Virtual trip to sunny New Zealand on a rainy North East night

Last week I delivered a half-day workshop on the theme of Instructional Design for E-learning – i.e. how to design online learning courses properly.

Nothing unusual, but I somehow ended up agreeing to deliver it online using Blackboard Collaborate. I’ve done this a few times now and, despite being a bit ‘old-school’ when it comes to delivering/facilitating training courses, I’m beginning to enjoy it. Something to do with enjoying the sound of my own voice and not being able to see the whites of their eyes I guess…

Anyway, there are challenges when delivering a workshop as opposed to a simple presentation, especially when organising group work, feedback, discussions etc., but the software is pretty good, so it can be done.

However, an added level of excitement was the fact that the workshop was a post-breakfast breakout session at Ulearn12 in Auckland, New Zealand. They are exactly 12 hours ahead of us, so as my 23 guests settled down after a leisurely breakfast, I geared up for a long lonely night at Netskills HQ.

It wasn’t quite that bad, as my colleague Chris Thomson stayed until around 10pm and was a great help in assisting people feeding back on their group work. He also managed to polish off the chocolate cookies that we had in store to keep us going through the night.

The session took a while to get going as our new friends took a while to get connected and logged in – unlike our usual workshops, we hadn’t had time to run a pre-workshop intro/orientation session – but by 9pm I was in full flow.

Our NW colleagues seemed interested in my regular weather reports (it poured down in Newcastle all night, so our plan for an ‘outside broadcast’ had to be shelved) and there was certain curiosity about the whole day/night thing.

Various other Netskills colleagues popped in during the night, either within the conference room or via Skype. Our network proved to be a bit more robust than the conference wifi, which had been on the verge of collapse all week but we managed to complete our session by around 1230am without too much bloodshed and some very positive feedback.

Overall, a good event – next time, we probably need to ensure that conference goers are better prepared in terms of machine login and setup. The group was probably a bit large for successful group work – feedback took a while, but the local moderator, Margaret, did a sterling job in the circumstances…

By: Simon Fitzpatrick