As a Google Cloud Authorized Training Partner, we organize Google Cloud Platform trainings on the regular, usually at Google Headquarters in Amsterdam or Brussels. Koen Maes hosts most of them, a job he is perfect for, considering he is one of the first Authorized Trainers of Google Cloud Platform globally! Last week, g-company held the GCP Fundamentals: Core Infrastructure online. Time to ask Koen for his advice on hosting an online training session.
We are living in an unusual time, that may be obvious. More and more people are working from home and have decided to (or are forced to) follow protocol and are only leaving their house if it’s necessary. Hosting an online training is the smart thing to do these days, as we still aim to help others expand their knowledge.
How does the registration process differ from an offline training?
It is not that different, to be honest. We still publish trainings on the calendar on our website, just as we do with a regular one. People still register via Google, our partner for all GCP trainings. If you plan on hosting an online training yourself, than my advice would be to keep the registration process exactly the same.
A small change is that people receive an invitation for a Google Meet, instead of receiving a physical address to attend the training. People that do not have a Google account or are using their personal GMail account to attend, will have to send a request to participate after clicking the Google Meet link in the calendar invite. That is something we should emphasize in a day-before mailing to all registrants, as this is not always clear.
How do you start a training via Google Meet?
The easy thing about using Google Meet for an online training, is that it works like a regular video conference. You just start your meeting as you always do. I do ask attendees to mute their microphone, to keep background noises to a minimum.
How do you deal with questions during your online training?
Due to the number of attendees, with a peak of over 60 people, another g-company colleague joined the training to monitor and answer most of the questions in the chat. The more technical ones were then addressed by myself during the training. This setup allowed us to answer most questions as quickly as possible, with a handful for me to treat during the training and with the respective attendee sharing his/her screen. This is something I suggest to all who plan on hosting an online training for a large group of people.
And what about breaks during the course?
When I teach this course offline, it is a one-day training of 8 hrs. We’ve split that day into two equal day parts of 4 hrs. Being focused behind a computer for 8 hrs, is exhausting. And in this day and age where schools are closed, many people are homeschooling and entertaining their children. Clearing your schedule for 8 hrs is very difficult if not impossible. Splitting into two really helps.
I have also chosen for two 15 minutes breaks during each day part, to help ease the mind. Listening for multiple hours is hard. Luckily this training does not require only listening: it starts with me speaking for at most 2 hours at the start, after which we alternate the presentations with exercises.
You have already taught this Fundamentals training multiple times. How does an online edition vary from an offline one?
A really big change for me, is that there is less possibility for interaction. When you are in an actual classroom and participants do the Labs exercises, you can actually see how they fare with it. There’s also the possibility to provide better assistance with the tasks and answer in-depth questions that relate to someone’s place of work.
With an online training, you do have the opportunity to make it more accessible. People can join from home or office and do not have to travel to an actual location. I think that is a big plus.
After the success of the Fundamentals training, is there a new one coming up? And if so, what points of improvement can you apply?
Yes, there is! Our next online training course will be a GCP Fundamentals training on Big Data & Machine Learning. I will teach in two day parts again, on April 14th and 15th. We will look into several common use cases, like building a recommendation engine, image recognition and how to build a realtime dashboard.
I think we can make improvements in the preparation part of the course. We have sent out a link to join via Google Meet, including directions to create an own labs environment. Not everybody had built one, so that took up time at the beginning of the training. I would like to highlight the importance of having that ready beforehand.
Do you have any advice for others who are thinking of hosting an online training course for dozens of people using Google Meet?
I sure do:
- Make sure participants accept the invite, in order to join the training
- Allow participants time to breath in multiple breaks
- Ask for as many questions as possible and have a colleague monitor these questions
- End every module with a small quiz. It’s both fun and you’ll see who still participates actively