A Method of Engaging People in Online Training: Role Play

Hi there,

As online training has become easier in recent years, the opportunities to improve participant engagement and create real behavioural changes have done too.

The methods we spoke about 10 years ago, which could only be done in a face-to-face classroom, can now be used – as newer online technology and changed participant mindsets enables just that.

This means that both global and local teams can now choose to collaborate as virtual teams. Even though face-to-face training is generally prefered, there is nothing to stop you having success with solutions which are held online – as long as you can ensure relevance, engagement and reflection.

A great example of this is role-playing online which, if done professionally by an expert facilitator, can lead to fantastic engagement and learning results.

When Rebecca Jestice wrote about this more than a decade ago, frankly online technology and people’s attitude to that technology just wasn’t ready. Now things are smoother and people have hands-on experience with various platforms. So now is the time!

Some of her points are here but take a look at the whole article if you wish to learn more Role-Playing for Virtual Team Training:

She says: Not only can virtual teams be trained online, but training is often critical for virtual team success. Is it possible to bring involvement and effective training/learning to virtual team members?

Online Role-Play
Exercises like role-playing are unique learning tools because they allow the learner to engage in experiential learning rather than passively accepting information that is given to him/her.

While PowerPoint slides might deliver needed information, they don’t require the learner to engage his/her thought processes in a manner relevant to his/her own experiences.

Experiences needn’t be elaborate in order to stimulate reflection and thinking but they should be relevant to trainees and what they are trying to learn. Just sending them out in break-out groups to discuss is not enough.

So, developing a repertoire of activities that engage trainees and can be used in various media types is important for successful virtual teams and virtual team leaders.

Sample Role-Play
In the role-play, participants were assigned different roles randomly such as a student, dean of students, faculty member, and concerned citizen. Participants were to discuss the topic at hand through playing their assigned roles in “letters to the editor” posted on the course site. The letters were supposed to bring critical discussion and debate to the topic from the differing point of views in order to bring a well-rounded understanding of the issue to the new teachers.

The sample role-play the authors presented could easily be adapted for leadership training or training for working in virtual teams. The topic of discussion can be changed to one relevant to the team as well as the roles that participants play.

Making the participants play the roles of different stakeholders in a virtual team project (e.g., leader, follower, sponsor, supporting staff, etc.) could be effective in bringing a more well-rounded understanding of virtual team issues to all participants and help them make well-informed and optimal decisions. This type of role-play could be very useful for virtual teams whose projects have consequences beyond their immediate teams or divisions.

Role-play is one mechanism that virtual teams and virtual team leaders can use to creatively enhance team member training and learning. As Rebecca Jestice states: It is still possible for virtual teams to have experiential learning opportunities through exercises such as role-play. Thank you Rebecca – now is the time!

leadership & talent

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