Build a better virtual training program
Best practices for virtual instructor-led training
Oct. 26, 2020 | By: Stephanie Newland
The transition to working remotely has been a little different for everyone. As businesses figure out how to virtualize their operations, a hot topic has been how to keep employees engaged, productive and current on the latest technologies. The answer: virtual training.
The transition from in-person training to a virtual delivery model will also look different for all organizations. However, there are a few best practices and recommendations that our team at TEKsystems Learning Solutions believe will set your organization up for success. Here we answer some of our clients’ most frequently asked questions on how to evaluate, adapt and successfully deliver virtual training.
What is virtual instructor-led training?
Virtual instructor-led training (vILT) is a version of a standard instructor-led training (ILT) class with virtual interactivities added to keep learners active and engaged in the virtual sessions. Key point: The course has the same core content as an ILT but different activities.
What makes content suitable for virtual training optimization?
When ILT activities need to be converted for a virtual setting or platform, you have to alter their build slightly. For example, vILT interactivities allow instructors to gauge learner understanding and verify participation, as well as create engagement. These activities are not only required for overt practice and reinforcement of knowledge—in a virtual environment, they’re crucial to keeping learners engaged and present.
What are some best practices for creating virtual learning activities?
There are things that make virtual learning stand out—for good and bad reasons. Here are a few high-level tips to optimize your virtual learning activities:
- Have a minimum of one interactivity for every five to 10 minutes of instruction. Assume it takes one to two minutes per slide to teach, so have at least one interactivity every five slides.
- Vary the use of interactivity question types throughout the course. For example, fill in the blank, scenario driven, true/false, and multiple choice or multiple select. Depending on your platform of choice, you can also consider other available functionality, such as live polling and quizzing. All of this helps further learner engagement.
- Avoid having students respond verbally to interactivities. Verbal responses are difficult in a virtual setting, as others can’t see cues for when to speak.
- Avoid using interactivities that require only a few students to respond. It’s important to make sure we maximize the participation for each interactivity. Interactivities that require only a few students must include good debrief questions to bring the rest of the class into the discussion.
- Align the formatting guidelines set forth by your team or marketing organization. If you don’t have these, make sure that you spend some time creating formatting guidelines for virtual activities, such as:
Keep text formatting consistent for interactivity slides:
— Ensure font size is large enough and bold for easy reading.
— Include a title for the interactivity and clear instructions for students.
— Bold any headers, such as "Question," "Instructions," or "Scenario."
- Include each activity’s estimated duration, objective and step-by-step procedures.
How can we best support virtual instructors?
Virtual learners aren’t the only users that need support. Make sure your virtual instructors have the information, resources and tools required to teach, mentor and engage remotely.
- Formatting instructor notes go a long way. Use the Notes section in PowerPoint for instructor notes. Italicize instructor notes to help them stand out from other types of student notes.
- Keep instructor notes clear and concise. Write instructor notes as simply and clearly as possible, highlighting the critical information on how to deliver the interactivity successfully.
- Give each slide a key point and a transition statement. This helps drive consistency in your training and is particularly helpful for virtual instructors or subject matter experts who may be leading more virtual sessions than previously expected.
- Provide the instructor with a good purpose statement and debrief or follow-up instructions. These are as critical to successful delivery as the interactivity’s lead-up instructions.
- If possible, add a support person to all sessions to handle:
— Welcoming learners and providing operational organization
— Reviewing session logistics, how to raise a hand, how to ask or answer a question using your platform of choice
— Answering questions for help, whether via chat or directly, and assisting the instructor
— Keeping track of “parking lot” questions that can’t be answered in real time and owning follow-up
— Keeping track of enhancements or errors in current training that need to be addressed for the next delivery
- Give instructors enough time to practice. A dry run on actual delivery logistics, checking on their audio and video quality and ability to manage the platform’s functionality, e.g., screen share, polling.
How can I create hands-on practice activities that optimize the learner’s experience?
First, think through how the learner’s experience should be.
- Will the class be told to be quiet and muted while they work on their hands-on tasks?
- Will the instructor need separate virtual classrooms for a subset of learners?
- How will learners get help from the instructor during practice?
- Will practice be separated out into one section or peppered throughout?
If the instructor intends to demo first, be sure that the instructor tests their access and ability to share their screen through the platform of choice. Ensure that others using the test system are aware of the training schedule to avoid usage overlap that may reduce system performance.
How can I prepare in advance learners’ technical or training questions?
When conducting hands-on practice virtually, it is important to have a clear protocol for getting help in the moment of need. Set up a protocol for who is to be called on and for what kinds of questions. Set up agreements with subject matter experts and others receiving questions to identify expected turnaround times. For example, calling a dedicated person for technical issues should have a response within five minutes.
How should learners register for virtual learning?
Expect that setup of virtual classes on a learning management system (LMS) to track registration may take more time than your typical ILT setup. Make sure your LMS or registration tool has the ability to automatically add registered training to your calendar. With virtual training, it’s crucial for learners to know what they signed up for and when it will occur. More virtual work means more reliance on the calendar to keep track of required training or tasks.
- Ensure that instructors and students all have the equipment and level of bandwidth necessary to share video and consume video from others. A good headset that is not dependent on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is good to have as a backup.
- Encourage students to use the “Chat” feature in WebEx or other system to ask questions, talk to other participants or otherwise actively engage during the instructor’s presentation.
- Virtualize the ILT icebreaker to allow students to test out the virtual software functionality.
- Review standards and policies for training, e.g., joining late, leaving early, no-show.
Where should I go to learn more about virtual training?
TEKsystems Learning Solutions has been delivering vILT for nearly 20 years. In this time, we’ve recognized that longer courses can cause screen fatigue and have been adjusting our delivery approach through our TEKsystems Academy platform to address this obstacle. We offer an immersive, scalable and blended learning and coaching platform that blends self-learning (self-paced, videos), group-based project work and real-time interactions (discussion forums, mentoring/coaching) to reach large numbers of participants. We believe that blended learning solutions using technology and flexible delivery maximize learning interventions that adapt to the individual, allowing them to take the training on their schedule without pulling them from their jobs for days at a time.
Stephanie Newland is a practice manager within TEKsystems Global Services. She’s spent the last 20 years within the learning and education field and currently manages our IT business solutions offerings to help support customers’ needs and address complex IT and business challenges.