Virtual Training: The Do’s and Don’t’s

virtual training

The transition to work from home continues to have an undeniable effect on the ability to deliver training to employees who are suddenly now working remotely.

Some training has always been online: self-paced, accessible anytime, anywhere.

However, some training that was once face-to-face now has to be delivered online—blindsiding everyone involved in the delivery of in-person learning experiences, including L&D professionals, instructional designers, course developers, subject matter experts, instructors, and learners.

Organizations of all sizes have swiftly found themselves having to transfer and deliver what was once live, in-person, instructor-led training (ILT) seemingly overnight into online formats.

Let’s have a look at some Do’s and Don’t’s that help you not only transition from in-person to virtual training but also supercharge it so that it is both effective and engaging for your learners.

virtual training

DO: Decide which must stay, and which must go

As time is a limited resource, convert only the most strategically impactful—and urgent—training.

What makes a course strategic, according to TrainingIndustry.com, is the impact it has on achieving the most important strategic goals and objectives of the organization.

If a course won’t move the needle on business strategy, do not spend your limited time and resources converting it to a virtual format right now. If you are unsure about impact, go back to the original documentation for the original ILT training (if it exists), or ask the facilitator or department manager about the critical nature of the training.

It might simply be better to wait until the training can be delivered in its original modality—live, in a classroom—when people are allowed to return to the office.

DO: Add more visuals

The slide deck that worked in the classroom may not necessarily work in a live training.

Oddly enough, to make the presentation more interesting and engaging, a presenter needs more slides, not less. The rule of thumb is one minute per slide, with visually stimulating graphics and one or two clear messages on each slide to make the content memorable.

As important messages or content may not necessarily make it onto a slide, the presenter or learning team may need to develop additional, supplemental material with additional messaging available for download after the presentation.

Don’t worry about fancy pants transitions or animations. Learners are more interested in valuable, compelling content than in words that dance across the screen.

DO: Find creative ways to engage

Without frequent interaction during the online training, learners will tune out. (By the way, some platforms have a way for the administrator, speaker, or panelist to determine who is watching and who is idle—uh oh.)

As would happen in an in-person ILT, there should always be an icebreaker. Short trivia quizzes or funny anecdotes may work well.

All of the major virtual platforms have multiple methods to keep learners interacting with the presenter, content, and each other. Learners can raise their (virtual) hands, send messages/chat, and submit questions. More engagement equals more learning.

If the platform does not have certain engagement features, such as polling, find a third-party app to introduce into the training. Most are Web-based anyway, requiring the presenter to simply launch a browser window.

On the flip side, there might be too much engagement, such as too many unnecessary comments sent by audience members. As such, you may wish to turn off features you consider distracting and unnecessary.

Learners are aware that sitting at home and participating in the training is different from sitting in a real classroom. If the training is something that employees are used to, perhaps even something that they used to look forward to, then finding even more ways to engage and capture their attention online is critical to the success of the training.

DO: Learn how to multitask

This could be something new for presenters or facilitators unused to leading webinars or virtual presentations.

There are literally moving parts during virtual ILT, requiring a team to do it all. The instructor may be the one speaking, but perhaps someone else is advancing the slides, and yet someone else is responding to comments and collecting questions as they arrive on the platform. There may be multiple speakers, each with his or her own slide deck. Further, in the Q&A at the end, someone has to assign questions to the different facilitators.

This is a lot to manage. The training is, of course, internal, so there may be a level of understanding in the event of technical difficulties. However, with a focus on engagement and effectiveness, strong control of the platform, presentation, and communications channels during the session is key.

work from home

DON’T: Assume all learners are tech-savvy

As we’ve mentioned previously in this blog, oftentimes you need training for your training. The technical aspects of a course may seem intuitive to some but not to others, and in order for everyone to derive a benefit from the training, make sure that some sort of technical training or tutorial is available.

This, of course, does not have to be created from scratch. Lean on the vendor of your virtual training delivery platform for documentation and guidance—after all, you’re paying for the service.

In the last few weeks, with a surge in online meetings and presentations, communications and collaboration providers have boosted support. Indeed, simply Googling an issue or error message may lead you to the exact page you or your learners need. Further, there may be a Quick-Start Guide which you can share with your learners, or if additional issues arise, simply direct them to the vendor’s support channels.

training in a virtual capacity

DON’T: Necessarily rely on the same facilitators

Back to engagement for a moment. You may have helped the facilitator beef up a slide deck or make it prettier. You may have come up with all sorts of virtual ice breakers. You may have added canned or planted questions to ensure that the “right” questions are asked. (This is an old trick to make webinars more interesting or useful at the end.) Further, you may have even taken an hour to coach the facilitator on speech patterns and vocal inflections.

But then, the training just falls flat on its face.

You may decide sooner rather than later that while the instructor was brilliant in the live classroom, he or she simply cannot deliver a meaningful or cohesive virtual training session. As such, you may have to discuss the option of utilizing another instructor.

But fear not: if given the chance, the instructor may simply opt out of delivering virtual ILT altogether.

conference call

DON’T: Use the same assessments as you did for live ILT training

This part will take some time to figure out. Assessments for live ILT are usually tests administered at the end of the training, and they are one and done. The learners cannot leave the room until they have finished and submitted their assessment. This is obviously much harder to deliver after a virtual ILT.

You may decide that the assessments for virtual training should not be forced upon learners right then and there. It may need to be “take-home” and delivered to learners via a separate link. Work with the instructor and subject matter experts associated with the course to determine the best way to go about measuring learning.

When deciding which courses to move online, address this issue as early as you can.

DON’T: Use a one size fits all approach

This goes without saying: what worked to transition one ILT course to virtual may not work with another. Keep flexibility in mind.

You may need to refer back to your LMS and track the past performance of groups of learners. This may give some clues as to what might truly resonate with learners in a virtual ILT environment. Do some excel at longer, live training? Or do others perform better when given shorter microlearning?

While you cannot tailor the virtual ILT training one to one, you may be able to tailor it for small groups. In this way, you can expect greater outcomes.

Want to learn more about how to manage change when shifting towards an Agile Learning culture? Download our free ebook,
It’s Time to Change How You Design Training“!

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