When you gather learners for virtual instructor-led training (VILT), you can’t control their environment as you can in instructor-led training (ILT). They’ll encounter distractions in their remote locations that you simply can’t do anything about, which makes learner engagement additionally challenging.
As we discussed in Virtual Training 101, the one fundamental way to preserve engagement and knowledge retention is to keep your VILTs short and sweet — no longer than an hour. That poses another challenge: How do you maximize that precious time? We have some suggestions. Let’s explore!
In this article, we’ll share eight tips to make your VILT effective and engaging, including:
- Program Your Polls And Breakout Activities Beforehand
- Add Variety To Your VILT Small Group Breakouts
- Keep The Class Size Small
- Prioritize The Most Important Content and Deliver It Early
- Consider Game Show Formats For High Engagement
- Use Pre- And Post-Session Time Wisely
- Turn Off Video For The Big Group
- Have A Designated Producer or Panelist
Program Your Polls And Breakout Activities Beforehand
This tip for maximizing your VILT isn’t just a best practice; it’s a must-do. In most VILT platforms, you cannot add polls and breakout activities after you begin presenting. Make sure you set them up beforehand and label them in a way that’s easy to understand, so they’re ready to roll as you start presenting.
Add Variety To Your VILT Small Group Breakout Activities
Ideally, you’ll have more than one small group activity in your VILT; be sure to switch up how the groups are divided, which will help the session feel dynamic. You can do this in a couple of ways:
- You can change whom you group together.
- You can change how many you group together.
For example, you could divide the class into groups of six for one activity, and you could divide them into groups of four for another. Again, make sure you plan beforehand!
Learn More: Managing Breakout Rooms in Zoom
Keep The Class Size Small
A surefire way to maximize your time in a VILT is to keep the class size small. A good rule of thumb is to cap a session at 24 participants. That’s about as large a class size as you’ll want while still being able to divide participants into groups evenly. Plus, if you follow the tip above and add variety to the small groups, having 24 participants gives you multiple options.
When setting class size, you should also consider whether you seek a free-flowing, conversational VILT; if you do, a smaller class is more conducive to that. If you’re partial to a more structured, lecture-leaning VILT (with breakout activities, of course!), you can afford to accommodate a larger class size.
Prioritize The Most Important Content Early
If you clicked your way to this article hoping to leave with at least one, straightforward takeaway, this might be it. Prioritize the most crucial content upfront. Make sure you identify your most valuable information and dive into it at the start.
Don’t leave it for last, because you might not get to it. That is especially true if you opt for an unstructured, discussion-based VILT, as opposed to designating the last 10-15 minutes for Q&A.
Consider Game Show Formats For High Engagement
If you think your content needs an extra boost for engagement purposes, you could pursue a game show format. Doing so empowers learners to participate in a way that they may already be familiar with. And the best part is that it’s easy (and in many cases free) to set up! There are existing templates for games like Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud, and more — all with a training focus. All you have to do is plug in your content and let your learners give it a whirl.
Strategically, you’ll want to use a game show at the point in the VILT where you’re ready to challenge learners to demonstrate what they’ve learned. Note: A game show activity does not replace a formal knowledge check. It’s a way to liven up the learning portion of a VILT.
Use Pre- And Post-Session Time Wisely
Another way to optimize your VILT is to make use of the time before and after the session.
Beforehand, you need to pique your learners’ interest. A few ways to do so include:
- Send them a video, a document, or anything that is a glimpse of what’s to come, and ask them to reflect on how the VILT might be interesting to them.
- Assign a reading or other work to be completed before the VILT session.
- Ask them to consider how it may help them to work more efficiently or have an easier time doing their job. Think of it more as a self-brainstorm rather than a question that you’ll field answers to in the session; it can merely be a means of getting your learner thinking about the VILT.
After the VILT, be sure to follow-up with links to all resources that you referenced during the session. That includes anything that was captured on the virtual whiteboard. Additionally, the ideal time to send your formal knowledge check is immediately after the session. Even after that, occasional follow-ups will help to make the content stick with your learners.
Turn Off Video For The Big Group
Video conferencing is certainly a technology to celebrate, but the truth is it can get in the way of a successful VILT, namely, in that it’s distracting and can slow down transmission.
So, prior to a session, you’ll want to turn off video for participants when in the large group. On some platforms, you can enable video for participants only when they’re in their small groups for the breakout activities. That’s one way you can leverage the power of video without sacrificing the effectiveness of your VILT.
Have A Designated Producer or Panelist
And last but not least, you should have a designated producer online during the session. Doing so frees you up to focus on presenting the information. Producers can monitor the questions coming from learners, capture what goes on the whiteboard, and help to transition between presentation mode and activities.
As The Beatles obviously meant to sing, we can all get by with a little help from our producers!
Ready To Make The Most Of Your VILT?
Hopefully, you can take those eight tips and apply them to your VILT, resulting in a maximally effective session! The trick is to find ways to be ultra-efficient while keeping the focus on the subject matter.
Still looking for more ways to improve your VILT? We’d be happy to talk about a specific project with you!