IEA Affiliate Week: Pivoting to Online Training by Claire Thoma Emmons and Susan Foutz

Hi! We are Claire Thoma Emmons and Susan Foutz from the Research & Evaluation Department at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest children’s museum in the world. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed the museum for three months, we had to transition to virtual everything—including onboarding and training new staff and interns.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis offers a robust training schedule for new staff and interns, including training that provides background on the institutional learning framework and the evaluation process developed to measure and refine our family learning goals. Most onboarding is led by the Director of Training & Professional Development, but this training is led by the Research & Evaluation team. In order to ensure that staff have a shared understanding of this learning framework and the evaluation process, it is important for all educational staff and interns to complete this training soon after onboarding. While the museum was closed, we turned to video meeting platforms and other virtual tools to deliver trainings remotely while still maintaining conversational and think-pair-share components. We were pleased to discover that the virtual versions of the training felt very similar to in-person sessions, and we are confident that they will serve our institutional needs well for the remainder of the pandemic. Read on for ideas to improve your online training session!

Hot Tips:

  • Use the chat for reflections, examples, and brainstorms from participants that would typically be shared spontaneously; presenters can read and respond verbally to the comments.
  • For longer group discussions, stop screen sharing your presentation and invite participants to turn on their cameras for more face time.
  • Call on participants by name, especially when everyone cannot see each other’s video, to avoid long pauses due to participant hesitation to interrupt others.
  • Zoom has breakout rooms that allow for small-group discussion; you can put the same small groups back together throughout the training or sort participants randomly each time.
  • Record the training so that anyone who missed it can catch up individually instead of having to wait for the next time it is offered or take up one-on-one time with the presenters.

Rad Resources:

  • Explore the features of your meeting platform! Zoom has a built-in polling feature, and SurveyMonkey can be used in Teams for quick polls.
  • Online polling platforms like Slido and Poll Everywhere can be used when participants are virtual or in-person (fingers crossed that in-person training resumes!). They include question types like multiple choice, display options like word clouds, and the ability to embed the polls directly into your presentation slides.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Indiana Evaluation Association (IEA) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from IEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “IEA Affiliate Week: Pivoting to Online Training by Claire Thoma Emmons and Susan Foutz”

  1. Dear Claire and Susan,
    Thank you so much for a very thoughtful, helpful and honest post.
    I’m a Professional Master of Education student at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario as well as a Grade 2 teacher at a bilingual school in Beijing.
    This past summer as I could not return to Ontario I was part of the school’s onboarding committee for new teachers. It was an interesting challenge to welcome staff to our school family virtually as they Zoomed into onboarding meetings, training sessions and social events. As you mentioned in your post, we depend on conversation, sharing thinking and making connections which is ‘easy’ in person but requires more planning and thought when doing so virtually.
    I really appreciated your hot tips and rad resources that you shared in your post. After months of online teaching (February to June) I was familiar with a number of the resources that you shared but it’s different to connect virtually with adults than 20 Grade 2 students! I liked your suggestion of stopping screen sharing in order to allow for more face to face conversations. It seems silly to ask adults to raise their hand when they have something to share but that’s also a great feature of Zoom that helps participants feel more confident speaking out without interrupting someone.
    Recording training is also a valuable point. We found that with new hires around the world sometimes new staff would opt out of a non-mandatory session if it was at 3a.m. their local time (seems fair!). It was great to be able to send a recording of the session that they could go through in their own time.
    We used Microsoft Teams/Notebook to do a lot of our training this year and found the platforms quite useful. While it is a whole new way of doing things we’re all learning tips and tricks to make this work and it will no doubt impact how we do training moving forward – perhaps more of a hybrid between online and in-person.
    What (if any) do you feel the downfall was to virtual training? How might you improve the training moving forward?
    We found that relationship building and really helping new staff understand the culture/climate of the school was a struggle so we’re brainstorming ways to improve that should we need to go through a similar process next summer. I’d love to hear your thoughts and any suggestions you might have.
    Thank you again for a great post!
    Amy

  2. Dear Claire and Susan,
    Thank you so much for a very thoughtful, helpful and honest post.
    I’m a Professional Master of Education student at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario as well as a Grade 2 teacher at a bilingual school in Beijing.
    This past summer as I could not return to Ontario I was part of the school’s onboarding committee for new teachers. It was an interesting challenge to welcome staff to our school family virtually as they Zoomed into onboarding meetings, training sessions and social events. As you mentioned in your post, we depend on conversation, sharing thinking and making connections which is ‘easy’ in person but requires more planning and thought when doing so virtually.
    I really appreciated your hot tips and rad resources that you shared in your post. After months of online teaching (February to June) I was familiar with a number of the resources that you shared but it’s different to connect virtually with adults than 20 Grade 2 students! I liked your suggestion of stopping screen sharing in order to allow for more face to face conversations. It seems silly to ask adults to raise their hand when they have something to share but that’s also a great feature of Zoom that helps participants feel more confident speaking out without interrupting someone.
    Recording training is also a valuable point. We found that with new hires around the world sometimes new staff would opt out of a non-mandatory session if it was at 3a.m. their local time (seems fair!). It was great to be able to send a recording of the session that they could go through in their own time.
    We used Microsoft Teams/Notebook to do a lot of our training this year and found the platforms quite useful. While it is a whole new way of doing things we’re all learning tips and tricks to make this work and it will no doubt impact how we do training moving forward – perhaps more of a hybrid between online and in-person.
    What (if any) do you feel the downfall was to virtual training? How might you improve the training moving forward?
    We found that relationship building and really helping new staff understand the culture/climate of the school was a struggle so we’re brainstorming ways to improve that should we need to go through a similar process next summer. I’d love to hear your thoughts and any suggestions you might have.
    Thank you again for a great post!
    Amy

  3. Hi Claire and Susan,

    Thanks for sharing these insights. I imagine a lot of us are grappling with evaluating programming that have suddenly gone virtual.

    What do you think, if anything, may persist in virtual format even after the pandemic passes? Do you see any features of virtual training that actually work better than in-person?

    While I imagine there will be a lot of snapping back to pre-pandemic norms when that is possible, it also seems like we are heading into a next normal where some new practices will persist for various reasons. I’m very curious about what those will be.

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