Success in the Virtual Classroom: Are Your Virtual Facilitators Ready?

October 5, 2017 10:08 by Dana Peters
On rare occasions you might have the opportunity to develop new virtual classroom facilitators one on one. But more commonly, new facilitators need to be brought on board in groups. Often the content they will be teaching is the common denominator, therefore a solid Train the Trainer program is the most efficient option for preparing a group of virtual facilitators. The following are some best practices we see to be common amongst successful Train the Trainer (TTT) programs. Facilitator Pre-workIntroduce facilitators to the course content before the first TTT session takes place. This can be done by asking the facilitators to review a recording of a previously delivered session, or silently observe a live session in real time being taught by an experienced facilitator. This review or observation will allow them to familiarize themselves with the content and how the course is delivered.  Encourage facilitators-in-training to take notes from this review, specifically what the experienced facilitator did well, and how they engaged their learners. The facilitators-in-training should also consider what they might do differently in their own delivery of the content. This review will also give them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the technical capabilities and tools of the virtual classroom. Coaching on TechniqueDepending on the experience level of your facilitators, the TTT sessions are also an opportunity to further develop or fine tune facilitation techniques. When TTT sessions are entirely focused on content, timing, and logistics, they fall short of preparing facilitators to their full potential. Successful TTT programs dedicate time to facilitation skill development, specifically the use of different techniques, methods for building a safe learning environment, and encouraging learner participation. Link to Learning ObjectivesFront and center of all TTT programs should be the purpose of the learning programs the facilitators-in-training will be delivering. The well-defined learning goals and learning objectives of each course the facilitators will be delivering should serve as their compass. Their job will be to help their learners meet these learning objectives and walk away equipped to be more effective back on the job.  Facilitators make in the moment judgement calls during live sessions on a regular basis. A successful TTT program gives them a solid foundation of purpose in which they can base their “in the moment” decisions, large or small. Rehearsals Some TTT sessions are conducted as more of a content walk-through session. There certainly is a time and place for content walk-throughs. However, successful TTT programs also have a rehearsal component. This means the facilitators-in-training have the opportunity to practice delivering the content as if it were a live session. Their peers can serve as their learners as discussions are led and activities are conducted. Feedback and coaching from these rehearsals are usually reported to be the most valuable piece of the TTT experience for the facilitators involved.Live Session Observation and FeedbackDevelopment of new facilitators should move beyond the TTT program. It’s important to evaluate a new facilitator’s ability to deliver sessions once they are off and running with live class deliveries. Consider instituting a process of live evaluation and post session coaching that includes written feedback. What experiences have you had with your Train the Trainer programs? What worked for you? What didn’t? We’d love to hear your feedback.

Virtual Learning Programs That Survive and Thrive

September 26, 2017 13:33 by Dana Peters
Adaptability is the name of the game when it comes to the long-term survival of the virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs you design, develop, and deploy. Continuous change is the environment most organizations are operating in, which means we need to move with change as Learning and Development professionals. And certainly we want to do more than just “weather the storm”. We want to thrive as we forge ahead to meet the business needs of the ever changing organizations we serve.Are you prepared to respond quickly when: Leadership changes are made? A merger or acquisition is announced? The vision, mission, and/or goals of the company shift? A swing in your market place occurs, positive or negative? You, your colleagues, and your vILT programs must be nimble and flexible enough to adapt to these changes. But how? We suggest a proactive approach that includes the following five actions. Develop Rough Action Plans. Take time to think about realistic scenarios that you could face in the near future. Develop a rough action plan to give you a leg up if the scenario were to actually occur. Invest Time in Continuous Improvement Processes. Once you’ve designed and implemented your vILT programs, it’s important to maintain lines of communication to make sure your programs continue to align with the company mission and leadership’s goals. Reviewing your vILT courses on a regular basis allows you to refresh portions of the content as changes and updates are needed. Without a continuous review, your course can quickly become obsolete, and without the occasional minor update, you may experience the need for a complete overhaul of your course design. Or it may be seen as bringing no value and be eliminated altogether. Ask for Feedback From Your Learners. In line with continuously reviewing your vILT programs, it’s important to gather feedback from your learners on a regular basis. The collection of learners’ needs over time helps you to understand how job functions are changing and what skill development opportunities would bring the most value to the business. This intel should help you bring the right learning opportunities, to the right people, at the right time. Educate and Inform Leadership. As Learning and Development professionals you probably know your programs inside and out. Your leadership team may not. In order to showcase the value of your programs it’s important to involve leadership in the process. Make sure they are aware of how the vILT programs are performing. Specifically, how they are meeting the needs of the business. For more information on how best to track the value of your vILT program, check out our post: Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off: Measuring Success Back on the Job. Communicate Value and Results. Along the lines of educating your leadership team, vILT programs should be championed at all levels of the company. If the value of your programs have been communicated effectively; when changes occur, you’ll have the advantage of advocates on many fronts. If updates to your programs do need to be made, multiple perspectives can diversify the conversation on how best to do that. These proactive efforts will help to secure your vILT programs long-term success, and the consistent, high quality learning opportunities your learning population needs to be successful on the job. What other actions have you taken to be sure your virtual learning programs can survive and thrive through the changes that may lie ahead?

Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off (Part 2)

August 22, 2017 08:53 by Dana Peters
Measuring Success Back on the Job   In our last post, we discussed building the pathway to learning application to help learners apply what they have learned in the virtual classroom back on the job. This was the first of two items we believe need to be included in the design of virtual learning programs in order to make sure valuable resources (time and money) do not go to waste. As a reminder from the Part 1 post, those two things we need to include are A “post learning event path” that helps our learners apply what they have learned back on the job. A plan to measure results back on the job. This plan should address the following two statements:  We know we are successful when_________________.  We will measure that success by__________________. With number one under our belt, today we’re going to talk about the plan to specifically measure those results back on the job. When it comes to measuring and evaluating learning, I turn to my colleague who is an expert in this area, Ken Phillips, CEO of Phillips Associates. You are probably familiar with the Kirkpatrick Model with the four levels of learning evaluation. Ken outlines these levels in his article: “Learn the Secrets of Survey Design”. In summary those levels are:   Level 1: identifies learner reaction to your program. Level 2: measures whether or not your learners learned anything. Level 3: measures whether or not learners actually applied what they learned back on the job. Level 4: measures whether the business has improved as a result of the applied learning. For the purposes of this post we are going to focus in on Level 3 and Level 4. For a Level 3 survey to be effective, Ken provides several tips in regard to content, format, and measurement. As mentioned, more details can be found in Ken’s “Learn the Secrets of Survey Design” article. Unlike a survey issued to the learner immediately following your virtual learning program (Level 1), the Level 3 evaluation should also involve those interacting with the learner, often referred to as observers.  Observers (those that work with, for, or supervise the learner) are in the position to provide valuable feedback on observable behaviors they are experiencing in their interactions with the learner. Interviews, surveys, and 360-degree assessments are solid tools to support Level 3 evaluation. Level 4 evaluations, according to Ken, are the holy grail of evaluations. I agree. The c-level executives are looking for evidence of business results from their investment in learning and development. Ken suggests thinking about Level 4 evaluations in two phases: (1) Identifying business metrics that have a strong relationship with learning program content and (2) connecting the learning program to the business metrics. Check out Ken’s article: “The Holy Grail of Learning Evaluations: Level 4” for more details. How about you? How do you achieve Level 3 and 4?

Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off (Part 1)

August 16, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
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Are You a Facilitator or a Teacher?

July 12, 2017 11:38 by Dana Peters
  For those of you tasked with the responsibility of delivering courses in the virtual classroom for large corporations, I have a question. Would you label yourself as a facilitator or one of teacher? According to Merriam-Webster… A facilitator is defined as: “someone who helps to bring about an outcome (such as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision”. A teacher is: “one whose occupation is to instruct”. Let’s go back to high school. A teacher stands in front of a class of impressionable young minds. These minds are young, generally lack experience in the subject, and look to the teacher to do just that: teach. These young students go to school to be taught; math, science, chemistry, Spanish etc. Often it is the teacher delivering the information, and students listening and taking notes. Historically, though there are exceptions, it is a passive activity for the students. In corporate learning it’s different, or at least it should be. In the corporate world, your learners are often professionals, sometimes with 5, 10, or even 20 years of real-world experience available to tap into and expand upon. Most will be laser focused on how they spend their time. When attending a required training class they are going to be looking for the benefit to spending their time away from their work. If this is not quickly identified they will probably mentally check out.  The learning experience needs to be personalized, relevant to their work, and clearly advantageous to their success back on the job. The more control they have in the learning process the more committed they will be to the outcomes.  To be effective, we must facilitate learning.  Why is this distinction important? Facilitators encourage discussion and questions related to real-life situations and examples, allowing learners to consider different ways in which the content relates to their jobs.   In a facilitation situation, the learners drive the discussion, moving the conversation in directions that are meaningful to them and their careers. Skilled facilitators will allow this to happen, and guide the discussion to connect to the learning objectives. As a side note, strong facilitators are well prepared. Prepared facilitators know the content and the subject matter so well that conversation can flow freely, diverging several times, and still stay true to the ultimate objectives. Preparation allows the ability to be flexible, nimble, and respond to the needs of each individual. This means that each and every delivery of the content will be different, but accomplish the same objectives. As we said in a previous post, “Proper preparation, planning, and practice allow facilitators to focus on the moment, fully.” By allowing learners to drive discussion, your vILT program will be more applicable to the learners in the classroom at the moment. One class may drive the discussion one way, while another may drive it in the opposite direction. Still, each group of learners’ needs are met. I encourage you to think about your approach and your role in the virtual classroom. Are you a facilitator or a teacher?        

