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The Problem With Workshops

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe one or two days long workshops really work when you’re trying to change the way people do something or convince them to use a new tool. These workshops are like a first date. It can go really well, you get all excited… but then, the next day, you have this urgent thing at work to do, so you don’t have time to call back… and then you have another big project to plan and… oh wait, what was the workshop all about? I’ll go to another one next year.

The problem with short workshops is that you usually make a good impression, but you don’t develop a relationship. Sure, you might get one or two people excited enough to get involved with the subject further, but most people won’t. Most people won’t really get it after a day or two. They need the time and place to figure things out on their own. If there’s somebody by your side immediately solving all your problems for you, you don’t really learn much.

So, what do I believe in? I believe in longer lasting workshops where participants are gently guided by a tutor, but require participants to invest their time and energy in solving problems. I believe in workshops that keep participants active with regular challenges and that provide a lot of feedback for the participants. And workshops that provide some follow-up, opportunities for keeping the relationship alive even after the workshop is officially over.

For example, I recently guided several groups of teachers through a three weeks long Moodle introductory workshop delivered online, through Moodle. During that time I was there for the participants to help them get through problems on their own, and to encourage them, to let them know they were doing a great job. The time we spent together was enough to start developing a good relationship, but I also tried hard to let them know that was just the beginning: Yes, you have successfully completed the training, but this is where the real work begins. Go into your own classrooms now, and practice. And nowadays there’s always a way to get more help online; either from other users or from me. The important thing is that you keep asking questions!

The thing to keep in mind here is that adopting a new tool/way of thinking (aka learning) is not an event, it’s a process. And not an easy one, so don’t expect to be done with it in a few hours by having people clicking together in the same room!

Originally published at http://ialja.blogspot.com/2009/07/problem-with-workshops.html