Making Training by WhatsApp Possible!

Whilst many of us are more comfortable using Zoom, WebEx, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams – plus many other similar platforms – I must admit I was more than a little sceptical about the possibility of conducting training over WhatsApp?

For the last two weeks, I have been facilitating training for UNODC on requests for e-evidence across borders with law enforcement officers, prosecutors and central authority attorneys from Nigeria and South Africa – all through WhatsApp!

We played 12 mini-lectures or lecturettes, had 24 live Q&A sessions, answered 12 separate quizzes and the participants completed an e-evidence investigation – with requests drafted and reviewed for preservation, voluntary disclosure and emergency disclosure!

How many workshops can you honestly say you have encountered no tech or user issues? I can say over two weeks – we had none!

What better way to avoid that never ending instruction, “Turn on your microphone please – we can’t hear you!

With more than 2 billion WhatsApp users globally – common online training obstacles are easily overcome using WhatsApp. Participants know how to use it and data top-ups  ensured connectivity. Equally, engagement was quick – despite participants being located in different parts of the beneficiary countries, the UNODC team stationed in Vienna and me in balmy Scotland!

Six top tips for those considering training using WhatsApp (where reference is made to any software please ensure you take all necessary precautions before downloading – you do so at your own risk):

  1. The workshops did require more planning and work in advance to pre-record the  lecturettes on key topics to maximise time. For this task, I highly recommend Camtasia – a user-friendly screen recorder and video editor – plus you can add graphics and quizzes to embed the learning. There is a free trial, but to ensure you have a professional setup – this will require the paid version (approx $150 USD).
  2. Drafting a participant workbook as a reference tool for more detailed information on the lecturette content. This will need the authors to address common topics that arise, but require more detail than a lecturette. During live Q&A sessions the workbook can be used to direct the participants to relevant answers on specific topics. I then updated this workbook at the conclusion of the training as a training brief – with suggested answers to the practical exercises, guidance on drafting and explainers for the quizzes.
  3. To ensure the lecturette is a manageable size to send through WhatsApp (less than 100MB) use Handbrake. Again, easy to use and it’s free!
  4. When delivering the course, the web version of WhatsApp is essential to ensure you can respond quickly to questions on your laptop or tablet, rather than your phone.
  5. I used Snagit to take screen captures for quick personalised feedback following practical exercises and to record how-to short videos on completing model requests for preservation, voluntary disclosure and emergency disclosure
  6. Finally, in no more than two minutes, do a voice recording of the learning points after each session and identify the objectives for the next session. This way you ensure the learning is contextualised to the issues that have been discussed in the chat. Again, this can be easily recorded and sent through WhatsApp.

Using all these tools, we were able to run a five day programme for each country (max three hours each day – with breaks) for 25 participants, watching one lecturette, completing a quiz, 30 minute Q & A session, 45 minute practical exercise and 30 minute feedback in plenary.

Of course, face-to-face training is best and these sessions did not require translation – but with a great support team at UNODC – the feedback received proves this training was as impactful as any I have done during the pandemic – and without a word being spoken live!

New times, new skills!

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