As NZ (much like large parts of the planet) has/is emerging from Covid-related lockdowns, it seems clear that in the IT training biz, there is a new normal.
At least it seems clear to me. But conversations with my peers and colleagues have made it clear that not everyone shares that view.
Here’s what it looks like to me:
Since NZ has basically permanently come out of lockdowns (September 2022) that would restrict training providers from running in-person training, students have (on the whole) NOT been flocking back to our offices. That’s not to say they haven’t been returning to training, it’s that they are voting with their feet to do it remotely, via Teams/Zoom/WebEx etc.
I know for myself I have had a single class that was sizeable (i.e. not a 1-on-1), that was comprised solely of students in the room with me. And that was a custom class, delivered at the client’s offices. Most of my classes are filled with people attending from wherever suits them, even if the students are in the same city. Either that, or they are mixed, with a (usually) small number of students coming into our classrooms, and the remainder attending remotely. It is pretty common for the local students to decide that having the commute be “walk downstairs to lounge” is preferable to fighting Auckland traffic, and they start attending remotely after the first day. It doesn’t always happen. But it happens more often than it doesn’t.
Full disclosure: I know one of my colleagues who trains a lot of IT service management type courses has a very different experience. He regularly has 10-15 people in the room with him. But he also still has remote students in those courses as well. But (at least to my eyes) he appears to be the exception, rather than the rule. I wonder if that is related to the topics he’s teaching, or the audience. Since my courses are very technical, the audience tends to also be technically minded people who like to work differently than my co-worker’s student base? Don’t know, but it’s something to consider.
Fortunately, my employer added remote training offerings several years prior to Ronapalooza, so most of trainers had some experience with delivering remote and blended courses, so I think we adjusted well to the changes in delivery model. And I wonder if that also contributes to students staying at home. When everyone was forced to attend remotely, they figured out that with a good trainer, the physical proximity aspect is not the key that perhaps they thought it was. Without tooting my own horn too much (I identify for as a guitarist anyway), I’d like to think that students get as much value from my part of the courses, regardless of their location.
Which leads me to my next thought: But what about the community aspect…the value in being able to chat with the other students at break times and lunches, that sense of shared experience? I don’t have answers for that. Maybe we’ve been over-valuing that. Honestly, I suspect that may be the case, and I’ll explain why in just a bit. And in the current situation, when it’s 1 or 2 in the room, the other 5 or 6 remote, that value still isn’t what it may have been, which leads to a cycle of people not expecting/caring about that aspect anymore, which means that may be more likely to attend remotely.
Why do I think the value of shared experience may be overrated? Two reasons:
1. The only people I really hear seriously talking about that are managers and sales staff. Not the students themselves. I know of at least one case where a student opted to attend a course remotely, and they were told by their manager to attend in-person because their manager said they would get more out of it. Is this concrete proof? Not at all, but it does align with what I see and hear around this point.
2. Australia and New Zealand seem to be lagging waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay behind the rest of the Euro-centric markets in preferring in-person modes. I know that in most of the USA and Europe, remote instructor-led training has been the dominant modality for at least five years (if not longer). To the point that training companies have seriously downsized their floorspace, closed offices etc. because the students were not going to classrooms. They still had students, just none were coming to offices. Something about the ANZ markets seemed to resist this. Could be cultural, could be we’re just slow. 🙂 Not sure. But I do think that having 2+ years of having to do it remotely, some of that resistance has fallen away.
Which leads me to the question . . . is this the new normal for IT training?