Believe…A Stress Free Year End is Possible

November 14, 2017 10:46 by Dana Peters
It’s that time of year again. The holidays are right around the corner, and before we know it the New Year will be upon us. The end of the year always comes with the traditional holiday stressors like family, cooking, shopping, and holiday travel.  But for virtual instructor-led training (vILT) professionals, the end of the year can bring on even more stress if proactive steps aren’t taken throughout the year. We’ve compiled a list of the most common stressors faced by many vILT professionals, and more importantly, how to avoid them. Last Minute RequestHere it is November and the rush of calls, emails, and instant messages from learners declaring their need for more opportunities to take “xyz” course before year end is in full swing. Despite several scheduled courses during the first ten months of the year, this mad dash to meet course completion goals seems to always crop up in the last two months of the year. Avoid this stressor by making sure to effectively communicate your learning opportunities early and often. Think about how an effective marketing campaign works and apply some of those strategies. Regular communication from a variety of channels and encouragement to enroll now in the courses needed will offer some relief to the year-end rush. Scheduling on Short NoticeWith the last minute request volume that seems to come at year-end, the desire to serve learners and accommodate these needs leads to the attempt to schedule a few more sessions before the year is over. Between the holidays, vacation schedules, budget restraints, and other year-end business demands, this can be next to impossible. The key to avoiding this stressor is preparation. Build in a buffer. Schedule extra classes around the end of the year several months in advance as part of the preparation for the onslaught of learners needing classes. Extra classes can be consolidated or cancelled if need be but adding them last minute is very difficult.Low Attendance RatesSchedules at the end of the year are jam packed for everyone, including learners. Despite extra effort to add a few last minute classes to the learning calendar, often the result is low attendance rates and cancellations. Avoid this stressor by communicating year round learner expectations for attendance and participation. For more information, check out this post we previously wrote on setting learner expectations.  Finalizing Next Year’s BudgetThe end of the year often means final budget decisions for the New Year. It’s a stressor every department in every company has to deal with, and one virtual learning professionals have to deal with too. All dollars need to be justified and accounted for. To relieve some of the stress, continuously demonstrate value and contribution to business results throughout the year, not just when it’s time for budget discussions. Plan for the budget meeting by understanding what the goals of the business are in the upcoming year and creating the connection from your learning programs to meeting those goals.  We’ve done a few posts on earning executive buy-in that you might find helpful.Can you relate? What else is stressful for you this time of year? While each of these may resonate with you, survival is possible with proper preparation.

Is Your Virtual Training Program On Target or Missing the Mark?

July 25, 2017 09:00 by Dana Peters
Is your virtual instructor-led training (vILT) program meeting the needs of your business, or is it falling short of expectations? If your program is not quite hitting the mark, perhaps there is work to be done in one of the following five key areas. PlanningPlanning is an important step early in the process to ensuring the success of your program. Proper planning is centered on the goals you have for each of your vILT classes. What are you trying to accomplish? Identify key learning objectives and design your class to meet those objectives. Identifying your needs will help you decide which platform, delivery method, and learning design will put you in the best position for success. For more information on planning your vILT course, check out a recent post on evaluating learning objectives for the virtual classroom. PreparationEveryone knows that preparation is important but it is often the part of the process that gets short changed. Many companies will spend thousands of dollars in resources designing their vILT programs, and not nearly as much time or energy making sure their facilitation team is fully prepared to deliver the sessions. We see this most when industry experts or professionals are looped into the process after the design phase of the program. While the content and subject matter might seem like an easy leap for many industry professionals, the environment, the technology, and the delivery method may be more of a stretch and requires skill development and preparation. We recommend the use of dress rehearsals as part of the preparation process. A dress rehearsal gives every key player involved in the session, a chance to work through the kinks, test equipment, and practice “hand-offs” planned during the session. For more tips on preparation check out our post on dress rehearsals.Delivery Effective delivery is where the rubber meets the road. Your virtual facilitators can make or break your virtual training simply on how they deliver the session. Do they have well developed facilitation skills? Are they enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the topic? Do they present with energy or do they sound as if they are reading from a script? We recommend the use of a content outline, and a detailed facilitator guide for the session. This will allow facilitators to deliver the course material in a manner that achieves the core objectives while also letting learners drive discussion. We’ve done several posts on facilitator delivery techniques and preparation. Check those out here and here.EngagementPart of delivery is engagement. If your learners aren’t engaged throughout the session, the learning objectives cannot be met. A good facilitator will engage with learners on a personal level. They will incorporate existing technology to ask questions, encourage dialogue, and drive discussions. As mentioned in the delivery section, facilitators should be able to meet the course objectives while letting learners drive the discussion in directions most applicable to them. Check out our post on facilitating versus teaching for more information on engaging your learners. Follow-up Feedback and follow-up is the most easily forgotten part of a successful vILT program. This is important for two reasons.First, for the continuity of your program. Gathering feedback from your learners will provide you with valuable information on what is working and what isn’t, what needs to be changed, adapted, or cut. Secondly, following up with your learners is the ultimate litmus on whether or not your vILT program is actually accomplishing your learning objectives. Are learners accomplishing what is intended, back on the job? Is it truly applicable to their careers? Whether or not your learning objectives are met determine the ultimate success of your vILT program from both a learner perspective and the business results perspective. Watch for our two part post on learner follow up coming next month.Avoiding any one of these key steps could be a mistake for your vILT training program. Take a look at your program; are you accomplishing each one of these? Are there others you would add to the list?

Ditch the Bubbly: Water is What Matters.

May 19, 2015 09:23 by Dana Peters
Instructional designers and subject matter experts (SMEs) of virtual instructor-led training, this post is especially for you.I know I am preaching to the choir when I say, “time is precious.” This sentiment is magnified in the virtual training space. After all, your intention is to offer your participants learning opportunities that support their success back on the job and, of course, you need to do it with less time. If you struggle at what I refer to as the “pare-down process” when converting face-to-face classes to virtual classes, set the stage at your next design review meeting with this analogy. Champagne vs Water Think of all the information you have on your topic as either champagne or water. Champagne information is nice to have, an offshoot on the topic, or more of an FYI. Champagne information is not critical it’s a luxury. Learning objectives will be met without it. Conversely, water information is essential to topic at hand; absolutely necessary to the learner being successful at reaching the learning goals, and for results to be achieved back on the job. Without water it is not likely learning objectives will be met. I invite you to take a closer look. Often times, virtual learning sessions are repurposed from longer, more in-depth, face-to-face learning sessions. But how do you take a half-day in-person class and turn it into a 90 minute virtual learning session without losing its effectiveness? Now, SMEs, I know it’s not unusual for you to think every piece of content in your class is valuable. You are the experts and you’re passionate about your subjects. I respect that...a lot. Designers, this is where your SMEs need your guidance to stay on track.   With your well-crafted learning objectives front and center, comb through the material page-by-page or slide-by-slide; decide what absolutely needs to be included in order for your participants to meet the objectives.Do a reality check. Ask previous participants of the past face-to-face course to help you drill down to what they actually applied back on the job. Asking previous learners about the true value will help you identify your water content. So what about all that champagne? Don’t throw it down the drain just yet.Champagne content could be included elsewhere in a format that is more elective and self-directed. Think podcast, discussion boards, and internal blog posts. I realize some of your learners are hungry and want to absorb everything they can on a topic. Certainly serve that population, but separately and on demand.  How do you decide what content is water and what content is champagne?  What is your approach for making those kinds of decisions?