Time is approaching for my second and final coffee of the morning – what I call my ctr+alt+del cup.   I sometimes find that  immediately after downing  the first shot of espresso I am briefly possessed by the kind of  urge that Kim Jong –un, Gordon Ramsay, and  Alan Yentob must experience every morning perhaps all morning ; the drive to stridently empty your in-tray and then to shake an unyielding world by the scruff of its stroppy neck.An urge that in my case lingers for an entire seven maybe eight minutes, at a push. The truth is that even when I do push- and I do push – the caffeine-propelled momentum lies slumped , spent, and smouldering, a dopey wasp kicking its legs near the the dregs of my out-tray.

This morning I need to harness all the caffeine, motivational energy and focussing power I can gather. I know I still have two on-line training modules- mandatory –to complete before tomorrow’s conference. The clock is tick, ticking ( I’ve never possessed a clock that tocks, not once heard a tocking clock, though I have lived among those who talk as if there were such a thing). I absolutely must print my boarding pass –also mandatory- I anxiously watch   the shuddering printer with its finger-wagging low-ink icon and those thirsty bar codes sipping all that remains from the teats of a blushing magenta and a bruised cyan. Whatever else happens this morning those training courses must be completed. Whatever else happens this morning my Canon Pixma must yield a boarding pass.

The good news, no the great news is that I have now completed module one of two. Not just completed it but completed it with 100% success. A less than perfect score would mean doing the entire module all over again – a fact that contains a compelling quantity of motivating salience for someone who is feeling hot and bothered, that it might now be time to take a deep breath, dial down the thermostat and crack on or crack up. The first module though rich in detail was not what you might describe as cognitively challenging. Having completed modules of this kind before –which lend themselves tolerably well to the online format- by now I know exactly what to do. I quickly read the course material with yellowing Stabilo Boss in  hand taking scratchy notes with the other. I can guess from experience what specificity of detail I will be required to reproduce and how exactly and how faithfully during the comprehensive quiz at the end of the module. My primary, my Darwinian, my career-protective purpose is not so much to deeply learn, to embed or even understand the course material but to extract and to get ready my pellets of information to discharge accurately  thereby nailing compliance. Of course, I do also learn stuff along the way, probably a lot of stuff, but not in a particularly satisfactory, in an optimal or in an embedded way. It is not at all unlikely that more synapses are fired by the task of developing a strategy to tick the necessary box than are used in the learning exercise itself. But never mind. It is done. My name is briefly listed among the virtuous on the learning portal and its time to leave past glories behind and approach the remaining module with refueled vigor.

The cursed impediments I encountered while trying to complete the final module are too laborious and far too wretched with which to burden anyone. As you can imagine I was nonetheless obliged to unburden them in exactly the order in which they occurred to the head of Digital Learning, or as she is now called the Dean of Talent Enhancement. In outline, my difficulties arose from an unfortunate coalition of factors including browser   incompatibility with Flash, buffering during media vignettes, the man from UPS, a  number-withheld caller anxious to explain how they could help to protect my computer from, from –well people like them.  However not all was lost. I like to believe a good deal may have been gained.

Ryanair were entirely convinced by the quality of my boarding pass and I arrived at the conference in good time, in pretty good spirits. Instead of facing the opprobrium I might have expected to experience as a consequence of logging an incomplete module I learned that since four other colleagues had encountered similar challenges – they can hardly have been that similar, but let us skip over that for a moment –  we were invited to complete the module at a hastily convened meeting in a small conference  room with an instructor, a flipchart, and a coffee machine.

During the next 45 minutes of face-to-face training and discussion, a great many things happened. Did we have coffee? Of course we did, it was still early. Did we have croissants? Well yes – but we did have to beg. But did we learn and did we enjoy the experience – the answer to these questions would have to be a resounding yes too. Probably what will have formed the biggest single contrast between the module we completed yesterday and today’s module was the human interaction and the dynamic quality of the learning. The instructor who facilitated and chaired the session was aware that we had already been sufficiently exposed to the course materials to encourage the materials to be exposed to critique and to examination from his perspective but from the input and insights that flowed from individual experiences. It became clear that even the act of listening to the views of others and the challenge that this generated caused some to re-examine and reformulate their own feeling about the topic.

Perhaps not surprisingly what emerged was an outcome, which had been tested by the challenge, by a multi-perspectival group leading to a richer synthesis. More importantly, perhaps  the participants as individuals and as a group had freely engaged in a much more immersive process where we looked colleagues in the eye, detected uncertainty as well as certainty in body language and gesture and gently but expertly nudged by the facilitator left the session knowing a good deal more stuff, and understanding more of it more deeply than anything learned or understood from the previous module. The face-to-face experience itself was stimulating, with no distractions and I would have to confess to its even being enjoyable as were the croissants. The memory of the croissants will pass, the residual effects of the coffee is  long gone, but I remain entirely convinced that the impact and fruits of the face-to-face second session are more deeply embedded and will endure a great deal longer than the shallow, brittle and  fleeting first – seemingly- perfect session.