High value remote trainings

Learnings from the fast paced journey to remote trainings with Miro

Submitted by Malte Sussdorff on 07/26/2020

It was the 13th of March 2020. We were relaxing for an extended weekend at the baltic sea. Discussions about the Corona Virus heated up while the hotel staff openly discussed a full lockdown after the weekend. And I was scheduled to fly to Zurich for a CSPO co-training on the 17th of March.... A decision had to be made. Fast. And it was made... Run the training remote using Miro and Zoom.

The last four months

First off, it was great to experience the team rally around this change, talking to customers, Andy preparing the boards while allowing me to enjoying the vacation. Seeing "Responding to change" over "Following a plan" in action at this pace was more than just encouraging.

The first training

For our first training we decided to work with multiple Miro Boards in a "Team" specifically for the class, having "Projects" for each of the groups we founded. This allowed us to have a special Project where we prepared boards, making them available to the teams by copy & pasting. We named the boards in the order we wanted to present them, effectively having our flow for the class pre-determined. And this helped a lot, especially as I only arrived on Monday evening back from my vacation.

The first hour of the training was spend on making sure the infrastructure works and our participants get the hang of Miro. Internally we had been using Miro for a longer time, so it was not entirely new to us as Trainers, but we learned a lot about what should be avoided and how to quickly navigate the tool during that first day along with our participants (who not only got a training in product ownership, but also usage of online collaboration tools).

Our flow adhered a lot to the "normal" trainings we did and we simulated most of the exercises in a virtual environment. This surprised me, as it was fairly easy to run this transformation from physical to virtual. Yet it wasn't the same and that showed also in the feedback from the participants - "It worked surprisingly well, but physical is better" (from a participant who had attended a different class with us before.

Lessons from the first training

  • Have a technical pre-check with the participants and guide them in the usage of Miro & Zoom so we can focus on delivering a learning experience in Scrum instead of usage of collaborative online whiteboards (aka. Miro).
  • Don't confuse people with different tools. So the Mentimeter word cloud was removed from future trainings.

 

The next trainings

Based on the lessons of the first training, Pit and I delivered the same class two weeks later. Right from the beginning we added Slack for the communication and encouraged participants to use Slack for chat communication as the Zoom chat lacked in feature richness in comparison. This also allowed us to invite the participants up front and engage with them early on. Additionally to the class channel we started using a separate Trainer channel, as we were not physically in the same room, allowing us to align easily.

For planning we used both SessionLab.com to have our outline of the training as well as the ordering of the boards from the first training. And realized that I used SessionLab.com primarily to document what we actually delivered in contrast to the plan (it was close, but the flow was Miro => Delivery => Amend in SessionLab, so Miro Board Layout was driving the class structure). So I stopped preparing classes in SessionLab, but only used it for the documentation of what we did and sensible exercises. In hindsight not something I would do again (document after the fact instead of plan up front) unless you train with a very experienced trainer (as I was lucky to do).

A few things also popped up in our backoffice:

  • Usually we had a participation list where participants signed that they agree to e.g. transfer of the data to the scrum alliance. So we changed that to a form send after the class, asking for the permission and the E-Mail to use for the Scrum Alliance registration. This also allowed us to link the questionaire directly with questions about the class and what we can improve, increasing the feedback we got in a structured fashion in contrast to before.
  • As we could not hand out the class materials anymore, we prepared individual packages to the participants. And realized we did not know where to send the materials to. So an additional typeform was created to allow the participants provide us with a physical address where we can send the shipment to. Which was occasionally provided to us in time to send the material through customs ready for the class :-).
  • A complete replanning of the upcoming (full) classes needed to happen. This involved asking participants if they agree to move online (most did) or want to rebook. Additionally training locations (and travels) needed to be cancelled and with our partners (trainers) we discussed how to deliver classes in the future

Our usage of Miro also transitioned between March and July:

  • Instead of using Miro projects we played around just having a single team and individual boards for the teams within the Team, allowing the teams to see the work of each other
  • Later on we experimented with using a single board but have multiple frames for each "lesson" / "section" we are covering. This worked out well
  • Based on sessions delivered, we created templates of the frames so we can reuse them in our classes quickly
  • For course planning (in our last class) I prepared the board with all exercises we might be doing up front and put them in a flow.
    • The fear that participants would be distracted by all the options up front proved unfounded, as we focussed on letting them know the flow of the class up front and provided "where are we and what is coming up" interactions after the major sections.
    • Preparation takes time, so I added a master board for each class type, allowing us to copy a whole board at the beginning of a new class.
    • Not all exercises were used. And that was fine, as we found other input more valuable for the class.

Going in person

End of June our team planned an in-person team meeting at our German offices in Bremerhaven so we could spend some time together again and rebuild connection. As Andy and I were scheduled to deliver a class right before I suggested to do the training in person (so both trainers available) from our to be build "Broadcasting Studio" in Bremerhaven. This brought a lot of benefits to us as trainers and ultimately to the participants as well:

  • As we were in the same room, we could communicate quickly during breakout sessions to align how to debrief and continue from there.
    • Talking about debriefing - We had the capacity now to join breakout sessions and look at the results the participants were preparing up front. Giving us a better understanding for the direction we would take our debriefing.
  • When we wanted to engage with the class, we could just physically signal our wish to jump in by standing to the side of the the broadcasting station, yet out of sight of the participants. This provided an internal signal without the participants being distracted (would not work like this during an in person class).
  • While delivering a concept we have the ability to see the other trainer and gauge feedback, especially with regards to timing in a way not possible with interactions just through Slack or small Zoom windows.
  • Usage of the flipchart was integrated nicely, allowing us for a different setting while delivering the course material. Participants would still see us only on a monitor, but actually see us delivering the content instead of us talking over a screen shared Miro board. Especially powerful if you get into an interaction between the two trainers (where e.g. Andy was drawing concepts while I was explaining them).

