In our last blog I examined how we will experience permanent changes to the way we all do business because of the global COVID-19 pandemic and how the world is moving to a digital and virtual economy.
Over the next 3 blog posts we will provide recommendations and tips on how to prepare for the new normal and take your learning strategy digital with a 3 phased approach:
Phase 1 – Move your Existing Training to Virtual Delivery (focus for this blog)
Through our years of experience, we at LearnExperts have found that this approach allows you to pivot quickly and buys you the time needed to build a great modern, digital, and scalable learning program.
A Quick Win
When it comes being responsive to what is happening globally with your training strategy, our first recommendation is to use your existing instructor-led training program and move it to a virtual format. This is the easiest way to get a quick win without having to overhaul your entire program and is a great interim step while you build out a more robust digital strategy in order to scale as you continue to grow your business.
In this blog I will share tips on what you should consider when taking your existing training virtual.
Choosing a Virtual Training Platform
This is always the first question I get from organizations looking to make the switch to virtual instructor-led training. There are so many options that exist in this space today, and the majority of them are easy to use and reliable.
The one thing that I find most organizations overlook is that making the right choice for a virtual training platform is not the same as making the right choice for a virtual meeting or webinar tool, although there are some that do both well. I have used over 10 tools for virtual instructor-led training myself, and the features that I value the most are:
The ability to interact with your participants with your technology makes for a more professional polished experience. Some of the features to look for are polling & quizzes, chat, breakout rooms, and a whiteboard that all participants can use.
2. Ability to perform advanced setup
Great instructors spend time preparing for their sessions to ensure participants have a great learning experience, it is no different when the training is virtual. Tools that allow you to load your slides & handouts, create polls & quizzes, and reuse your setup save a lot of time and create a more professional experience.
The best way to keep your audience engaged is to request that everyone joins using their video, not just audio. This creates an experience that is much closer to an in-person session and allows you to connect better with your participants.
If your sessions will include international participants make sure you choose a platform that has this feature. We look for platforms that have international call-in numbers in case participants don’t have broad enough bandwidth to support the audio and video of sessions.
Recording your sessions allow you to share it with participants after so they can review it again, or to reuse it for others to benefit from.
Many of the options in this space also provide free short-term trials, so you could try a few out and find the one that has the features and functionality that will work best for your program. Also, it’s a good idea to check the virtual meeting platform that your organization already has as it might be suitable, many of them have features that can be enabled that you may be unaware of, so do some homework before looking outside your existing tech stack.
Tips & Tricks for Using your Existing Content
The whole purpose of phase 1 is to preform a quick switch of your current program to a virtual delivery model, so I wouldn’t recommend spending too much time on adjusting your content until you are ready to build out new modalities or self-directed courses. That said, you should look at your current content to determine if there are any elements that will not work virtually.
Group work may be difficult to translate to a virtual experience. You may be able to use breakout rooms that are included with some platforms, or conduct the same activity but with the whole group.
Hands-on labs can be another difficult one to navigate. I’ve overcome this one in the past by having the students take turns instructing me on my click path while I share my screen, or having them use their own instance of an application.
For the length of course and when to take breaks, I would recommend providing shorter sessions and more frequent shorter breaks. Typically, training content that is intended to be delivered in-person is structured to fill an entire workday with logical spots for breaks and lunch; virtual sessions work better when they are 4 hours or less, with a 5 minute break every hour, with one longer 10 – 15 minute break around the halfway point.
Tips & Tricks for Instructors
Most effective in-person instructors can make equally excellent virtual instructors, but it is important that they are given time and training to become proficient at it. It is critical for instructors become very comfortable using the virtual training platform you have selected.
Instructors conducting virtual training must be tech savvy as they will inevitably need to spend time trouble shooting with participants that have issues connecting. You can mitigate these risks by ensuring instructors have time to learn and practice with the technology, have conducted test sessions, and know where to find support for the tool if necessary.
Once they are comfortable with the technology, the instructors will have to adjust their training style for this format to provide a great experience for participants.
Tips (my lessons learned when I conducted virtual sessions):
Request that attendees join early. This way if you have to help anyone get connected you aren’t eating into your session time.
Set the expectations right away. This provides the rules of engagement for everyone and should include a tour of the functionality of the virtual training platform. For example, I typically request that everyone mute their microphones when they are not talking to cut down on background noise.
Build in interaction often. Keeping your participants engaged is that much more difficult when conducting remote sessions. During the expectation setting I recommend letting them know that you will be calling on them to participate so they are not surprised when you call on them out of the blue. A trick I use is to write down or print off the attendee list and use check marks each time a participant asks a question or provides an answer, when I notice that a participant’s check-marks are getting low, I ask them an open-ended question to re-engage them.
Follow-up survey. Since you might be new to virtual training it is more important than ever to request feedback from participants. Review feedback as soon as it is received and look for opportunities to improve your virtual sessions.
You can do it!
I’ve talked to many clients that don’t know where to start so I hope these tips provide you with the confidence that it is achievable, with the right approach and guidance. Phase 1 allows your organization to make a quick transformation to continue to deliver your program today while you work on transforming your content. Watch for our next blog post where we will provide guidance on the next phase of taking your learning strategy digital. We are here to help!
Need assistance going digital? We bring over 100+ years of combined knowledge, hands-on experience, and best practices in the learning industry, driving adoption and customer success strategies that can help you grow and scale your organization.
Director, Customer Success