Enabling democracy through online learning


In mid-April 2020, Guernsey’s States of Deliberation held its first ever virtual meeting, complete with a recorded vote and live streaming to the public. Wynter Tyson, Service Performance and Training Officer, explores the process of delivering remote training and the benefits of embracing online learning.

Training people in something new and unfamiliar can be a lengthy process under normal circumstances. But in the first week of March, we were tasked with devising a short training session on Microsoft Teams for the States of Guernsey. Across the UK and Europe, the spread of COVID-19 was beginning to accelerate, and we formulated a strategy accordingly to ensure that staff across the States could work remotely if required.

Basic functionality and data security awareness was to be at the heart of our training, which was delivered to an audience with wide-ranging abilities and requirements. Within a week, the training was being rolled out to around 100 critical service delivery people, including Deputies and senior operational staff, in the event of self-isolation or restricted movement.

But this was just the tip of the iceberg – the situation was continuously evolving, and public health guidance was being updated accordingly. The need to roll-out both infrastructure and training across the entirety of the States became critical, and my colleagues began to facilitate an unprecedented deployment of devices and functionality across the States of Guernsey.

Establishing these tech solutions and arranging training involved the hard work of many people across our Agilisys and States teams. But the combination of rapid delivery of remote training to quick learners has paid off: two months ago, the Parliamentary Team was not familiar with Microsoft Teams. Last month, I had the pleasure of watching the States of Deliberation meet virtually – for the first time in its history.

Our work isn’t quite over yet: I’ve spoken to numerous States of Guernsey employees who are keen to receive further advice and technical help as they adjust to working from home during the lock down, and are seeking ways to apply these new tools to their own needs.

This has been a huge learning process for all involved. For the staff now trained in using Microsoft Teams to communicate and collaborate – and for me, too. Like many others, I love working with people, and delivering face-to-face training is an important part of my job. The jump to delivering remote training was momentous and challenging but has also taught me valuable lessons about my own delivery and the learning process for those involved.

Identifying behaviour changes

There are two main differences between delivering training online rather than face-to-face: technology and behaviour.

Nothing beats being in a room with people – but technology can go a long way to bridging the gap. And so long as the technology works, we can work with it.

Behaviour, however, is different. Once you introduce technology, people’s behaviour tends to change. This is primarily due to uncertainty around unfamiliar technology and computer literacy, but there can also be challenges to maintain concentration if the attendee is distracted by what’s going on around them.

Adapting training style

Whether delivering training in person or remotely, it is essential to be aware of your attendees’ progress and comprehension – something that’s far easier to do in a classroom environment, where there’s ample opportunity to pick up numerous non-verbal clues.

This unfortunately isn’t possible in a remote setting. So, to mitigate this, I prefer to deliver courses in smaller groups or on a one-to-one basis depending on the user. Although I’m usually quite relaxed and conversational in a classroom setting, I’ve also found that it can be beneficial to adapt a more straightforward and directional style of teaching and coaching.

Empowering remote learners

There is no denying that remote training comes with its challenges. But for attendees, it also offers compelling advantages.

Online learning enables people to get the training that they need – when they need it. Attending face-to-face sessions can sometimes be difficult and inaccessible, particularly if there is an urgent task at hand or travel time that can’t be afforded by people in busy customer-facing environments.

Taking things online empowers people to attend on their own terms, and study at their own speed.

Practice and patience

We are all learning and adapting through this situation, and it is important to be patient with yourself and with others. Whether it’s delivering remote training or learning how to use a new and unfamiliar application, it’s important to be kind to yourself and to others – especially at this time, when community spirit means everything.

Wynter Tyson is the Service Performance & Training Officer at Agilisys Guernsey. Outside of work, Wynter also hosts a monthly film screening of new, forgotten and cult films at Clameur Du Cinéma.

Wynter Tyson