Five Ingredients of Powerful Online Training: Promoting ICC/GC in the Virtual Space

person in red pants sitting on a couch using a laptop

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the globe, many intercultural and global competence activities have had to move online—from meetings to formal and informal learning interventions to virtual exchange programs and online training. As an intercultural trainer working with clients from the nonprofit and corporate sector, higher education, the criminal justice system, and public authorities, I found myself wondering if it is possible to promote experiential learning and facilitate development of intercultural and global competence online. 

Fast forward to January 2021: Yes, it is possible! And it can be quite fun! 

The nonprofit organization that I work for has just finished one of its most successful years ever, and many of our clients and partners have been positively surprised how powerful and enjoyable online intercultural training can be. In this post, I would like to share the top 5 ingredients of powerful online training to promote ICC/GC.

1. Dare to step out of your comfort zone

Embrace this situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. It might feel like going back to your early days as a trainer or educator—(re-) learning how to design your learning space and learning session, sharpen your tools, and prepare your content and learning activities. It might feel a bit challenging which is a sign that you’ve left your comfort zone to learn new skills. 

2. Focus on what you gain

Rather than mourning what you have lost, focus on what you can gain from online training and allow yourself to be surprised by unexpected benefits. Some of the benefits we discovered include:

  • participants can flexibly join from wherever they are, reducing time, energy and money spent on travel and bringing training opportunities to target groups which have been neglected before;
  • the chat function offers a new way of contributing for participants, especially for those who might hesitate to speak up in the group or prefer written forms of expression;
  • new opportunities for improving accessibility, for example through closed captions, live transcriptions and translation.

3. Be curious and creative

Adopt a mindset of curiosity and creativity when adapting your training and learning sessions to the virtual space. A lot of things are rather easy to transfer online, and with a bit of creativity, it is possible to design and deliver powerful, meaningful, experiential learning sessions online. You can present content via sharing slides on your screen, by focusing your camera on a flipchart or whiteboard in your physical space, or by connecting a tablet as an extra screen to write and draw live. To actively engage participants, you can use polls, quizzes, and encourage active participation in the chat or by speaking up. In our experience, small group discussions and conversations in breakout sessions are key to engaging everyone. Other useful tools to facilitate learning activities include involving objects and movement, virtual backgrounds, deliberately using the camera, or integrating external tools such as collaborative documents and whiteboards.

4. Less is more

Creativity matters and less is more. It is easy to get excited about all the tools available for surveys, quizzes, online whiteboards, games, and many more. Be deliberate and purposeful about your choice and avoid overstimulating your participants, especially if they might feel insecure in virtual learning environments. As with any efforts to promote ICC and GC, choice of methods and tools should be guided by learning objectives and by the target group. That being said, there are a few key features that help to design and deliver powerful online training such as having a chat, being able to hear and see participants, being able to screenshare and annotate shared content, and having a whiteboard and polls. 

5. Practice makes perfect

Just like with any other skill, practice makes perfect. Especially when trying something new online, try to do a test run with colleagues or friends. Find a community of practice or peer support group to try out new ideas for online activities or to test new tools. Reach out to others in the World Council on Intercultural and Global Competence community, join the “Virtual ICC/GC Possibilities” working group, and take advantage of the abundance of online resources on this topic. 

The last point brings me to an offer that I would like to make to the World Council community. Before going into the details, let me repeat that any video conferencing tool will work as long as it allows breakout sessions, which is the equivalent to small groups in face-to-face teaching and training. That being said, it seems that many educators, trainers, and other professionals rely on Zoom and so do I, though I have also delivered online training through Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams and BigBlueButton. If you would like to become more confident in using Zoom and learn more about its functions and additional tools to integrate, join me for one of my Zoom boot camps, exclusively for the World Council community

Please note that I am offering the same session twice to be more inclusive of different time zones. In this 60-minute free online session, you will learn how to use various functions of Zoom which are key to an interactive and powerful session (such as the annotate functions, polls, breakout rooms, and more) and receive advice on additional tools and methods to engage your participants. If you can stay on for a few extra minutes, I will be available for a short Q&A session at the end. 


Watch a recording of the Zoom Bootcamp and find more resources in Dr. Binder’s follow-up post, Up Your Virtual Facilitation Skills with this “Zoom Bootcamp.”

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