is simply unacceptable for ANYONE in L&D to do. If you're not a writer, hire someone who is.

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