3 Virtual Tools to Excel at Scrum Training Online

On March 13th, 2020, we all received news that the World Health Organization (WHO) categorized COVID-19 as a pandemic, and businesses and schools across the world began shutting down. Everyone suddenly had a choice: go online or hunker down and try to weather the storm.

Scrum training courses, which had never been online previously, were no exception. In spite of Certified Scrum training only being a personal face-to-face experience prior, we had to adapt and fast. The Scrum Alliance decided to take the leap and allow trainers to offer live online classes and we at Innovel, like most of our colleagues, chose to hunker down and quickly adapt to online training methods.

Challenge Accepted! Learning to Deliver Certified Scrum Training Online

At Innovel, we decided to “flip the classroom” to virtual Scrum training, with a desire to maintain the highly interactive, thoughtful, fun classroom experience our customers expected of us. Although, making a real-life experience into a virtual one, begged a couple key questions: 

  1. How do we move a business course for teaching Scrum from an in person, collaborative class to an online course, where your only interaction is through a webcam and microphone?
  2. How do we continue to guarantee the high quality learning experience that Innovel is known for?

Guaranteeing an excellent experience with Innovel has been and will continue to be non-negotiable. So, in choosing how to “flip the classroom” to online, this was a big concern and priority.

When we first tackled this problem, we decided our goal was to make sure we would maintain as much of what made our courses great in the first place. Namely, we really wanted to ensure we maintained interaction between everyone taking the course, not just the student and instructor. The use of exercises make our students approach problems from new ways. This is a hallmark of Innovel Scrum and Agile training. 

There were many issues to overcome to achieve this goal, and one of our first questions was how to recreate a group setting. 

  1. How could we have people feeling like they are actually working with other people, not on their own in their home? 
  2. Was there any way to move exercises that originally required being able to physically interact with other people to the digital space?

Creating Scrum Training Interaction Using Virtual Tools

Zoom vs Microsoft Teams vs Discord: Video Conferencing Tools

When we started looking at video conference programs, we had a relatively easy time narrowing our choices. We needed a program that had video, screen sharing, and the ability to form other “calls” quickly, for group work purposes.

Our three top selections were Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Discord. All three had what we were looking for initially, however each had pitfalls and issues that caused us concern.

  • Microsoft Teams suffered from video lag and stuttering. As well as creating and inviting students to a new “team” for every class proved to be a chore, which pushed it out of the running rapidly.
  • Discord had some nice upsides. It was rather intuitive to navigate, and could support having multiple “calls” running. It eventually fell by the wayside though, due to the fact that they were going to be limiting the amount of active video calls in a server to 10 people after the pandemic.
  • Our selection was Zoom. Due to its robust video conferencing ability and “breakout rooms” we could break the class to separate into small work groups as we would in person. The breakout rooms also allow the teacher to move around from group to group, in a way that is reminiscent of walking around tables in live classes. (Not to mention, Zoom adoption by individuals and other organizations rapidly added familiar for many participants.)
Robin Dymond of Innovel teaching Certified Scrum training class with Zoom, Miro and Slack virtual tools.
Innovel’s Robin Dymond, cst®, Teaching certified Scrum Product owner® class using zoom, Miro and slack virtual tools.

We did run into a small hiccup with Zoom, because people who leave and rejoin the meeting need to be reassigned to their breakout room by the host (trainer). We needed a method for anyone who had connection issues to contact the host so that they could be reassigned. Certified Scrum training requires a set number of hours for a participant to qualify for certification and we wanted to ensure their time with Innovel was time spent training not getting set up to train.

After contacting Zoom support to see if there was any way to resolve this issue, and not finding any, we resolved to add other collaboration tools to our virtual tool set.

The first thing we added was Slack. Slack is an excellent business messaging tool that allows interaction and conversations to occur in one snapshot view. The integrations and opportunity for collaboration seems endless. For our purposes we simply needed one solid cloud-based solution to allow interaction with our participants for technical support.

