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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Remote Training Perils!

A couple of years back, I was training a group of students remotely using an Adobe Connect online classroom. It was a five-day class, and I was in the beginning of the third day.

As a rule, I make my classes highly interactive. I use every possible opportunity to review material I have taught earlier in my class by asking questions. Obviously this is a very effective way to reinforce learning in the minds of students. I found out that there is another benefit from this method.

One particular trainee (let me call him Mr.P) seemed completely lost about the material I had covered in the previous two days. I found it rather surprising because, over the first two days of class, he had demonstrated a good grasp of the subject matter. Also, he seemed very reluctant to participate in the class discussions - a total deviation from his behaviour over the first two days. In fact even my direct questions to Mr.P elicited nothing beyond stony silence.

As the class progressed, I felt very uncomfortable about Mr.P's silence and lack of participation. Finally, I sent him a private message enquiring whether everything was OK, or if he had any problems with the network or audio. This brought a response that had me completely by surprise.

Mr.P sent me a private reply confessing that, in reality he was not Mr.P, but his friend Mr.Q. Mr.P had simply connected up to the online classroom and had asked Mr.Q to sit in front of the computer while attending to some of his personal business!

Now this is a grave issue..a student being AWOL and asking someone else to be his/her proxy without informing the instructor. An even more serious issue is intellectual property being at stake. How would I know if Mr.Q was actually from our competitor, trying to steal our company's IP.

What I learnt was that, it is imperative to engage students intensely in a remote class even more than a direct class.

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