Earlier this year, IMI called for feedback from those organisations taking their mediation training online. Luke Monahan, of the Mediation Foundation of Ireland, has compiled this list of handy tips and lessons learned when delivering their IMI Certified Mediator Training Program online. We hope this proves helpful and interesting to other organisations dealing with the same challenge.
Our IMI CMTP went online in June—we had led quite a bit of live online learning with a variety of groups over the previous months using the Zoom platform in particular. We at Mediation Foundation of Ireland just went for it and it has been a great journey for us and our participants. We wanted to share some learnings on the CMTP with our IMI colleagues:
- Mindset—it is vital that we challenged our ‘you can only do this training face-to-face’ mindset and instead explored how we could see ‘live online’ as a contribution. Yes, we really look forward to the day when we can safely work in person with our participants, but now, having had many months experience of live online, we will always have at least one component of the programme online.
- Practice, practice and then practice some more! As we constantly say to our participants on the CMTP, practice is the key—so too for facilitating online. You need to be really comfortable with the platform you use and convey that confidence and competence to your participants. For some participants we did a Zoom tech check session ahead of time so that they could get more at ease—worth offering if you have lots of people unsure.
- Materials ahead of time—after day one, we send the materials for day two so that participants could have some sense of where they were going, while not being slavish to handbooks or powerpoints. This allows them to be more interactive during plenary discussions, as they have had a look at some material and can situate the content. Key was sending the role-plays ahead also—this allowed for better preparation and deeper engagement with the practice sessions.
- Small group practice—the use of the breakout tool on Zoom is key—you can easily set up practice sessions live with maximum flexibility, to ensure different groupings for different learning experiences. Important also is the ability of the trainers to drop into the practice mediation sessions—we always have two of us at least online to do the coaching in the practice sessions.
- Rapport—is it possible online? Yes, yes and yes again—it’s just different. We took our time to evolve this rapport—our initial introduction session got the participants into small groups quickly to meet each other with some reflective questions. We renewed the small groups quite often on the first day so that they got to engage with the full group in some depth. This really made a great difference as did our own introductions—personal and professional.
- Homework—we always find it useful to provide the participants with lots of material to reflect on and highlight. For each evening we provide a short video and/or brief article for them to review and we reflect on their responses as a way to check in at the start of each day.
- Journal—we ask participants to keep a learning journal throughout the programme. This is in addition to any notes they may be taking as the course progresses. The key elements of the journal are: what is striking me, what is challenging me, what am I learning, what insights am I gaining?
- Practice between formal sessions—this was our greatest learning—our groups became so comfortable with each other online that without too much prompting from us as trainers, they began to virtually meet between the formal sessions. The online format made this obviously so much easier than having to travel and meet. They then were able to formulate questions and reflections that they fed back to us for the formal sessions.
- Assessor comments and review—we asked our three external assessors to comment on any differences they noted in the final assessment videos from the face-to-face format. They saw no noteworthy differences, and were quite surprised at this outcome. It is early days, so we will be watching this carefully as we build on our learnings over time.
Summary—we love the face-to-face and very much look forward to returning to it, but we have learned that a very good learning experience can be had online—and even when face-to-face is available once more, we may always have an online component.