Miro vs Mural: Using Collaboration Tools

Innovel’s in person Certified Scrum training courses are highly interactive, visual and fun. Through use of exercises and activities involving poster paper, post it notes, index cards, participants collaborate and complete exercises as a team. We were on the search for tools that would allow a similar experience online so we could continue to guarantee the level of interaction we normally promise, not to mention avoid “Zoom fatigue”.

We narrowed down the search to two separate programs, Miro and Mural. Both tools on paper were very similar. They had surface-level similarities for interface, function and pricing.

  • Mural seemed to be a fan-favourite on Google search. It had a UI complexity that was compelling, but in the end it fell just a bit short when put into practice.
  • Miro felt smooth and was easier to learn. After experimentation and testing we chose Miro because of the better user experience. Miro could support the maximum class size (30) we needed with room to grow if we felt we wanted to, and was capable of allowing all class participants to work together on the digital equivalent of a whiteboard and post it notes.

Beyond Tools: Humanizing a Virtual Environment for Adult Learners

Recreating the Certified Scrum Virtual Classroom

Innovel Certified Scrum training is a rich learning experience involving games, activities and exercises. The biggest challenge in moving a traditionally in person training into this online environment was making a big shift in thinking for both us and the participants. We pushed ourselves to make the online tools work to deliver the class exercises within the new environment. This took weeks of preparation. We didn’t just “flip the classroom”. We recreated the course activities to suit the environment so it was enjoyable and successful for participants.

We designed templates for the exercises in Miro to facilitate group work. This involved some trial and error. Certain exercises that worked well in person did not translate to the new environment and had to be replaced or dropped while others worked very well with Miro and Zoom.

Here is an example of one online exercise in an Innovel Certified Scrum training class:

An in person example of an Innovel Scrum training exercise would involve making paper airplanes, and having each person do a different fold, to demonstrate the problems caused by bottlenecks in Waterfall. The online version of that same exercise involved images of a car frame and parts, and required the “assembly” of cars through each person adding their pieces to form the whole.

Example of interactive exercise, using Miro, to replicate in-person activity for Certified Scrum training.
innovel’s car assembly exercise for certified scrum training using miro

We used icons of people at desks to show where each person in the order would be, and then had their “car parts” (icons) near their desk, which were duplicated using copy/paste, and then are positioned to the slot on the car frame where they fit. This exercise replicates the paper airplane exercise and participants gain the same insights. However online car building exercise took a bit longer to get started than the in person paper airplane version, due to the difficulty of learning how to use a new tool.

Implementing Live Online Technical Support

While using post it notes and poster paper is second nature for people, using Slack, Miro and Zoom is not. In addition, many organizations have very restrictive policies that do not allow installation of programs or access to certain websites. The unfamiliar tools and the organizational roadblocks meant some participants would find it challenging to get the full experience. In order to support our Certified Scrum training participants in this new environment, Innovel added dedicated technical support prior to the course for setup, and then live within the course to help with any technical issues that cropped up.

providing “Get to Know You” Time

In a live classroom, it is natural for people to get to know each other face to face with introductions and hellos. We quickly learned to then give our training groups time for “coffee and conversation” at the beginning of the day to get to know each other a bit. Establishing this rapport allowed our participants to build trust and desire to work together in Miro.

Certified Scrum Training Delivery Must Put Participants First

The purpose of a 2-day Certified Scrum training course is to dig deep into what Scrum training is and what Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Product Owner roles are really about. And Innovel’s intent is to give a rich learning experience so that a professional or team can leave that training knowing how to apply their new skills right away.

While the trainings remain rich in content delivery, teaching and materials to meet the mandate of a Certified Scrum training course, that is just the baseline for Innovel training. To truly “flip the classroom” to an online environment, we adopted Miro and other tools to ensure we have a great interactive group dynamic; a real “classroom” model; and fun interactive exercises to help elevate the lessons.

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