The world changed forever over the last year and the time has come to accept that there is no longer any argument around “is virtual training effective?” Done right, it definitely is!
Over the course of the last few months, organizations everywhere have converted to the virtual classroom in the absence of a physical one.
We find the idea of people being unaware of virtual training unlikely at this point, but for those of you asking, “how does a virtual classroom work?” and “is virtual training effective?” – don’t worry, we have you covered in this pillar page.
Virtual Training vs Classroom Training
Done correctly, the only difference between a virtual classroom and an in-person classroom is the physical environment.
In a well-constructed virtual, or online classroom , you can perform all the same functions to the same degree and efficiency as a physical one.
Virtual instructor-led training can also take place live and in real-time with the attending participants, allowing for collaboration and active skill building.
The only difference in virtual vs classroom training is that the participants log in via an online platform such as Zoom or MS Teams rather than traveling to a central location to physically inhabit the same space.
How to conduct virtual training
It will come as little surprise following the above information, that hosting virtual training is very much the same as facilitating physical in-classroom training.
Participants arrive by logging into the chosen virtual meeting platform, where they are met by their trainer, who is ready to engage them from the beginning. Great facilitators get participants talking and interacting as the other participants arrive, getting conversation going and relationship building off to a good start.
Once everyone is logged in, the workshop can begin.
Throughout the experience, a good facilitator will ensure that all participants are engaged and have equal opportunity to speak and interact with both themselves as the trainer and also the other participants.
Facilitators make full use of the platform functionality, using a variety of features and tools in order to further engagement and interaction while achieving learning transfer and better retention of content.
How to make virtual training effective
As with any training, virtual training will be effective provided that the content is strong and the delivery is the best it can be.
That being said, the virtual learning environment calls for different skills than the physical one, so virtual facilitation needs to be reflected in this. As you have no doubt heard us say before, simply taking the slides from a physically classroom workshop and delivering them online isn’t going to cut it.
We have pulled together the 5 best practices for virtual delivery that will give you and your colleagues the tools to be even better virtual trainers, creating stronger and more impactful engagement and enhanced learning transfer.
Know the virtual training tech
It is vitally important to get really familiar with whatever tech platform has been chosen to run the virtual workshop on, whether it is MS Teams, Cisco WebEx Training Centre, Zoom etc.
Good virtual trainers know that in order to conduct virtual training to a high standard, they need to have invested the time in ensuring they know the functionality of the platform, have discovered its limitations and have practiced until its use is seamless in all aspects.
Being able to navigate a platform with confidence throughout the workshop is key, so that any complications that arise during the session can be dealt with quickly and effectively.
For extra help with some of the popular virtual training platforms, check out our YouTube channel for some virtual training platform tutorials.
Use a video camera
Making the most of the video function available on almost all virtual training platforms is key for making virtual training effective. It enhances the interactivity and feelings of co-location and connectivity, making it easier for participants to form relationships and read the body language of other participants.
Encouraging participants to enable their camera can also be beneficial. Helping them get over any shyness they may be feeling can really help them to feel more connected to the group and make communication easier.
By now, many have experienced how time feels very different in the virtual environment, and so in order to delivery virtual training effectively, trainers must be prepared for tasks to take longer.
This means that trainers must adopt a more ruthless approach to editing their included content, which includes keeping that which is critical to the required learning objectives and knowing where they can flex.
This means that natural, rich conversations can be allowed to take place, without facilitators needing to rush through content later.
Learn 3 Different Time Tips to Make Your Virtual Workshop Brilliant
In the virtual classroom, it is key to facilitate conversations between participants. This is one of the aspects that new virtual facilitators dread; they expect the ‘tumbleweed’ moment, the long and heart-breaking silence that follows an asked question.
This is why it is important for facilitators to direct their participants how they want participants to respond when the workshop begins. This can be through the functionality through the platform; for example, a whiteboard, chat box or by sharing an emoji.
Preparing questions in advance, keeping them short and to the point, and including them in the slide deck, will help trainers to create conversation and engagement more easily.
New trainers will be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed with everything they need to think about; the tech, the slide deck, the timekeeping, monitoring the chat etc. But a key aspect that makes virtual training effective is the facilitator themselves.
Virtual training is a lot more fun when the trainer is relaxed and enjoying themselves. If facilitators can unwind and bring their ‘full selves’ to the workshop, they will usually see an improvement in the experience for the participants, allowing for easier conversations and an increase in trust within groups.
How to make virtual training interactive
Interaction is a huge part of any training workshop. It is having steady and regular interaction that will enhance learning transfer for the participants and give them a good experience of a virtual workshop, thus making them more likely to attend future sessions.
So how do you make the virtual training interactive?
A fantastic way of keeping virtual training effective is by asking regular questions of the participants. This way, they feel engaged and involved in the discussions that are taking place, as active learners as opposed to passive bystanders to a webinar.
Getting them involved in discussions by asking questions is a great way to keep virtual training interactive and engaging for all participants involved.
Polling, or voting, is a function which is included in almost all virtual training platforms available to date. It is a quick way of asking your participants questions and getting them to weigh in with opinions or thoughts, especially, if the facilitator is looking to start a group discussion.
A poll enables participants with the click of their mouse to show their position on a question or statement easily. Most of the polling systems in the virtual training platforms are straightforward and easy to use, so we recommend you do so!
