Picking your tech for online trainings: Top tips

Zoom? Google Hangouts? Skype? How do you pick the right technology to host your online training? Bootcamp's lead trainer Nim shares their top tips below:

This blog is part of a wider-series written by Bootcamp’s lead trainer, Nim Ralph, focused on how to run engaging online trainings in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. To see the other blogs in the series, scroll to the end of this post.

In this first blog in my series on online trainings, I look at the considerations you should make when picking which technology to use when running your virtual training. The next blog will cover how to prepare for the actual training.

When holding a meeting, there’s usually a few key things I consider when finding a venue:

  • Can I afford it?
  • Does it inspire and support learning, e.g. does it have daylight, and spaces for flipchart paper and enough space for everyone?
  • Can everyone access it? 

These are the 3 questions that should also guide you when you are thinking about where to host a meeting or training online — and ideally you put as much thought into these as you would your venue.

Can I afford it?

There’s a lot of free to use online platforms that you can use for meetings right now; Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams… here’s a collaborative spreadsheet of many of the online platforms out there including whether they are free or not. 

Some people really enjoy exploring new online platforms, but it’s very stressful for many of us. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options, a way to consider what to use is think about:

  1. What you feel comfortable with. While the Bootcamp motto is always – stay in your discomfort, because it’s where you learn best, if online training is totally new to you then it’s okay to use a comfortable tool while you are figuring out what online training looks like. You can then maybe try new tech down the line.
  2. What people around you know how to use. If you think you might need support getting to grips with a new tool, knowing that there’s people around you who can help you when you have questions is always a good shout — remember we are part of a community, even when we can’t be in the same room together.

As always in the world we live in, access to money makes our lives easier and there are features that exist on some of the paid for platforms that will enhance your experience if you can afford them like break out rooms. But you can also make work arounds on that if you can’t afford them. E.g. you can have your whole group meeting on Skype and have people use free zoom accounts to have break out chats. 

Does it inspire and support learning?

Like I said, initially you might want to start with a platform that is familiar to you. Sometimes we do this in real life too — because it gives us confidence, or because it’s a space we know our participants know and trust so they will be more likely to come along and/or be present. 

There’s a lot of pluses to this online too — it might enable you to feel more confident focussing on delivering your new online content and building up your experience there before moving on to expanding your tech knowledge. It might also support your participants to be on a platform they feel safer on initially. But there’s also a whole host of features that you can use to help with online meetings that you might be missing out on, like:

  • Breakout groups
  • Being able to mute and unmute participants (like calling on hands in a real life training)
  • A virtual “hands up” tool
  • Polls and temperature check features
  • Question and Answer functions

That said you can also use lots of combinations of different programmes to help with this if you can’t get your head around the detailed features of one platform. 

Another option is the potential for creating some tech cooperation – perhaps your group can’t afford it’s own zoom pro account, but what if you joined together with some other groups and shared the monthly fee. You could create a shared calendar to “book” out the room like in a community centre, and make an agreement about a “fair use” of time each group can book out.  

Can everyone access it? 

The online world is not devoid of the social injustices of the real life world, and it embodies many of the social exclusions that exist in real life too. 

3 key aspects of this to be especially aware of when hosting online meetings and facilitations are:

Who has access to technology, the internet, wifi and data

Not everyone has access to a computer or to high speed internet. Many people top up their data allowances and can’t afford the level of data required for moving all of our campaigning into the virtual world. Ensure that you are clear who you want at your meetings and what tech they have available to join — it might be that a phone call is the best option. There are online platforms that allow you to call people directly so that it doesn’t use their minutes too. 

Who has access to online literacy 

Lots of folks don’t have access to the internet, and/or haven’t grown up in an environment where learning how to use the internet now comes as second nature. This could be for many reasons including age, culture and education. You might need to run some sessions on-line training them in the tech itself (even the easiest of platforms) or send out some very simple “tech how to” sheets before you can start hosting your training or meetings. 

What the literal access requirements a platform supports for different impairments and impairment aids

Much of the training world has gotten much better at thinking about physical accessibility when booking training spaces – considering things like wheelchair access, large print formats, fidget toys and other forms of aids and requirements so that everyone can access. But online many people have forgotten to pause and consider access requirements in the same way. You will want to consider things like:

  • Closed captioning
  • Automatic transcripts
  • Keyboard accessibility 
  • Screen reader support
  • Video relaying/audio description

To recap on all these considerations here’s a really great spreadsheet that the amazing Campaign Bootcamp Programmes team have been compiling on the accessibility of different online web platforms.

Check out the other blogs in this series on running online training here:

Click here for a downloadable PDF of the whole series

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Previous & Next Articles

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Prepping your online training: Top tips

Preparing for an online training session can take a lot longer than real life sessions: here's a handy list of things to consider when preparing for your online training.

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Going virtual: Top tips for trainers and facilitators

Covid-19 means many campaigners and activists will be turning to online meetings to organise. Lead Bootcamp trainer Nim shares their top tips for running engaging virtual trainings.