Moving our lives online

August 25, 2020 - Shelagh McLachlan

Working remotely has transformed how I work and communicate on a day to day basis.

Prior to lockdown many of us didn’t have any knowledge or experience of using software like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. I had heard of it, and been invited to meetings, but didn’t really have much knowledge beyond that – always too busy to take the time to learn this new way of working – after all it was much easier to stay in my comfort zone and do what I’ve always done. 

Then the lockdown happened, we were 100% working from home and like it or not I had to learn about new technology. 


Shelagh's house.jpg

Typically I went on to YouTube and watched some “How to” videos and had a tentative explore around the technology, but I was right at the starting blocks. Working from home forced me to change my attitude, and I realised I had to get over any nerves and instantly change how I communicated. This new way of working looked as if it was here to stay!

As Head of Marketing, it has certainly been a new experience trying to manage my team from a distance, technology has enabled us to stay together and feel a sense of belonging.  

We have managed exceptionally well with all of this, especially given the speed at which we had to work from home, but there has definitely been a need for some focused CPD around our new skills gaps. Our thinking was, the more confidence and skills we acquire, the more we are able to do.

I believe flexible working will be enduring – there is no going back to our old ways and spending 100% of our time in our offices. I’d like to think when we do go back we are more likely to be spending our time collaborating, talking and exchanging ideas and being creative – all at a social distance of course.

Right now I think we are all at the point of needing more help to maximise the use of these new digital tools, so that we look more professional in our communications and can run more effective meetings or events while becoming more productive as we learn the benefits of working more collaboratively.

Ayrshire College moved swiftly to support our own staff and other businesses on this steep learning curve, and quickly developed a range of online learning courses to help everyone adapt to their new way of working. We know that we learn better if we are shown what to do and can then have a go ourselves. Even better if we have someone there to answer questions and give us hints and tips on how to get the best experience we can. Our Business Growth team has a range of online courses which we can do in the comfort of our own home, and with live tutor sessions it has proved an ideal way to enhance our knowledge and skills.

For me, online learning has been a great experience.

Short focused courses, with opportunities to interact with others, ask questions and learn new skills. I’ve just done a course about managing remotely and discovered the different challenges this way of working has thrown up. How we need to change expectations about when we get a response, as people are working different hours of the day to suit personal circumstances. The importance of providing regular updates to give clarity and help people feel involved and follow progress. How best to humanise our communications rather than emailing or sending teams messages all the time. How to re-energise your team and so on. All kinds of things I had experienced and was concerned about. Online training provided hints and tips that I could put into practice straight away. It’s helped me cope with what is expected of me on a day to day basis in my current situation.

I’ve also been talking to a few people that have tried other online courses and here is what they have had to say:

Jen Maley from the Quality Team said, “I wanted to really get to grips with Microsoft Teams because I could see this was going to be the tool we would be using the most going forward. At the start of the course I had very little knowledge, but I quickly got up to speed with all the key elements of the software and learned what it could do. The trainer was fantastic and what impressed me most was how dynamic the course was. It became apparent how quickly the technology was changing – with regular updates which she was able to show us, and she was also telling us about future expected updates. I liked how the course responded to changes as they happened and you knew you were getting the most up to date training.

"The main benefits to me has been learning how to use documents collaboratively so that my team can work on a live document together. I am also able to make meetings and handle calls and chats on a daily basis. It has also given me new ideas of how we can engage with students better. Now I feel more confident using Teams and I know where to look to explore further.”

Cheryl Smith from the Creative Team said, “I wanted to keep up to date with technology and learn how to use new tools to help me create engaging, accessible online teaching materials for my students. I went on the Sway course as it looks modern and exciting and appears to be very user friendly. Perfect for what I’m looking for.

“I really enjoyed learning how to use Sway. The course was very interactive and we got to try out all the features on our own laptops as we went along. I learned how to create exciting teaching materials such as videos and quizzes. There were lots of opportunities to ask questions and there was easy to follow notes which I can use to refer back to. I will use these to continue my learning at my own pace. I feel much more confident about using Sway now and I am excited to get started. It’s such an accessible tool and easy to use and I also think I will be able to inspire students to learn how to use it too.”

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