How to engage modern learners in virtual training sessions

Image of a deer in a field looking / engaging to help demonstrate why designing the right kind of virtual training session is important to engage modern learners today.

There is no doubt that the demand for interactive virtual training sessions is on the rise. With an emerging global workforce and employees working from remote locations, organisations are seeing the benefit of having virtual coach-led training sessions that are not only cost and time effective but also encourage two-way collaboration. According to a Citrix report, companies save between $9,550 to $15,870 (£7289 to £12113) by moving just one face-to-face workshop to a virtual workshop.

Sysmex, a manufacturer of hematology instruments, implemented virtual instructor-led training (VILT) for all new customers. The results showed that Sysmex was able to move from training 900 customers per year, to training over 2,000 customers per year. Technological advances are making virtual training sessions more feasible and it is also important to focus on creating learning transfer through engagement and interaction.

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Today’s modern learners — keen to learn but distracted

There are endless distractions for modern learners today, encouraging them to tune out of a virtual training session. Therefore, it is essential to understand what is the educational, professional and cultural background of the learners. As much as designing the right kind of virtual training session is important, you also need to ask yourself a few questions such as:

  • What is the purpose of the virtual workshop?
  • How will this training aid the participants?
  • What are the likely learning styles?

This information will provide a strong strategy for developing a highly engaging virtual training session. Remember, if the content is personalised and relevant, learners will be more fully invested in the tvirtual workshop.

If this is true, how do you achieve the sort of engagement which appeals to the always-on-the-phone, always-on-the-go kind of learners? Here are a few tips and techniques that can help in creating meaningful and engaging virtual training sessions:

7 tips to create engaging virtual training sessions

1. Encourage interaction during the virtual workshop

Encourage interaction as soon as the session begins. By introducing the participants, sharing information on chat and pairing learners, you encourage inclusivity and contribution. Breakout sessions and group activities can help them get to know each other, feel involved and share insights and experience to deepen the learning outcome.

2. Stay relevant with real examples and case studies

Modern learners are smart and well-informed. They harvest new information constantly. So, by using real-world examples and case studies, you can heighten engagement. Not only is this an excellent way to get them to internalise the virtual training as it prompts them to solve problems, but it also enables them to put their analytical skills to use. Case studies allow participants to build on their experience and skill-sets and give them the opportunity to focus on figuring out how they would have solved a particular problem in real life.

3. Provide opportunities to collaborate

Including opportunities for collaboration during the virtual training session is another way to keep modern learners engaged and invested. Techniques like group discussions, role-playing or partner interviews encourage collaboration and involvement. Think of the difference between a webinar based approach of one-way download of information compared to what you can achieve in interactive virtual training.

4. Have a quality participant’s checklist

All virtual workshops need a participant’s checklist stating all the things they need to carry or do in order to have interruption and distraction free and successful learning. Make sure you have provided them with a clear checklist and logging in details once they have agreed to attend the workshop. An example of a checklist is as follows:

  • Find a quiet place for the virtual training session where there is no external sound
  • Ensure your devices are on “do not disturb” mode
  • Ensure you have a strong internet connection throughout the session
  • Test your connection in advance before logging in
  • Disable any other notifications for the duration of the session
  • Use a hands-free headset so you can type notes

The list can be modified according to your workshop requirements.

5. Include powerful and impactful visuals

Using only PowerPoint slides as a delivery medium can get mundane. Make virtual training sessions more engaging by adding videos, audios or get a graphic designer to illustrate real-time graphics. While you do that, it is important to make sure the selected visuals are connected with the theme of the module. However, pay attention to the overall design and formatting of the training module to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the user and take away from the learning. Using visuals, videos and other multimedia formats helps to plug into the varied learning styles of the audience

How to engage modern learners Check out our video to accompany this blog here!

6. Use visual and voice chat functions

Messaging has become an integral part of our lives and while it might sound like a simple tool, it is one of the most powerful engagement mechanisms that can be applied to a virtual training environment as well. Building voice and video chat capabilities into virtual workshop not only allows for the coach and participants to build a connection but also helps when challenges arise. Using a chat feature allows for engagement through tools like sharing files, screens and collaborative whiteboards. The chat feature builds accountability within the learners because now they can be seen and heard, in real time, even if they are logging in from a remote location. Visuals and voices are powerful mediums that elicit strong emotional responses and have been proven to increase engagement and retention of knowledge.

7. Remove any distractions

Since participants are often logging in from different locations, it’s impossible to control distractions at their location. However, it is possible to overcome any possible distractions from yours. Prevent others from disturbing you and your workshop, keep pets out and turn off your devices other than those necessary for the workshop. Ensure that from your end the potential for disturbance is minimised.

Last bits

Virtual workshops are a powerful tool for engaging learners when they are done well with energy and application. The digital impact survey 2019 reports that 42% of businesses are investing in this digital medium for training. An interactive virtual training workshop is cost-effective, environmentally friendly, great for work-life balance and it can speed up the rate of learning transfer. All these benefits should guide you to build virtual training sessions that are informative, interactive, engaging and valuable for all your learners.

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