Most of Scottish Digital Academy courses as well as bespoke training and coaching is still delivered as online live training. In this blog, Learning and Development Lead Specialist Jonah Coman describes the typical process from when you book a course to after you have participated in the session.
SDA course timeline
What is the booking and training process like? Generally, the timeline of touchpoints between booking and post-course processes is as follows:
- Booking: attendee or manager/business lead/learning associate (on behalf of attendee) books courses through the Scottish Digital Academy website
- Confirmation: immediately, attendee receives an automated email with course details. Three days before the course, as well as one day before the course, you will also receive the same automated email as a reminder
- Accessibility: attendee or manager/business lead to let trainers know about any access needs
- Course details: a few days before the course, attendee receives email with links to the conferencing and whiteboarding tools from the Scottish Digital Academy team
- Attending the course: on the day, conference call will be open a few minutes in advance. Course delivery starts a few minutes after the expected start time.
- Post-course communication: after course (the same day or a couple of days later), attendee receives an email with follow-up links, as well as a feedback form
- Course improvement: one week after the course, trainers receive feedback report and improve/iterate based on feedback.
All you need to know about these steps is detailed below. Make note of the specific timelines, expectations of your participation, as well as opportunities to take charge of your learning.
Before the course:
Once you have booked a course through our website, you will receive a confirmation email that will have a hold calendar slot, the date, time, title of the course and information about your trainer(s). The email will also have a Word attachment called ‘SDA Accessibility and Tech Pack’, which details the software we are using (for video-conferencing and whiteboard-enabled collaboration) as well as accessibility features and procedures. It may be useful to read through the Accessibility and Tech Pack, even if you are familiar with the tech we are using.
At this point in the process, it would also be very helpful to let the trainers know if you have any access needs, so they can put in place any format changes and/or liaise with the relevant support professionals. The Scottish Digital Academy trainers have experience working with British Sign Language interpreters, live captioners (palantypists), note-takers and live audio-describers, so just let them know how they can help.
If an attendee needs a tech check that might last longer 5 minutes, or prefers a separate one outwith the training call, the trainers are happy to accommodate that in the weeks prior to the course.
Around a week to three days before the course, you will receive a calendar invitation from the Scottish Digital Academy team, which you can add directly to your calendar. This email will have a bit more information about the format and duration of the session, a link to the in-browser interactive whiteboard we use in our courses, and a link to the video-conferencing tool (at the bottom of the email).
On the day – before kick-off of course
On the day, the videocall will open 5-10 minutes before the start time so attendees can come in earlier and ensure they have access to the whiteboard, which we use as slides and interactive whiteboard. This is a ‘settling-in’ period, and the trainer will probably make small talk/go through some instructions regarding accessing the tech, troubleshoot issues, respond to last-minute emails about access to the videocall. You can turn your camera off and get yourself a cuppa and some supplies, before the course starts proper. In the event the call will be joined by support professionals (British Sign Language interpreters, palantypists (live captioners) etc), the trainer might go through tech checks with them.
During the course:
Once the course starts, the trainer will introduce themself and the course, and go through any housekeeping (length of course, rules of engagement, outline of the course). Sometimes, the trainer will quickly explain how to use whiteboard, but the expectation is that you have read the document and used the test whiteboard provided in advance. Often, the introductions will be followed by a round of introductions of the participants, but this may sometimes be skipped if the trainer judges that there is not enough time.
The courses often start straight away with questions to the participants, and there is an expectation that most attendees contribute throughout the course. You can do so however you’re comfortable with, via microphone, chatbox or sticky notes on the collaborative board. Initial question will be something very basic, like ‘what do you think when you hear agile?’ or ‘what do we mean by service?’, to kick off the conversation as well as to give the trainer an insight into the general knowledge and needs of the participants.
Course structure and slides
The structure largely follows the board provided, but sometimes the trainer will add/remove pages as the course progresses in order to respond to the needs of the learners in the room. As our courses are designed as hands-on, participatory workshops, they may change shape as we discover the needs and interests of the attendees in the room.
