PRINCE2 virtual training – PROs and CONs
PRINCE2 virtual training has taken off like a rocket during the COVID-19 lockdown.
PRINCE2 virtual training was not newly invented as an answer to limitations imposed by the lockdown. Virtual instructor-led training – VILT – had existed long before the virus struck. And was quite popular in some markets.
But it was the lockdown that gave it its hour of stardom. And rightly so.
Face-to-face training – FTFT – became temporarily unavailable due to the lockdown. And VILT thankfully rushed in to fill the gap. It kept training businesses afloat. It kept alight the popular desire to learn stuff. I have no issue with VILT. It definitely has its uses. And for some clients can be a godsend.
But I do have a bit of an issue with an attitude that claims VILT is and will forever remain the new training standard.
PRINCE2 virtual training as the shining path through the future´s door? I don´t buy it.
Let me explain.
I firmly believe that real quality results can only be produced by a real process.
And I just don´t see VILT as the new real thing. With all due respect, it´s just an imitation of the “old” real thing. A substitute. A bit like virtual reality. But in VR you can at least experience certain things that are not readily (or legally) available in the real reality.
VILT is more like watching a Cirque de Soleil performance on Netflix. Certainly entertaining. But by far not as thrilling as the real performance. Those of you who have witnessed it live will know what I mean. Those of you who haven´t, go watch the show in the tent and you´ll get my point.
Or to make it lucid for a broader audience, it´s like watching Manchester United battle Liverpool from a seat in the packed Old Trafford – or from your sofa alone at home.
Not even in a sports bar. My Goodness, the very process of getting to the stadium, of being at the stadium, the anticipation, the whole foreplay, are as vital to the experience as the match itself. That´s precisely how I feel about FTFT.
To conduct a course, I´ll typically travel to a location somewhere in the EU. Travel helps me to put a distance between showtime and my daily chores. Conducting training never fails to thrill me. It´s an adventure. A step into the unknown. Walking to the classroom on a Monday morning is like going to an arena. The feeling of anticipation and excitement overwhelms me.
Entering a spartanly appointed training room, I focus on my delegates. They focus on me. There is nothing else to focus on. There are no distractions. We are in a spatial capsule. Only us and nothing else. And we are in it together. I know that if I fail, they will fail. They know that if they fail, it means I have failed. That is the beginning of a bond. We are on a mission.
And delegates have told me they got the same thrill. They´ve felt like they were actually live on stage. Classroom training is a performing art.
I teach PRINCE2. The learning curve is steep. It´s not rocket science but there is plenty of new terminology. Besides, the method has a considerable conceptual depth. And lots of nuances.
As the course progresses, I can see in the eyes of each delegate if they are keeping up with my explanations. I can see their effort. Feedback is instantaneous. It comes in a continuous stream of subtle signalling that allows me to react in nanoseconds by making minute adjustments to what I´m saying to help the delegates ride the wave.
A brake. Having a coffee together. Chatting. More bonding. I can see that delegates slowly start trusting me when I say they´ll be all right. Gradually, they find their sea legs, grow new competence and confidence. In the morning of the third day of training they get the wow experience: they´ve seen the light!
In the afternoon I invigilate the Foundation exam. It´s sweaty-palms time, all right.
Despite all preparatory work, it remains a stressful experience. But we are all together in it. I´ve seen how this feeling of togetherness helps delegates get a grip on their nerves. And my calm presence plays a role, too. It´s comforting. It reasserts my promise that they´ll be all right. And they are.
Classroom training is very emotional. Even passionate. It´s based on what I call emotive learning method. And that´s one big reason why a classroom act produces quality results.
Now, let´s compare it with the PRINCE2 virtual training process.
As a start, it does not draw delegates out of their comfort zone. VILT becomes embedded in, and absorbed by, delegates´ individual routines. And that makes learning new stuff very hard, indeed.
Delegates are easily lured into believing that learning through VILT does not require that much of an effort. Often, prospective clients do not realize that attending PRINCE2 virtual training requires not less but more, significantly more exertion from the delegates as compared to attending a FTFT.
It´s so-o-o-o much harder to stay concentrated on the course when you are staying at home.
You are surrounded with a cornucopia of distractions. A cat on your lap. A dog pleadingly looking at you from the mat in the corner. Your child in the next room (hopefully it´s the next room). A neighbour drilling through a wall. A postman ringing at the door. A mail feed from the office. Your handy may be on mute but people keep texting you. And trivial distractions of both visual and audial kind tend on occasions spill over into the virtual room and derail the concentration of the other delegates, too.
If that were not enough, the abyss of the internet is just a click away. Telemetry tells me that about half the time delegates typically run course slides in the background. It means that they´ve got something else on their mind. Or their mind on something else.
Sure, as a trainer I know a few tricks that can help delegates keep their focus. And VILT platforms are brimming with functionality that lends me a helping hand. But no trick I know can calm a bored dog. Or occupy a restless child.
Worst of all, delegates remain stuck in their own individual space. There is no feeling of togetherness. There is no bonding. No uniting sensation of being on a team quest. Only being physically together, face-to-face, creates unique learning dynamics that a VILT simulation cannot replicate.
In a contrast to classroom training, I find that VILT generates very little emotion.
An emotive trainer on VILT looks plain stupid. Trying to make an occasional joke feels like, well, just a joke. Group interaction feels awkward and artificial. The whole atmosphere is kind of stilted.
Don´t get me wrong, I am not a die-hard traditionalist. Nor do I shun innovation. And I don´t hesitate to deliver PRINCE2 training in VILT format if clients express such preference. At times, it can offer a great solution in the face of a particular limitation and a fair value for money.
Sure enough, there are plenty of reasons why people may be not able to leave their home to attend a classroom course.
But if they at all can, I see some good reasons why they should. Starting with quality of results and value for money.