On 14th of July we (finally) had a physical class again (following the health guidelines, 1.5 meter distancing during exercises and therefore changing some of the exercises). The initial idea to use the flexibility of the Miro boards from the online trainings along with in person "breakout" sessions on the tables was quickly revisited, as this type of blending didn't work as initially envisioned. We might experiment with more hybrid exercises in the future though, as our participants, when slowly coming out of lockdown, will encounter Scrum Meetings with participants partially attending from remote (hybrid).

Learnings from the trainings in between

  • As we expect more engagement and interaction of the participants *before* the actual training, interaction with participants is increased and started early on.
  • Limit the toolset for online trainings to Zoom, Slack and Miro. Focus on using Slack for chatting instead of Zoom chat.
  • Prepare the Miro Boards up front
  • In person trainings work with small number of participants following the health guidelines.
  • Co-Trainings should be conducted with the trainers being in the same physical location.

On a side note, setting up the broadcasting studio we realized that one team member of ours is a trained audio technician who could help us with the setup of a proper studio. Shame on us for realizing this only after two traiinings delivered...

Additionally we got an inquiry into how we setup our studio(s) - yes, we have a secondary one at Pit's place where he records the online lectures like our jumpstart - from a company interested in how to move their trainings online. 30 minutes with Pit showing his environment left them happy working on their own setup. And made us realize, that there are a lot of people out there who need to migrate their trainings into a virtual environment.

 

Where do we stand now

As mentioned before, preparation really paid off, so let me summarize in a todo list fashion what I do now and where our team is able to help. Each section has a summary checklist at the end of the steps.

Preparation

After the previous class is delivered (see section on delivery) the master class Miro template is used to create a new board for the upcoming class. Depending on the class size we make the decision up front about the team size and remove extra frames from the board which are specific to the class.

As I want to make sure that the participants find the board, get familiar with Miro (and go to our Miro Training Board if they are not), I invite them to upload their avatar for the class onto the welcome frame using both E-Mail as well as our Slack community. On the welcome screen they also find a link to a class specific training board, which has Miro exercises to make them familiar navigating the application while in class, so they can focus on the content and not so much on the technical hurdles.

At this point the slack channel for the class begins to fill with questions and our participants are strongly encouraged to use this form of communication as more people can react faster than the normal E-Mail communication. As much as I wish everybody would see the benefits of communicating with their colleagues in the upcoming learning journey up-front, there is still some way to go. For the next class I plan to experiment with encouraging questions before class regarding the Scrum Foundations in the Slack channel to increase early adoption of this communication channel.

Talking about foundations, our pre-class requirements include the refresh of Scrum Knowledge using our Scrum Jumpstart videos. Though we can see, who watched the videos, we sadly don't know much about the level of knowledge of the other participants. Therefore I will use the question about the Scrum and Miro Knowledge (Miro Frame with two dimensions) for upcoming classes to have the participants now only upload the avatar, but get familiar with copying it onto a different frame and position themselves. This also gives us a chance to interact 1:1 with participants to encourage them to prepare them as much as possible for the class in areas where they are lacking experience.

Summary

  • Create Slack Channel if we have enough participants for the class. Invite the participants to the channel to engage in the journey early.
  • Copy Miro Master Board and post to Slack channel
  • Invite participants to checkout the Miro Board and join the Slack channel, posting their avatar and answering the question what they have been focussed on working in the last three months.
  • Prepare folder with class material up front. Use an "Options" folder for anything which you might use in class.

Delivery after class

Once the class is delivered we still have a few things to do in order to provide the participants with the materials and get them on their way towards their certification (if applicable).

Summary

  • Set the board to view only for participants
  • Clean up the board:
    • Align classroom frames into days
    • Delete unused frames as well as empty templates
    • Ensure no information is outside frames and that frames are used to their fullest width
    • Check headings in frames both for coloring (indicating team) as well as text (what is the content)
    • Check frame flow based on actual delivery, sort team frames directly behind the master class frame
    • Upload photos of the flipcharts into frames and sort them into the flow of the class
  • Export the board and upload to our sharing folder

Malte Sussdorff

Malte's Erfahrungshorizont reicht über die Unternehmens­beratung zu Geschäftsprozessen für KMUs, Entwicklung und Bereitstellung von Websites für Agenturen, NGOs und KMU bis zur Projektleitung von IT-Projekten. Durch seine breite Erfahrung schätzen unsere Kunden ihn als Sparringpartner zur Lösung der dringlichsten Herausforderungen im Unternehmen. Sein Lieblingslösungsweg dazu ist Agilität.

  • Erfahrung mit Scrum seit 2007 als Scrum Master, Product Owner, Entwickler, Coach und Trainer
  • Einführung von Scrum und agilen Praktiken in EU Forschungsprojekten, im Programmmanagement für Merger & Aquisition, bei Agenturen und in der Online Spiele Branche.
  • Vorstandsvorsitz im gemeinnützigen Verein "Agiler Norden"