You can see this in the examples below, comparing the slide from a course’s template whiteboard (with pre-set graphics, before participation) versus the way the slide looks like after one specific session (22 June 2022) and the same slide after a different session (29 September 2022). By comparing them, you can see how the trainer introduces concepts relevant to the attendees of the individual course.
This means that the Scottish Digital Academy courses do not have much in the way of traditional pre-prepared slides with all content on the page to follow along reading off the slide. The material the trainers are able to provide in advance will therefore be of limited use without attending the course. Nonetheless, we are able to provide in advance a list of technical terms as well as some reading, in the interest of accessibility.
The trainer will mostly screen-share so that everyone can follow the board along in the videocall, but all participants will also have access to the board independently. The trainer will use a combination of short training/explaining sections, and facilitating conversations, in order to learn interactively. The participants are encouraged to chip in and interrupt, ask and answer questions, bring examples from their own work etc. This makes the content of each course unique, highly unpredictable but also tailored on the needs of the people in the room.
The SDA courses last between an hour and a half and five hours – you will know what to expect from the moment you book, and the trainers keep strictly to time. The longer courses will have a significant break around mid-way, in addition to shorter breaks (5-10 minutes) when there is a logical break in topic. The shorter courses may have one or two short breaks throughout.
Breakout rooms and collaborative learning
All Scottish Digital Academy courses have hands-on elements, where the attendees are split into small teams (3-7 people) and asked to complete one or a series of short tasks. Most of the material you will need for each task will be supplied on the whiteboard, and you will be told which team you will be in, who your team-mates are, and how long you have to complete the task.
Once everyone is in the breakout rooms, the trainers might pop in the breakout room to see if everyone still has access to the whiteboard, are able to share their screen, or if the task is clear. After that, the teams are usually left to organise themselves in the breakout rooms. Don’t worry, you can still message them either in the breakout room chat or in the original call chat, if you need them. Use @ and then their name to notify them.
Rarely, the breakout rooms will be facilitated by the trainers, part of the time or the entirety of the breakout session. Your team may have a BSL interpreter joining you, or may have specific instructions in order to facilitate everyone’s participation in the exercises. As with any team-work, it is the responsibility of the team that everyone is included, and everyone is able to contribute to the discussion.
The team in each breakout room is expected to organise itself, and play on the strengths of the individuals in the room. You may find yourself taking the role of the leader of the conversation, note-taker, or person who adds a revolutionary idea that completely re-structures the way the task has been going so far. The team will also be expected to nominate a spokesperson, to feed back on the breakout conversation when everyone re-joins the main call.
Depending on the length of your course, there might be several cycles of group work and training.
There are plenty of opportunities to ask things throughout the course, but at the end there might be time for extra questions. If you don’t feel comfortable asking things in the course, you can message the facilitators or Scottish Digital Academy inbox with follow-up questions.
If at any point your lose connection to the internet or your videoconferencing tool starts malfunctioning, don’t panic. Try rejoining once the connection is more stable, or have restarted your software. If you are unable to rejoin during the course, we would appreciate if you sent an email to the trainers or the SDA inbox a wee note.
If the trainers lose internet connection or access to the videoconferencing tool, please notify the SDA inbox immediately. You might be able to continue the course with a different trainer; continue the course with the same trainer if their connection re-establishes in a short period; or your course might be rescheduled at a different time. You will be notified accordingly.
After the course:
Once you finished the course, there are only a couple things left to do!
You will receive an email with follow-up reading, if you want to learn more. These are often not SDA-produced resources, so the SDA cannot take responsibility for their content.
The follow-up email will also have a link to a feedback form, to let us know how we did. We use these feedback forms to continuously improve and change our courses. Even if you might have attended a similar course six months ago, the content, exercises and conversations often change based on the feedback we receive from you. Trainers constantly have access to the feedback forms to understand what went well, and how we can deliver better. Sometimes, you might receive an email asking you for more feedback for annual reviews, or might be invited to a new course the team is piloting. If you wish to stop being notified, please let the team know.
And that’s it! We know that sometimes going into a workshop space, especially online, might be daunting, but we hope that we gave you enough information to have an image of how the SDA delivers their online interactive courses. If you are interested in our curriculum, book your course now, or contact Scottish Digital Academy for bespoke courses tailored to your team’s needs!