Being able to connect with learners virtually makes sense for the organization as well as the learner, especially in today’s climate. It provides you with the flexibility to connect with your learners wherever they are, without the disruptions often associated with traditional face to face learning. Another advantage of virtual learning is that you can create classes by leveraging existing content, facilitators, and other resources.
There are several things to consider to make the most of your virtual learning efforts, let’s review what you need to know to convert your instructor-led training programs for virtual learning.
Instructor-Led Training vs. Virtual Instructor-Led Training
Instructor-led training (ILT) is when an instructor facilitates a training session for a group of learners or an individual. Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) is pretty straight forward; it’s taking the material from traditional ILT programs and using them in a virtual setting. The most important aspect is that the learners have real-time access to the instructor for feedback and discussion.
ILT and VILT can be held in a few different ways:
- Webinar – Online through video conferencing
- One-to-One – One learner to one instructor
- Small-Group – A small group of learners with one instructor in a classroom setting
- Lecture – A large group of learners with one instructor
- Workshop – Hands-on training
- Virtual Classrooms – Online meetings with immersive technology
You can make your instructor-led training engaging for your learners by including activities throughout the training session. Switching between lectures, discussions, activities, and hands-on practices are the best way to keep your learners engaged and able to retain the information.
Setting Goals For Virtual Learning
One of the biggest challenges when moving to virtual learning is carrying over your goals and expectations. When it comes to virtual learning, a clear focus on the program goal is critical.
A rule of thumb is that an experienced virtual facilitator can cover between 66% and 75% of the amount of content that they could cover in a traditional face to face environment. This is because when you move to a virtual setting, there are less opportunities for organic interaction between learners and the facilitator (nonverbal communication, eye contact, nods, smiles, etc.).
Therefore, you need to consider your program goals carefully to ensure that you are setting realistic learning objectives and program timelines accordingly.
Download: Training Goals and Metrics Calculator
Choosing Your Virtual Learning Experience
To maximize the program’s effectiveness, consider what type of experience is best suited to your content and your learners. Choose your type of experience carefully; it will need to fit the content you are delivering and how you want to engage with your learners.
Webcasts are ideal for connecting information from experts to large audiences. Because there is little interaction between the audience and the presenter, learners do not need to view them in real-time.
Webinars provide opportunities for interaction between the audience and the presenter, typically in the form of either polls or questions, which makes them ideally suited to provide information to audiences who have some familiarity with the topic.
Virtual Instructor-Led Training
Virtual Instructor-Led Training provides the experience that most closely resembles a traditional classroom environment. They are usually live sessions with smaller class sizes to maximize interactivity and engagement. VILT also allows for opportunities to validate learning and extend the learning experience beyond the session itself.
Designing Content for Your Virtual Instructor-Led Training Program
There is no one size fits all program design for high-quality VILT. However, one aspect that is consistent across all types of virtual learning is that less is more.
No single session should be longer than 60 minutes. If you are converting existing classroom content to a virtual session, consider chunking the information and offering multiple shorter sessions. Shorter sessions allow you to provide valuable information without overwhelming your learner.
If you combine shorter sessions with brief offline activities, you can even create opportunities to promote knowledge transfer and reinforce learning. Let’s take a look at an example:
Maximizing Engagement with Virtual Instructor-Led Training
Engagement is key to any training program. Learner engagement means higher content retention and more successful employees. Many fear that moving to virtual settings will eliminate engagement – this is true for online schools, working from home, etc.- but there are some tactics you can use to ensure your virtual learners are just as engaged in the content.
Before the Session
To ensure learners are engaged in the session, you need to build their investment in the learning experience intentionally. One best practice that is easy to implement is to begin the learning process before the session starts.
Providing a brief case study or even just a question for learners to consider before the session starts will build learners’ investment and promote engagement.
Beginning the Session
Start sessions with a brief gathering activity to help pull the group together and relax your learners a bit. Because time is short, most traditional classroom ice breakers do not make suitable virtual activities.
Try using the time between the students’ login and the course’s scheduled start time by posting a question that can be answered with a single word. Ask students to post their responses using the chat function. This quick activity serves several purposes; you can gauge learners’ comfort with the technology, and the learners can begin to interact with each other in a way that can feel less threatening than being “called on.”
During the Session
Learner engagement is critical to successful virtual learning. Most experts agree that there should be some engagement activity every 3-5 minutes. Interactions should be a combination of the learners interacting with the facilitator and the learners interacting with each other by using the break out session functionality available on most virtual learning platforms.
After students interact with each other, make sure that there is time to close the learning loop by inviting each small group to share their thoughts on the material covered.
After the Session
The learning doesn’t have to end when the session does! Three things that you can do to follow up and reinforce the learning are:
- Send a job aid that covers the high points of the session
- Send a list of related resources or links
- Encourage learners to interact with each other
Sorting Out The Mechanics
The final aspect of the program to consider is the actual mechanics. Whether you are technology pro or not, it’s good to be prepared to ensure you don’t waste valuable instruction time.
- Open the program portal 15-30 minutes ahead of the scheduled start time.
- Use facilitators who are skilled in virtual delivery.
- Make sure that your facilitators have time to practice using technology.
- Use program “producers” who can support the facilitator by monitoring chat windows, troubleshoot technology and manage the breakout sessions.
Are You Ready To Go Virtual?
In conclusion, virtual learning is a useful tool for connecting with your learners wherever they may be. By being intentional about building learners’ investment and engagement, you can create programs that build skills while bringing learners together for meaningful development.