If you have to hold in-person instructor-led training (ILT) during the COVID-19 pandemic, here are some ways you can keep it safe:
- Keep classes small so it’s easier to maintain a distance from others of at least six feet
- Reduce or eliminate person-to-person role-playing and small group activities
- Check local guidelines regarding face coverings
- Have sanitizer available
- Provide downloadable participant guides that learners can print and bring themselves
There is still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19, but one thing’s for sure: The world is attempting to reclaim some semblance of normalcy while still being safe. That effort is seen clearly in the reopening of many businesses and workplaces. And with employees back on-site, even if part-time, some learning and development teams may be wondering if they can conduct in-person instructor-led training (ILT).
While virtual instructor-led training (VILT), eLearning, or extended reality training (virtual reality and augmented reality) are still safer options, not every organization has much of a choice, especially in financially unstable times. Indeed, the budget-friendly option for some might be to let trainers and facilitators get in front of learners and lead a session. The key is to do so safely.
In this article, we’ll review how you can make ILT training safe during COVID-19 by highlighting the guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other health experts.
What Is ILT?
ILT is short for instructor-led training. This is a training solution that occurs in person and involves a trainer and/or facilitator guiding a group of learners through the session (trainers are usually subject matter experts, while facilitators don’t have to be).
ILT can be held in a few different ways:
- 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
What Can I Do To Keep In-Person Training Safe?
While governments and organizations were unsure of how to manage day to day life with COVID-19, now we see more widespread agreement among health and science experts about what kind of precautions are impactful. We’ll highlight the guidelines that would apply strictly to designing an effective ILT session.
As recently as May 6, 2020, the CDC makes these important recommendations and strategies (among others) for employers:
- Conduct daily health checks
- Conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace
- Encourage employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace, if appropriate
- Implement policies and practices for social distancing in the workplace
- Improve the building ventilation system
OSHA, as part of its extensive guidelines, calls for:
- Thorough hand washing with soap and water
- The presence of hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol
- Respiratory etiquette (covering coughs and sneezes)
Do People Need To Wear Masks To Attend Instructor-Led Training?
Among the common precautions, masks and cloth face coverings are a point of controversy, which may lead some to ask, “Do participants have to wear masks to ILT?” Here’s where the experts stand.
As recently as June 28, 2020, the CDC “recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
The CDC adds that cloth face coverings may keep the wearer from spreading the virus, but may not protect the wearer from contracting it. In addition, the CDC points to studies that show many COVID-19-positive persons show no symptoms yet are still able to transmit the disease. In other words, people can spread the virus even when not feeling sick, thus the face covering recommendation applies to those who feel healthy, too.
While it is only a recommendation, you should check the policies issued by your city, county, and state governments, as some around the country are reacting to spikes in cases by requiring masks in certain environments and penalizing those who don’t comply.
If no such policies exist in your area, the choice is up to you to require masks, encourage masks, or empower each employee to do what they’re comfortable with while attending your ILT session.
What Does Safe ILT Look Like During The Pandemic?
Considering the guidelines, here’s what safe, effective ILT might look like during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smaller Classes and Shorter Sessions
Because people need to maintain six feet of physical space between them, class sizes for CDC-compliant ILT will have to be smaller than usual. Instructors might need to produce additional sessions in order to safely train all participants.
Additionally, instructors may have to reconsider seating arrangements so that they are in agreement with social distancing guidelines. The sessions should also be shorter, as the longer people spend sharing airspace with others, the more likely transmission can occur.
Fewer Interactions and Role-playing
Another consequence of the social distancing and face covering guidelines is that there are fewer opportunities for interactions, role-playing, and other activities. Of course, those are some of the elements that distinguish ILT from other training modalities. Traditional ILT provides synchronous learning in the form of:
- Lecture and presentation
- Large group discussions
- Breakout sessions in small groups
- Experiential Learning
In a covid-cautious ILT session, you’ll likely have to do away with small group breakout sessions altogether, and getting anything meaningful out of person-to-person role-playing will be difficult, if not dangerous. The good news is that instructors can still rely on engaging lecture and presentation, along with large-group, physically distant discussion.
Training Tip: You could regain the power of role-playing and experiential learning by taking a blended learning approach and implementing some virtual reality scenarios.
Materials Sent To Participants Before ILT Session
Another precaution instructors can take is to send out downloadable participant guides that learners can print and bring to your redesigned ILT session themselves. Doing so reduces the risk of any incidental contact that could result from handing out participant guides and other materials at the start of the session. That way, everyone comes to the ILT session with what they need, making it easier to maintain physical distance.
Ample Amounts of Sanitizer
Any ILT session that occurs during the pandemic should have plenty of sanitizer on hand. Participants and instructors should be able to sanitize their hands and respective workspaces as frequently as they wish. If the ILT involves equipment, such as VR headsets, you’ll need to sanitize it between each use and/or session. In general, you can use alcohol wipes and alcohol-based sanitizer for your cleaning needs.
ILT That Takes Place Outdoors
Instructors could also produce outdoor ILT sessions, if they have access to such a space. While there is some research that suggests COVID-19 transmission is less likely to occur outdoors, transmission can still occur. If you take a session outside, you still need to follow all the guidelines. You should also consider the exposure risk in your community, as areas with high exposure aren’t places you should linger in for long.
Can Virtual Instructor-Led Training Be An Option?
Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) is a pretty straight forward option for those who don’t want to gather learners in one shared space; 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.
You can make your virtual instructor-led training engaging for your learners by including activities throughout the training session. Switching between lectures, discussions, activities, and online practices are the best way to keep your learners engaged and able to retain the information.
So, Can You Safely Put Safety First?
When determining the feasibility of safely conducting ILT training during the COVID-19 pandemic, ask yourself if you can reasonably adhere to the experts’ guidelines. If you can’t safely put the safety of you and your employees first, you might need to explore other training solutions.
Need to talk through your specific concerns and see what your best, safest options are? Reach out today, and we’ll connect you with a learning advisor.