Further to this idea of getting participants engaged with a group discussion it can also be a great idea to split them into smaller groups in order to facilitate more intimate discussions with their classmates.
As with the polling ability, most platforms come with a breakout room function which enables trainers to split their full group into closer groups. This can encourage the interactivity, build trust and establish relationships between participants.
Asking for regular feedback at the end of the workshop can help interactivity in a variety of ways. It can make participants feel that their input is genuinely valued and that their experience of the workshop is important.
It fosters interactivity through stimulating participants to give their thoughts and opinions on their experience, and in turn can help facilitators and designers alike see where the workshops are performing well and where they may require some adjustments to achieve optimum learning transfer.
Encourage facilitators to keep a learner log
A learner log is a diary of engagement that a trainer keeps during the delivery of their workshop. It allows them to keep track of which participants have contributed and how often. This helps keep virtual training interactive by encouraging participation from all, rather than a handful of individuals.
Learn how to use a learner log in this short video
Want more tips on how to deliver great virtual training? Check out our
20 tips to facilitate a virtual workshop – the Rookie’s Handbook
How to design virtual training
So, by now, facilitators should know better than to adopt the mindset that they can simply take an existing physical delivery slide deck and present it online. Doing delivery this way will not yield the results that L&D teams are looking for.
So how do you design virtual training from scratch?
Consider the end goal
When getting ready to design virtual training, opening up PowerPoint whilst thinking, “Alright, slide 1…” is entirely the wrong approach.
At VTT, we frequently ask: how can designers know what they want to include in the content if they haven’t carefully considered the outcome that the facilitator wants to achieve from this virtual workshop?
Starting at the end, with the end result clearly in mind, can make the design process smoother and much more focused.
Read More: Starting with the End in Mind with Westminster City Council Case Study
Westminster City Council are proud to consider themselves a world class organization. They approached VTT to ask if we would create a bespoke workshop tailored to their requirements which would focus on helping individuals to foster a sense of responsibility and take ownership of their development progress.
Consider all the content
Considering how to make virtual training interactive is a huge part of successful design. That being said, it is important to work through the key messages and skills that the designers want participants to absorb from the workshop.
If they’re seeking to convert something that already exists as physical in-person material into a virtual workshop design, the designers may have some content to begin with.
Don’t rule out replacing models and processes with those that are more appropriate for the virtual environment. It is key for designers to set time aside to really consider what could be included.
Even if designing virtually from scratch, designers need to be creative and remember to always keep sight of what you are trying to achieve from this virtual workshop.
Choose the content
This must be one of the most ruthless steps in a virtual design studio.
There is a plethora of good models and processes that exist, and it is possible for designers to get overwhelmed by the amount of choice available.
But it is key that designers come back to the purpose of the virtual workshop. If there is content that doesn’t help get the participants to the required outcome of the workshop, then it should be sacrificed.
Virtual workshops are best delivered in a bite-sized format, so it is worth considering having shorter, more regular workshops to achieve the levels of content required, rather than simply increasing the length of the workshop’s runtime.
Plan the design process
To make virtual training interactive and effective, the designers need to plan the timings delicately. As we’ve highlighted above, everything takes longer in the virtual space, so it is key that timings are considered carefully in the virtual design process.
For example; if you have included a particular model in the virtual workshop to explore, how will the trainer do this? Will they explain the model and then have a discussion via chat? Will they put people into smaller breakout groups to complete posters?
Designers should aim to achieve variety in the approaches, but always with purpose and taking into consideration the best practice for each suggested model and how it feeds back into the required goal.
Make the content engaging
It comes as no surprise that people love stories, examples, questions, imagery, and science. This section is all about adding flair and character to the content.
It is by adding this that the content becomes even more interesting, memorable, and engaging. Designers may decide to start investigating photos to use in the deck, or research case studies to further bring the content to life.
Bring it together
This is where designers need to think about sequencing the virtual workshop. They need to double check the timings and content order and decide how the content is going to come together. How does all of this fuel the overall goal of the virtual workshop?
At this point in the designing studio process it can be helpful to consider some alternative options for various groups, if there are timing issues. Where can cuts be made? Where is the flex?
These are important things for trainers to know, before delivering the virtual workshop.
Create the intro
One the very last things to do is to consider how to get the virtual workshop going. No one wants a slow starting virtual workshop. They have to start with a bang in order to get participants engaged right off the bat, so designers should ensure it starts with flair.
Consider how the trainer will grab the participants’ attention as they enter the session, and get them interacting with the delivery platform.
The welcome slide is the opportunity to start creating context for the participants straight away, and get them into the zone for the topic at hand.
By putting the thought in and really considering how to kick things off, virtual designers can ensure that the workshop gets off to the best start.
Create the slides and extra materials
Alright, now you can go into PowerPoint. We know you want to.
It’s time to pull all your hard work into a seamless, flowing, simple to follow slide deck, plus any extra materials you might need.
Well done for reaching the bottom of this pillar page. We would like to think that by now the world has gotten much more used to the idea of hosting training session virtually, but if there are still such questions as “how do I deliver virtual training?” and “is virtual training effective?” we hope that these queries have been answered in the above information.
Transitioning to the virtual world can be challenging, but there are plenty of resources available to help facilitators and designers alike to make the shift.
If you are still feeling uncertain and need a helping hand, that’s where we come in.
If you would like help from the experts, get in touch with us today.