Making classes digital during COVID-19

Making classes digital during COVID-19

Today, we are interviewing Daniel Álvarez Martínez about making classes digital and the way the strict measures surrounding the pandemic and the lockdown presented ISDI CRM with an unprecedented challenge.

Not a single sector or space in the market has been spared from the greater or lesser effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the health crisis, education was already involved in a comprehensive digital transformation process, redefining its most basic and established cornerstones.

As an organisation that is digital in essence, several of the processes that are proving to be a challenge for many right now had already been introduced or explored. But the unprecedented situation forced us at ISDI CRM, Salesforce’s official training academy, to re-focus our efforts on making classes digital.

So let’s consider the insights garnered from an interview with Daniel Álvarez MartínezInternational Program Manager at ISDI CRM. The end goal of making classes digital was to ensure all students could continue with their learning remotely. Daniel tells us how that happened.

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Virtual classrooms: Coping with the new normal

As mentioned, virtual and remote learning were already part of our DNA at ISDI CRM. But the new challenge lay in transferring all our classes to the format. As Daniel explains, “Now, all our classes are simultaneously taught using the virtual format.”

That work involved a joint and cross-cutting effort from the whole of the ISDI CRM team, with all of our students notified by phone of the development. The process of choosing the sessions and the teaching schedule was undertaken by the experts providing the courses and the technical team in charge of the session. The task proved to be considerable, for as Daniel mentions, “To ensure a work-life balance was maintained during the period, we changed the schedule initially planned out for the following three months.”

ISDI CRM also had to take account of the students based outside Spain when organising the virtual classes. “Many of our courses have had their hours adapted so students from other Spanish-speaking countries can take part in our training courses.”

ISDI CRM had already predicted that Spain would declare a state of emergency, which meant that in the days prior to the development our teams were on the alert to ensure we were ready to move all our classes into the remote setting. So ready, in fact, that, as Daniel says, “ISDI CRM started to move all its in-person training courses into virtual format the week before lockdown began.” Furthermore, ISDI CRM’s greatest priority was to ensure the safety of both instructors and students in all circumstances.

The best tools and platforms for remote learning

Daniel Álvarez Martínez and all of his colleagues at ISDI CRM want to ensure that the courses on offer are of the highest quality. To ensure those standards are maintained, he mentions using the same “ecosystem of apps and digital platforms that ISDI CRM had used in the past to provide virtual courses.”

– Blackboard Collaborate as a virtual classroom. In addition to its intuitive interface and ease of use, the platform stands out thanks to the P2P training options on offer, whether by generating group breakout rooms or the option of file sharing between participants.

– Rise 360 as a content generator and digital repository. We use Articullate inside the tool, which is one of the most advanced e-learning content generation platforms on the market. Easily shareable share with students, it is known for its easy-to-use and visually powerful interface.

– Slack as a communication platform for ensuring students and instructors have the same guarantees for communicating as in an on-site teaching space.

The potential impact of the change on students was considerable and 100% digital teaching gave rise to some reticence. Nevertheless, “Following an initial stabilisation phase, feedback from students has been excellent,” says Daniel with satisfaction. In fact, many students were surprised by the transformation, “and highlighted how close at hand and accessible both our experts and the teaching platform were.”

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How to achieve success in digital training?

Daniel also told us about the experience prior to COVID-19. ISDI CRM’s work focuses on training certified experts in the Salesforce ecosystem. With just two years of history under its belt, the company’s spirit is in tune with the times. “We have provided online training courses in the evenings, not only in Spain but also bringing in students from different countries and time zones.”

So bearing in mind this wealth of experience, we asked Daniel to tell us about the key elements in achieving digital training success. Here are his core considerations:

– Make sure you have the appropriate technology. The classroom setting needs to be stable and you need to ensure all participants have access to a good connection for synchronised sessions. That is especially important for the instructor.

– Adapt the hours, schedule and mechanics of the course to the new format. Reduce the number of hours in each session, with attention spans in a virtual setting limited to 3.5 hours of class.

– Organise breaks during the synchronised session. There need to be more of them and they need to be shorter than in an in-person session.

Provide instructors with detailed information and training in using the virtual teaching technologies available. It is important the prep sessions are carried out individually with each expert so any rules may be adapted to their classes. The Methodology Department also needs to be involved, as do technical teams that will provide support before and during the course.

– Make sure students have access to all channels for checking course content and communicating with classmates and instructors.

At ISDI CRM, we are experts in remote learning

Of all the questions we could have asked Daniel, perhaps the most important one was can the same amount of learning be achieved in a virtual class as in person? The answer was as simple as “Yes, as long as you know how.”

As we have seen in this article, the success of this sudden adaptation to the health crisis was based on a lot of prior work for contingency purposes. Part of ISDI CRM’s internal mission is to bring training to students wherever they may be, with a vocation that is focused on taking a 100% digital and innovative approach.

The challenge lies in translating the participation and closeness of a physical classroom into a virtual setting that, at first appearance, feels impersonal

Other than ISDI CRM’s inherent know-how, Daniel emphasises: “The effort to communicate and co-ordinate with all teams involved in the process must be ramped up. More time is needed to organise each course and that must include extra work done separately with each expert so they know how to make proper use of the tools available to them.” That is because each course’s different dynamic means they do not always adapt to the virtual setting in the same way.

Now that we have brought to you the conclusion of our conversation with Daniel Álvarez Martínez on making learning digital, get ready to find out more about the subject soon, as we continue our discussions with other experts and students. And remember, if you want to know more about our courses, you can find all the information you need about ISDI CRM’s training options here.


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