Project Management for Wildlife Conservation - course review

(c) WildTeam

It’s lovely to be proved wrong sometimes. 

I’ll admit it – I approached my recent Project Management for Wildlife Conservation training course with a fair bit of trepidation.  How could group training sessions – including small group work in breakout rooms – possibly work well online?  Would the pre-session ‘homework’ really take up to 3 hrs each week, and where on earth would I find that time?  And would it actually be useful in the ‘real world’?

The training had been recommended by my line manager, Keiron Brown, who had completed it himself earlier in the year.  I’d seen first-hand some of the positive changes he’d made to our project’s systems since the training, but even with this first-hand example of how useful the training was I expected it to be relatively dull, formulaic and, to be frank, a bit of a chore rather than a pleasure. The format involved working through pre-recorded sessions and homework tasks, followed by a live session working with others and sharing thoughts and examples.  I was unconvinced about how a course like this could be delivered well online.

How wrong I was!  The training was run by WildTeam, an organisation that provides professional development and management training which is tailored for those involved in conservation (a great idea in itself).  And from the very first email I received from them, I was struck by how well the training was structured, organised and run.  For me, it changed from a weekly chore (yes, the homework can take up to three hours!) into something I actively looked forward to – even when I had to do the pre-recorded and live sessions at home in the evenings in order to fit it all in.   A lot of the credit for that goes to Lucy and Beth, the presenters, and the use of Kahoot…more on that later.

I won’t go into the details of what I was taught (if you’re interested, I recommend you do the course yourself!) but instead will give some thoughts on how the training was run.

  1.  The online format meant that people from many different countries were doing the course together.  The range of examples and experiences, including cultural differences, was much wider than if it had been a UK-based residential course.  Realising during the live sessions that I was working with someone from half a world away was a great experience.
  2.  To get the most out of online training you need to FULLY COMMIT!  So, that’s no dual screening during the live sessions (e.g. checking your phone whilst keeping one eye on the main screen).  It also means diligently completing the pre-recorded sessions and activities – block time out in your diary and let people know you’re not to be disturbed. 
  3.  Zoom is a great tool for online meetings.  It has loads of useful functions – including the ability to send sub-sets of people into virtual ‘Breakout Rooms’ for smaller group work.
  4.  An app called Kahoot was used both for quizzes during the live sessions, and also for revision exercises.  If you’ve not come across it before then check it out – it’s very silly, and a lot of fun.  And introducing a competitive element into any training always raises the stakes!
  5.  The training finished with a 1 hr multiple choice exam.  I know not everyone is a fan of exams, but I find them hugely useful – they motivate me to pay attention, retain information and make sure I properly understand the concepts being taught.  And doing revision really embeds the topic in my brain.  I’m sure if I didn’t have the prospect of an exam looming over me then I wouldn’t make as much effort to retain the information.  (Result – I passed!).

 Doing the training has not only equipped me with the tools and techniques needed to be a better project manager, but ha also opened my eyes to the possibilities of online training.  Now, I’m off to mark this blog task as ‘complete’ on my action tracker…