Last week saw a first for Hunt ADR, as we took our five day mediator skills training programme online for the first time.
This blog brings you some of my thoughts on what was a very intense, very tiring and very rewarding week. There are two parts to this blog - part one deals with technology used on the course, with part two covering the course itself and what we learned doing it online.
Part One - Technology Review
During the week we used a variety of technology platforms and apps to run the course. Here is a short review of the effectiveness of each we used:
Bandwidth - OK bandwidth is not a platform, but it is technology related and it is important to get over that for an online course the course provider and participants all need a good connection. There were times when participants had to turn their video camera off in Zoom and where we had the typical ‘Norman Collier’ effect (younger readers may need to search to understand!) - but these were limited to individuals who clearly did not have a good enough broadband connection at home (one participant moved locations during the course to achieve a better bandwidth). The message on this one is clear, if you are engaging in online training, of any type, you need a good connection or it will not only effect you but the other people you are training with.
Microsoft Teams (MS Teams) - I only started using MS Teams since lockdown started and I have found it very useful for communicating with our different panels and training participants. MS Teams was invaluable as a tool for training. It allowed me to keep in constant contact with the group as a group or individually before, during and after the training. It allowed me to upload course documents and share videos and other items with participants in one place without having to rely on email. I will continue to use MS Teams as a communications tool whether a course is face to face or online. I cannot imagine doing it another way now.
The drawback of MS Teams for me is that sometimes people struggle to be able to join the Team, and also some of its functionality is quite technical to understand and I haven’t quite mastered it yet. But as a platform for communication and sharing documents I wish I had discovered it much earlier.
Zoom - I have used Zoom a lot during lockdown. Whether for meetings or for running my mediator and arbitrator Zoom training sessions, I have found it to be largely ideal for everything I have tried to use it for. On this course we used it for our group sessions, so Zoom was used all day whilst we moved from it to other programmes. It did not fail once and everyone got on with it really well. As new trainers came and went (more of that in part two tomorrow) they fitted in seamlessly thanks to the functionality of Zoom.
Emails & WhatsApp - though MS Teams was always the preferred platform for communications, there were times we resorted to good old email and WhatsApp. Nothing remarkable to report, just adding them in as they were used on occasion.
DisputesEFiling - OK we did not use the platform on the training but we did use a podcast recorded just before lockdown by DEF Director, Tony Guise. The DEF platform itself will, I am sure, dovetail well with an integration of Zoom or another platform allowing for video technology to be used in ADR. Where Zoom falls in not having the capacity to store and share documents effectively, DEF excels.
CCODR / MODRON Platform - when putting the course together I was not keen to use Zoom for role plays and assessments not least because managing multiple role plays at the same time could be problematic. That problem is there though whatever the case, but I decided early on to use the CCODR platform because I love its simplicity and the fact that it is designed for mediation - not like Zoom which although it is being used by mediators it is to support mediation and some of its functionality is either irrelevant or not helpful. And that is before we get on to hosting and security issues.
The CCODR platform allows participants to role play (and to be assessed) using its video technology. It is incredibly simple to use and is supported by the fact that you can preload all the relevant documentation for the mediation - as the administrator you can preload your mediation agreement, model settlement agreement etc - and as participants you can access everything you need with speed and simplicity.
So to recap, all the technology was good. MS Teams has changed things significantly for me in the business in general and is now an essential when putting together and managing a training course - on or offline. Zoom was Zoom - good, functional and easy to use, with its limitations. The most significant discovery was the effectiveness of the CCODR platform which I cannot recommend enough for mediation. It is the complete product in one easy to use package. You don’t need to tie it in to Zoom or another platform, you can communicate in real time, share documents, set up meetings, video or telephone and even invoice the parties from the platform.