You don’t need us to tell you that we find ourselves in challenging times!
Each moment holds a little more uncertainty, and as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to grow, we find our lives more affected.
Each day seemingly drastically different than the last.
Animas Founder & CEO, Nick Bolton recently shared a personal piece detailing our story so far with Animas and Covid-19. In his article, he shared what led us to where we are now.
In this piece, I want to take a different slant and begin to share some of the benefits of live virtual training, walking you through the platform that we will be using to deliver it, as well as outlining some of the exciting opportunities that this VLE approach opens up to us going forward. I’ll also share some words from our trainers as to what they are most excited about with this new approach to training, as well as some feedback from some coaches that attended the first ever virtual training module this weekend!
To give a little context first though, it’s useful to briefly share our rapid transition to virtual training.
From the beginning of the virus, given Nick’s own experience in China, we were conscious of the health and safety of our coaches-in-training and the Animas team and we kept this at the forefront of our mind. Initially we followed government guidance and continued in-person training whilst monitoring any changes to government advice.
However, on 12th March we as the situation rapidly changed, we decided to respond quickly and decisively to ensure that our students could continue their learning journeys whilst keeping everyone safe. As a result, we made the proactive decision to move all of our training and our introductory session online for the foreseeable future. This was an industry-leading decision that not only ensures our students’ and team’s safety, but also means that we are able to prevent ‘learning lockdown’ for our coaches-in-training during a time where many other industries have sadly gone into enforced hibernation or worse.
This transition was a somewhat daunting prospect at first. There was a lot to do quickly but our students and trainers responded with magnificent grace, humour and willingness. Thankfully, it worked and we are now excited to see the positive feedback from the pioneering virtual training groups come in.
The VLE-volution: What is a VLE?
While concerns around the current Covid-19 pandemic have forced many people’s hands in making transitions with both their businesses, and personal lives, including moving calls, meetings, conferences, and even training to virtual or online spaces, these spaces, and approaches to learning have actually been steadily growing in popularity for the last decade or so.
A virtual learning environment (VLE) is an online platform for the digital aspects of courses, usually within educational institutions. They’re a relatively young concept – only really existing in their current form since the turn of the millennium – but eLearning has quickly become one of the fastest growing industries, and it continues to grow rapidly. Since the year 2000, the market growth rate has been 900%!
Most higher education institutions now have some element of VLE that forms part of a student’s learning, with more and more recognising the benefits that learning in this way brings, and turning their attention to the online learning space.
So, while we certainly aren’t alone in this new endeavour, we are immensely proud to have been the first UK coaching school to make this shift. And truth be told, we couldn’t be more excited about it!
The Online Training Platform – Zoom
We were aware of many platforms which could host our virtual training, but despite the amount of seemingly viable options available, naturally the prospect of making this huge transition carried with it an air of nervousness!
This being said, when we experienced the Zoom platform in practice, and all of the features that it offered, we just knew that this was the one!
Many of you will be familiar with Zoom. It is the go-to for many video calls, webinars or online coaching sessions because of how well it works, and how simple it is to use. But it’s when you take a look at how it can be used in a live, group training setting, that it really comes into its own.
There was a real sense of connection between trainer and participants, and the way that everyone could connect with one another felt just as personal as in-person training!
But what about that moment in live training where the groups divide into smaller breakouts to discuss an idea or practise a skill? No problem. That’s where our favourite Zoom feature comes in – the seamless division of the group in private breakout rooms.
They work incredibly well creating a completely separate virtual space for the participants whilst allowing the trainer to silently step into the virtual room to observe the participants’ coaching, and even offer real-time feedback.
Oh, and as an added benefit…they also allow the trainer to keep the sessions to time by being able to bring everyone back to the group for discussion and feedback when the coaching time is up. No more stragglers grabbing a coffee en-route to the training room and no more groups continuing the exercise as the rest of the groups wait for them! Yes, you’ve seen that before too, haven’t you!
Having seen the platform in action, our sense of what could really be done in the virtual training space changed drastically.
This platform ensures that the virtual experience itself will recreate the training room experience in almost every way.
With facilitator-led presentations, break-out sessions, Q&A, in-depth explanations of coaching models and frameworks and more all still forming part of your training. In turn, enabling you to have that real ‘in-person experience’ from the comfort of your home, we’re actually really excited about working with you in this way!
The Benefits of Moving to a Virtual Training Space
So now let’s explore the benefits.
While the thought of moving from in-person live training to virtual live training might at first seem a little daunting, or at least raise a few questions for you, there are a number of benefits to training in this virtual learning environment (VLE).
Keeping your momentum up while staying safe
Our ultimate goal is not just to keep our students and team safe in these difficult times, but to also ensure that our students get to continue their training and qualify as coaches.
Every one of our coaches-in-training chose Animas because it resonated with them, it felt right, and they were excited and motivated to train as a coach. Many of our students have deadlines due to things such as career transitions, childbirth or simply a real desire to begin their training journey, and this transition to virtual training spaces ensures that people can maintain their training momentum and qualify to the same deadlines, without putting themselves or those around them at risk. A real win-win we feel!
While there is definitely something great about meeting fellow coaches in person, the Zoom platform means that none of the social interaction and rapport is lost – you just get to do it all from the comfort of your own home!
This also means no time or money spent on travelling to and from a training venue, and many of our coaches-in-training won’t need to worry about being up at the crack of dawn to start their journeys!
