The pursuit of interactive training.

In the last blog post, I addressed four principles of adult learning that we can put into practice, based on recommendations from Tanya Grosz, Ph.D.; Dean of Graduate, Online & Adult Learning for the University of Northwestern – St. Paul. Following is part two, continuing the discussion about our PowerPoint-centered business environment. I asked Tanya how to make learning more interactive and what she thinks about online platforms compared to in-person training. At least one of her answers surprised me... 

Interactive Learning

How can we improve our business training? Tanya previously acknowledged that PowerPoint is still the currency of the business world, but, as she explains, “You may present something (e.g., a few slides) then stop and ask a question. You may use clickers or an app on your phone that asks for anonymous participation so you understand where your audience is at. You may actually break into groups with a task assigned then come back together to share highlights.” 

One form of interactive training involves participants working together to solve problems or addressing situations they could encounter on the job.

One form of interactive training involves participants working together to solve problems or addressing situations they could encounter on the job.

Mary Schaeffer, nationally recognized accounts payable consultant and creator of the AP Now website, shared how an interactive approach recently worked for her. She delivered a virtual presentation consisting of 20 AP scenarios. Upon describing each, she would present different outcomes and attendees would vote on which one they would use to handle the situation, entering comments as desired. Mary would then provide feedback. Overwhelmingly, most attendees enjoyed this alternative style. 

Tanya agrees that real world examples are always helpful. She likes to use high-drama examples (still within the world of professionalism) to entice the audience. This leads to the next point…


Like the rest of us, Tanya has experienced the quiet crowd syndrome, so she recommends that part of getting past it is the “gamification” of learning. You gamify whatever you are doing or asking; for example, a cell phone quiz that attendees can participate in or a timer/buzzer on the screen that counts down the seconds until the final answer is given. 

Online vs. Classroom Training

What about the venue? Are there different things a trainer should do, unique to each? I admitted to Tanya that, for me, delivering online training is harder because of the lack of faces and there is less interaction. She surprised (and educated) me by arguing that she sees more interaction online, even though you lose the wonderful face-to-face (F2F) energy. She relayed how online interaction is enriched various ways; for example:

  • In an F2F setting, you get 25% interaction (or less) on average. In an online environment, you get 100% if the learner wants continuing education credits or similar.
  • Online discussion forums have been called “The Great Equalizer” because there is no inhibition of people judging you based on how you look, act, or speak. You are on level playing field, communicating through text. I hear from all of my learners in an online class; in an F2F class, I pretty much hear from the extroverts exclusively.
  • In an online setting, I have an easier time getting out of the way. I’m not the “sage on stage” anymore; I’m the facilitator and the focus is on the students. While I want to extend the discussions, correct misassumptions, and help students problem solve, it’s not about me and my great or deficient presentation style; it’s about the learning occurring.
  • With a recorded online session (versus live), I have the ability to script everything out and record it to perfection. Similarly, the learners can think about, edit, and perfect a response.

She closed our interview by stating, “I think the andragogical principles apply to any venue (F2F, blended or online), but certainly, each venue has its own best practices unique to that venue.” Well said! For the training we conduct, we need to identify the available options and customize accordingly to fit the audience and venue.

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About the Editor

Lynn Larson, CPCP, editor of the blog, founded Recharged Education in January 2014. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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