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Publish at May 18 2020 Updated February 04 2022

Welcoming a group remotly

How do I get started with online training?

The importance of the welcome in training

The welcome is a special moment in a training. This phase makes it possible to set the bases of the training, to reassure, to create the link and the group dynamics.  It allows learners to share their motivations, needs and possible fears. The trainer sets the tone : what are his requirements, what types of relationships will he establish with the group.

A good start allows both the cognitive (what we are going to do and why) and affective needs of the learners (who we are going to do it with and how) to be met.

To frame the start of a training, five steps can be offered during the welcome phase:

  • hook-up,
  • introductions,
  • gathering expectations,
  • framework of the training, and
  • presentation of the course objectives.

Each of these steps is important and contributes to the creation of an atmosphere conducive to learning from the moment learners enter the classroom. Various activities can be proposed during each of these phases. Some bring dynamism with movement and movement around the room (placing a post-it note with one's expectations on a collective wall), others bring creativity and humor (icebreaker activities such as "smarties" or the "Chinese portrait", see the article by Frédéric Duriez illustrated  with humor ).

But how do you transpose these different phases into a distance learning context while keeping the dynamism and creativity possible in a face-to-face setting ? How to transmit the essential information for the proper functioning of the course while being reassuring and framing .

Thinking about reception in distance learning

It is indeed essential to keep this phase in the context of distance learning because the needs evoked are always present, even amplified. Indeed, a video-conference training start-up can generate quite a bit of stress and worries for some participants (technical skills, remote interactions, etc.) unfamiliar with the technologies or forced by the context to train online.

I have often encountered these fears in my distance training. These translated in different ways : mutism, questioning one's own skills or, conversely, questioning the training as a whole.

Reflecting on what might have happened and going back to the planning of my course, I think that a better consideration of this intake phase could have, not avoided these situations completely, but at least spotted them and defused them more quickly. Indeed, the time falsely gained by quickly passing over the collection of expectations or, on the contrary, too much time given to a detailed (and conventional !) presentation of the course program, clearly influenced the learning atmosphere.  For many authors (see for example, Noyé and Piveteau, 2013), the beginning of a session is a particularly delicate moment. A poorly done start and it is the whole training that will suffer ! 

If it seems important to me therefore to keep a remote reception phase, it is however necessary to adapt it, whether it is in terms of duration, forms of interaction or even the type of activity chosen.

Which digital tool for which phase?

By taking up the 5 phases of the welcome mentioned above, we can establish some activities and digital tools adapted to distance training.

1) The hook allows to interest and captivate the learners from the first minutes of the training. At a distance, we can, for example :

  • share a video, an image that challenges the participant, arouses his reaction and launches the debate from the first minutes of the training.
In addition, to keep the first informal contacts of a face-to-face training, the trainer can connect 5-10minutes before the beginning of the training and thus individually welcome the learners and exchange a few words of welcome. 

2) The presentations of the group and the trainer. As in face-to-face, the round table presentation is not always the only possible activity, and especially not always the most appropriate one depending on the groups and the type of training. At a distance, due to a lack of ideas, there is a great risk of quickly skipping this step. Yet, many possibilities also exist online to make this moment fun and creative :

  • a virtual world map to make the group's geographic map (with for example the " Map " template from Padlet, or Google My Maps).

  • a sharing of an image, a quote that represents us dropped and commented on a collaborative virtual wall with, for example, Padlet, Linoit or Scrumble.
    In order not to take too much time, the learner prepares in advance what he/she wishes to share with the group.

3) The collection of expectations allows the emergence of the learners' representations and to reframe, if necessary, the expectations out of step with the objectives of the training. At a distance, rather than an oral collection we can :

  • send a link to an online survey a few days before the beginning of the training or during the first few minutes with, for example, Mentimeter, Google forms or Survey Monckey.

  • sharing and commenting on the graphical results with the learners and thus displaying the " photograph " of the group's needs.


 



4-5) Establish the framework of the training and present the objectives: explain how the training will work, give practical indications (schedules, materials, etc.), lay down the basics of how the group will function (charter, collaboration, etc.).

Whether it is face-to-face or distance learning, this phase can be time-consuming and seem long for learners who are increasingly demanding about the modalities of the training courses they attend. Here again, information can be transmitted before or during the first few minutes in various forms:

  • an animated infographic or a mind map to present the training (with for example Genially, Mindomo).
  • storytelling to introduce the training, the journey learners will take during the course with an interactive presentation (with e.g., Prezi) or a video animation (with  for example Sparkol, Doodle, Explee).
  • a video message from the trainer.

What if distance helped us to welcome in face-to-face ?

These different proposals can also inspire us for face-to-face training. Indeed, when possible, part of the reception can easily be transferred before the course with digital tools.

This can allow to create a link before the beginning of the training, to discover a little the group and its expectations, to answer practical questions and reassure some learners but also to save some time in the classroom.

Image by Jagrit Parajuli from Pixabay


References

Article : " Remote meetings: 10 tips to create conviviality ", by Pascale Bélorgey, December 8, 2017, accessed May 14, 2020.

Article : " The Profile Of The Modern Learner: The Trends And Data You Need To Know," by  Steve Penfold, e-learning industry, September 4, 2018.

Article : " Icebreakers (Games to break the ice) ," CEDIP, September 5, 2017 

Article, " Starting a training session: reflections and proposals from a group facilitation perspective ", by Daniel Faulx and Sophie Delvaux, CAIRN.INFO, February 28, 2012

Book, Dubey Raphael, L'accueil en formation, TheBookEdition.com, 2012

Book Noyé D., Piveteau J., Le guide pratique du formateur. Conceive,animate, evaluate a training, é. Eyrolles, Paris, 2018 (2nd edition, paper or digital version)


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