Reduced environmental impact
The Covid-19 pandemic has temporarily put most talk about the climate crisis on the backburner, yet it remains just as important as ever.
A study by the Open University found that producing and providing e-learning courses consumes 90% less energy and produces 85% fewer CO2 emissions per person than face-to-face training. With all of us becoming ever more environmentally conscious, undertaking your training in a virtual setting really does contribute to reducing the environmental impact that we are having on the world.
Very personal and connected – everyone equally prominent
With the focus that coaching puts on human interaction and dialogue, it goes without saying that a great coaching course will be centred around people, and their ability to connect. So why should online coach training be any different?
With the platform that we are using everyone remains just as connected – participants can see one another face-to-face, and the platform means that everyone is equally as prominent in the discussion. Not sat rows behind one another, hidden in corners, each person is just as prominently present as the next which creates a truly fertile environment for learning, growth and connection.
While offering plenty of benefits right now, we would be lying if we said we haven’t also spent time excitedly thinking about the potential opportunities that come with this new online approach to learning. To give you just a flavour of our ideas:
You may well be familiar with our Animas Summits, the last of which happened in 2017 (in-person!). These galvanising summits are popular among our community as they offer a collaborative event that focuses on learning, sharing and supporting one another. The truth is, big events like this take a LOT of time, effort and money to put together, and can turn into a logistical nightmare and so they become few and far between. An online summit however offers the same opportunity for our coaches from across the world to connect and learn together, but is much more feasible and easier to organise/attend for everyone involved.
We’re already organising our first virtual summit on Coaching for Social Impact for later this year, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
Specialist virtual training
Moving training into a virtual space means that our courses can be accessed by people from all around the world. We are already pondering the possibilities of various specialist virtual training to add to our traditional CPD short courses.
With a bigger base of potential participants, specialist courses that would have struggled for numbers locally, suddenly become viable for us to run. And the thought of our brilliantly vibrant and diverse community growing further, and being joined by people from all around the globe is one which we find very exciting!
We’ve already moved our upcoming Certificate in Mindfulness for Coaching into the virtual space, which means that our community of coaches and students can maintain their momentum even when in lockdown!
The bottom line is that this shift and transition has opened a world of possibility for our students and alumni and for us as a business, and we are looking forward to this new chapter in our journey as a training school.
What Our Training Team Are Saying About the Move
‘This move to virtual means we are able to provide continuity of support and training delivery to our amazing community in these testing times!’
‘I’m most excited that this move to virtual means we are able to provide continuity of support and training delivery to our amazing community in these testing times, and that we have been able to affect this shift almost overnight. I’m also incredibly proud of my team for taking up the challenge, embracing it and being excited about it all at the same time. Zoom gives us the platform to continue our delivery, but the team provides the magic that means our training can continue.’
‘It’s exciting for me because “necessity can be the mother of invention”.’
‘It’s exciting for me because “necessity can be the mother of invention”. There’s suddenly huge energy created around coming up with new approaches and ideas. Who knows what will be created that will be fabulous and would never have been created without these big changes!’
‘One of the exciting things about the online learning environment is the way that visually the ‘room’ becomes completely egalitarian with every participant equally represented in the space.’
‘One of the exciting things about the online learning environment is the way that visually the ‘room’ becomes completely egalitarian with every participant equally represented in the space. No one is off to the side or hiding at the back of the room, or hidden by another person or unable to see. Given good facilitation, I think there is potential therefore to create a more connected and productive group, with a more open and even sense of participant contribution and interaction.’
How the pioneering groups of Animas coaches-in-training have found the virtual training experiences
‘There were some really beautiful moments of connection throughout the whole weekend, especially in the break out rooms.’
‘I did the Presence module with Marcus & Todd. I was quite sceptical of doing ‘virtual presence’ even having prior experience of online zoom training, but I must say that it exceeded all expectations & I left feeling I’d got as much learning as I would have in person! I do miss the chitchat & networking in the break times, and the energy of being in the room, but there were some really beautiful moments of connection throughout the whole weekend, especially in the break out rooms. I no longer have any negativity towards doing the rest of my training online.’
“Honestly it was quite brilliant!”
‘It’s true to say I embarked on the virtual training last weekend with Matteo Trevisan with some trepidation. Not only was I unsure how it would work, it also felt like I would be deprived of the wonderful company of my fellow coaches in training – something I had so been looking forward to. But honestly it was quite brilliant! A very different experience in many ways, but the breakout rooms worked particularly well and we really did keep to time (since Matteo just brought us back into the main group when time was up!) In these changing times there are so many reasons to think about how we might do things differently. This was a learning opportunity in so many more ways than the course content alone. And of course a far smaller carbon footprint!’
“Really Energizing! Preferred it to the classroom Experience!”
I found it really energising and I preferred it to the classroom experience as it was so much more convenient. I felt we could still connect as people.I also thought that the format enabled more voices to be heard. And of course Matteo Trevisan bad music 🙂 & dancing on the breaks made me laugh!!!
Considering becoming a coach and want to give it a try?
Having read this, you might be curious to get a taste of the virtual experience before you commit to training as a life coach. If so, we now run our Introduction to Coaching days virtually and this is a great experiential opportunity for you to find out more about transformational coaching, Animas and the world of coaching. You’ll also get a real sense of how the virtual experience really works in practice. So why not book a spot on one of our free virtual introductory days?