Posted by Louann Swedberg and Brian Ziemba ● April 9, 2020

Adjusting to the New Normal of Conducting Training Virtually

convert ILT to VILT

There are challenges to working remotely—every day. Some colleagues have shared tips about working virtually since we have been doing it for some time.

As we all adjust to the new normal, the recent travel bans and social distancing have made it impossible to conduct in-person training or meetings. We’ve heard from many clients who have had training cancelled and need help reconfiguring for virtual or digital delivery. 

Some organizations are ready to convert in-person training content into an eLearning format, but that can take time, and it won’t provide the same human touch as instructor-led training. If you already have an instructor and content, consider flipping your training into a virtual course. Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) provides a way for people to attend at the same time, benefit from the talents of your facilitator, and still be able to engage by asking questions or discussing in small groups.

The challenge is often in optimizing for virtual delivery and building in ways to keep the human connection strong. Here are some tips for preparing your existing content for virtual delivery:

Get Ready

Take stock of what you have

  • Audience awareness: Think about your audience and their readiness for virtual training. Some questions to consider include: What is their attention span? Are they set up in their home offices for virtual training? Will this be their first virtual training? How big is the audience? What technical constraints are you working with (network connectivity, bandwidth constraints, video capabilities of participants, maximum participants supported by video conferencing tools, etc.)? Use the answers to these questions as you plan and build the virtual experience.
  • What’s in your toolbelt? To conduct training virtually, you need a tool that supports presentation of visuals (typically PowerPoint slides), audio, and camera video at a minimum. Common web conference platforms include WebEx, Zoom, Adobe Connect, and others. Which tool or tools does your organization have in place, or can quickly implement?

    Typical web conferencing features include chat capabilities, white boarding, and polling questions. More advanced functions include virtual break-out rooms and multimedia sharing. Most basic functions such as screen-sharing and video are easy enough to learn quickly, but polling and breakout rooms will take a bit of practice.
  • Have a helper: Utilize a colleague to play the Producer/Co-Facilitator role. Having another person available during the session to monitor the chat and take care of any troubleshooting takes the pressure off and produces a more seamless event. It’s also helpful to have a different face and voice for variety, and to help facilitate the breakout sessions.

Review content readiness

  • Chunk it up: Virtual training on a computer or phone is not the same as being in a classroom. Break your course into smaller chunks of content to help with bandwidth and learner attention. For the overall training time, we’ve found 1.5–2-hour sessions to be the sweet spot for learner attention. You can cover all of the same content but may need to break your training into multiple sessions with breaks in between.
  • Keep it active: Fight multitaskers by building in activities and ways for participants to interact with you and with others. Include poll questions, use virtual break-out rooms for group activities, let ‘em draw with white boarding, or open up the microphones for participants to share examples or ask questions.
  • Invest in visuals: Participants should focus on the facilitator and the content being presented. Use less text and spruce up visuals to keep participants engaged. Best practices include changing the visual at least once every 30–60 seconds to keep participants tuned in.
  • Build in breaks: It’s exhausting for you and for your participants to be on and participate for long periods of time. Allow time to get up and walk away every so often, but be sure to post a reminder on the screen about the return time.
  • Find opportunities for fun: Especially these days, we can all use some fun or a quick diversion. Use humor, anecdotes, and stories to introduce content, lighten the mood, or just provide a mental break.

Get Set

  • Do a dry run: Conduct a dry run with the technology and your Co-Facilitators to test the connection, verify your timing, and ensure you know how to use all the features of your web conferencing tool. Adjust timing and techniques as needed.

Go (Deliver)

  • Flex time: Allow some extra time at the beginning of the session for participants to assemble and ensure the technology is working. Be sure they can hear you and see the presentation screen.
  • Face time: If your participants have video capability, encourage them to use it. Seeing colleagues will help keep all engaged—plus it’s probably a welcome sight to see co-workers and will make the experience more valuable.
  • Acknowledge the elephant in the room: Plan for a bit of time upfront to talk about this new normal that we are facing. Acknowledging the challenges and providing an outlet to share will allow participants to get it off their chest and be able to focus on the content.
  • Follow up to maintain engagement: Retention improves if the learning experience lasts beyond the classroom. Follow up with an email that includes a survey or some helpful resources.

The Benefits Are Real

Virtual instructor-led training is cost-effective and offers many advantages of traditional live training. It provides learning leaders a platform for delivering scalable, high-impact training to geographically dispersed and sheltered-in-place audiences. VILT can also seamlessly merge multiple delivery methods, including eLearning, live training, and informal learning.

Caveo has been a virtual organization for many years, and we’ve created and delivered many virtual events. Let us know how we can help you adapt to this new normal.

For more information about the benefits and challenges of implementing a virtual training program, and tips for preparing facilitators for success, click below to check out our White Paper on VILT:

White Paper—Take Your Training Virtual: The Benefits and Challenges of VILT

 

Topics: Instructional Design, Training and Facilitation, VILT, Working Remotely