The first UK-focused online #WOL course: what did we learn?

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This week we are regrouping with John and participants from our online course run in June/ July.  13 weeks after we finished this first experiment it will be a great opportunity to hear about the experiences our first cohort have had with working out loud over the summer, and the impact their practice is having in their lives, work and communities.  Continuing the sharing and building longer-term communities of support is a core principle of what we are trying to achieve with woltogether.com.

It’s not the first time we have asked the more than 30 participants for feedback about the course.  Half-way through attendees who came from across the corporate, SME, public and charity sectors in the UK and beyond were asked for “just 1 word” to describe their experiences of the course so far:

“challenged; supported; connected; positive; uncomfortable; inspired; connected; encouraged; supported; learning; enthusiastic; helpful; excited; nourished; motivated; emotional; personally interesting; curious; inspired; brave.”

A more formal attempt to gauge success of the course through an ‘exit questionnaire’ produced a net promoter score of 50%.  It’s true the use of this form of ‘scoring’ is contested in relation to learning and development outcomes.  Still, we felt that was a good figure and we are interested in developing ‘metrics’ for success as part of our WOL journey.

But we were more interested in what participants said about what they had really appreciated most about the experience.  By far and away the most positive elements were about the building relationships, either in the opportunity to work in their small circles or more generally meeting and connecting with new people on the course, often mentioning the international links.

“It has really helped me understand how I can use social media platforms to progress my goals.  I am an introvert, so the idea of ‘networking’ leaves me cold, but this provides me with an authentic way of building mutually beneficial relationships.  I am very excited by its potential.”

In terms of the benefits from the course that participants were able to identify the new contacts, networks, and relationships again figured most highly.  As well as this, the deeper understanding of WOL, the process and confident ability in ‘doing’ WOL heavily featured alongside an improved use of social media.

“Above all else, I saw WOL as the confidence to approach people that I don’t know and look at opportunities in a slightly different way. My goal kept changing, pretty much on a weekly basis, and I decided that adapting certain elements to the WOL approach to my work life would be hugely beneficial for me.”

There were inevitably areas that participants identified as requiring some improvement, feedback we really welcomed and are looking at addressing.  In particular three issues surfaced, that interestingly are common to all of our circles experience:

  • The tension between the accelerated 6-week approach providing a condensed learning experience but lacking some of the depth of relationship and practice building of a full 12-week circle as per John Stepper’s guides.   Conversely 12-weeks can be a difficult commitment to sustain and risks losing circle members.
  • Circles require good facilitation to ensure that activities are completed and the space is equal and inclusive for everyone’s voices, it’s important that participants are aware and supported with tools for their role in this.
  • Defining goals is a hard thing to do – many people changed goals after a few weeks, and some did so more than once.  John has been writing this week on some key tips for setting goals and providing more support in this area seems essential.

And most excitingly – and the area where it will be great to see what people have achieved when we regroup – were the ambitions people told us about for where they would go with working out loud now.  In order of frequency:

  • Spread WOL in my organisation, sector, with clients
  • Join new circle(s)
  • Develop the skills further to enhance my career and opportunities
  • Embed/ adopt as a habit for life
  • Develop online presence further; keep in touch with members of circle

“To implement the practices into all aspects of my daily life to the point where it is the natural approach automatically implemented in helping me to achieve my aims.”

I am really looking forward to regrouping tomorrow to see where people’s working out loud adventures have taken them – and delivering future courses and opportunities for more people to become part of the community.

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