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The Art of Live-Online Classes

by Kate Megaw

Editor's note: This article is one of a series designed to be At Your Service as we all learn to connect with one another even while we're remote. Because together we are not alone.

As of today, it has been 30 days since The Braintrust Consulting Group pivoted to provide live-online Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) classes. Over the course of those 30 days, Braintrust has virtually trained more than 200 Scrum Professionals and now feels like it is a great time to pause and conduct a bit of a retrospective.
 
Let’s start at the beginning. In early March, it became obvious that in-person training was not going to be realistic during social distancing. At Braintrust, we love our in-person classes. We value the face-to-face instruction and feel that students learn best through personal interaction. So, the idea of teaching our CSM and CSPO classes remotely was most definitely concerning but we knew that it was the only way to help our students continue to grow during the Covid-19 quarantine. 

Our biggest concerns were for our students and our trainers. First, could we deliver the same fun, interactive experience that our students have come to expect from Braintrust? And second, would our world-class Certified Scrum Trainers (CST) be willing to pivot, adjust and learn new techniques and tools? With those two challenges in mind, I’d like to walk you through the ways that Braintrust handled them.
 
Can live-online classes be interactive and engaging for students?
Braintrust is known for creating unique classroom experiences. Our students choose us because they know that they will have fun while they learn. So, our biggest challenge was recreating our interactive classroom experience through a virtual format.

We decided early on that we did not want to take our exact CSM and CSPO curriculum and try to deliver it online. Instead, we went all the way back to the drawing board and created all new class materials for the online versions of our classes. We created new and different exercises. We created new class workbooks and virtual learning tools. And we rethought the way we delivered everything. It was a massive amount of work to recreate new versions of all of our Certified classes, but we felt that it was critically necessary in order to give students the best possible experience. And it worked!

Our dedicated team at Braintrust created entirely new curriculums for each of our virtual classes. We reworked all of our interactive exercises into things that could be done online and at home. We created new class workbooks that lead students through each module of the class. And we even added dance breaks and cocktail hours to the classes in order to ensure students get a full experience.

We also embraced the idea of constant improvement. After every single day of class, our trainers were huddling up, sharing notes and ideas and improving for the next day. Over the course of the 30 days, we’ve continually inspected and adapted our online class experience. We’ve given students room to provide feedback and insights and we’ve implemented their ideas on the fly. And the results have been phenomenal. Our students are loving the online format. Some words that students have used to describe their online class include stimulating, interactive, fun, engaging, teamwork, activity-filled, and entertaining.
 
 
Will our world-class Certified Scrum Trainers be willing to learn new techniques and tools?
At Braintrust, we have a team of the best and brightest CST trainers in the world. But we were concerned about asking them to completely change their teaching styles. We wondered how they would adapt and how willing they would be to learn new tools and platforms? The good news is that we are not strangers to online training. Prior to Covid-19, we were already conducting monthly webinars and we also offer skills workshops and recorded content through Braintrust On Demand. So, we knew a lot about what worked and what didn’t.

But offering CSM and CSPO live, online was a slightly different challenge. And it was a challenge that we took to our trainers directly. We didn’t tell them exactly how this was going to work. We asked them how they wanted it to work. And our trainers stepped up in ways that we never expected. On their own time they researched platforms and tools, they tested class activities on each other, and they collaborated more than they ever have in the past. Growth is one of our core values at Braintrust and it was amazing to watch these trainers learn from each other and embrace the opportunity to grow.

After a lot of trial and error, our trainer team landed on a combination of delivery platforms. For all of our live-online classes we are utilizing Zoom for the video component and Mural for the shared workspace component. This combination has worked very well for our trainers and our students. Zoom allows us to interact with students and allows students to interact with each other, while Mural allows us to create shared activity zones so that students can add virtual sticky notes and build canvases together. Overall, the online classroom experience is as close as possible to being in the same room together. One student said, “Hats off to the team for making virtual class feel so real and engaging.”

 
Conclusion:
In many ways Agile has prepared us to excel in this world of unknowns. As Agilists, we’re taught to embrace change and value the ability to adapt. But in order to truly deliver value to our students, we have to LIVE Agile not just do Agile. The biggest lessons that I’ve learned over the last 30 days all revolve around flexibility and the willingness to inspect and adapt. I’m so proud of our team and the ways that we have come together to help others continue to grow.

I know this is a challenging time for everyone, but that’s all the more reason that we’re committed to helping our students. Many people are feeling displaced and unsure. If we can give them the tools to adapt and excel during these trying times then we are accomplishing our mission.
 

Key Takeaways:

  • Live-online classes cannot be the same as in-person classes. They need specialized curriculum and adjusted exercises.
  • Tools are important. Try several and find what works best for you.
  • Accept feedback. No one is doing this perfectly yet. Give students and trainers a voice and inspect and adapt to get better every day.
  • Virtual dance parties make everything better.

Kate Megaw, CST, is the President of the Braintrust Consulting Group where she specializes in working with executives and C-level professionals in addition to serving as an Agile Coach and Trainer. She can be contacted at kate.megaw@braintrustgroup.com.  

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