Top Five Strategies to Engage Learners in the Virtual Classroom

June 20, 2017 07:17 by Dana Peters
Learner engagement is key to a successful virtual instructor-led training (vILT) session. Promoting active involvement from your participants can be a difficult task in any instructor-led course, but it can be particularly challenging in the virtual classroom environment. Your learners are remote, sometimes scattered all across the globe, and you’re often competing with busy work schedules, emails, phone calls, and other meetings. So how does a good facilitator connect with learners in the moment, despite these challenges? Keep Class Size SmallSince active participation is important to the success of your virtual learning session, it’s best to keep your class sizes smaller. Think back to your school days. It was much easier to disappear in a lecture hall filled with 200 plus people than it was in a small face-to-face classroom with 15 to 20 other students. A smaller class size allows you (and anyone helping you with the delivery) to keep track of who’s participating and who’s not. It also allows more tentative learners a chance to participate without the pressure of their ideas and answers being shared in front of a sizeable classroom full of people. Of course, it’s not always possible to keep class sizes small. In instances where it isn’t, consider small group breakout activities.Personalize ItThis can be interpreted in a few ways. First, learn as much as you can about the learners that will be in your class. Prior to the session, and during. This might mean a short survey that is part of their pre-work or an introductions activity as the participants gather before class starts. That introduction might include a question related to the course content. Second, utilize what you know about your unique group of participants to connect the content of your course to their specific needs and the work that they do back on the job. Doing so, will provide learners with relatable experiences they can build upon and share. Check out our previous post on facilitation techniques for more detailed information.Use the ToolsThe tools in the virtual classroom are specifically designed for promoting engagement, idea sharing, and conversation. Use them! Utilize breakout rooms, whiteboards, polls, or chat activities to spark small and large group discussion, and leave the phone lines open (as long as there’s not too much noise or distraction) to encourage verbal conversation as well. Asking participants for simple contributions in chat or on the whiteboard can fuel a rich discussion.  For example, you present a group a list of alternatives on a whiteboard and ask them to circle which alternative would work best for their situation. Then to dive deeper, you could call on one or two individuals to elaborate for the group the reason for their selection.Examine How You Ask QuestionsThe types of questions you ask and more specifically, how you ask them, are crucial. It goes beyond asking open-ended questions, you have to extend the conversation and offer opportunities for more participants to get involved. Check out our previous post on the types of questions you can use to facilitate productive conversation. Set and Maintain Learner ExpectationsWe have talked in the past about the importance of setting learner expectations in your virtual classroom.  If a learner doesn’t know why they are taking the class, what value it has to them personally, and what they need to do to be successful before, during, and after class, they are unlikely to be engaged. Good communication is required in order to set and maintain those expectations throughout the course, and we’ve outlined a few strategies for setting expectations in a previous post. Of course there are many more ways to engage learners in the virtual classroom, but these five strategies are a good start. We hope they add value to your virtual instructor-led training sessions. What about you? What have you done to promote engagement in your vILT programs? We’d love to hear.

Three Questions to Size-Up Learning Objectives for the Virtual Classroom

May 10, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
There are so many options when it comes to training delivery methods for your employee learning programs. How do you know when virtual instructor-led training (vILT) is the right fit?To help decide, you need to determine if vILT will meet some of your learning objectives. Notice I said some, not all. This is because usually one delivery method will not get the entire job done. It makes sense that you want your chosen delivery method to meet a healthy portion of your learning objectives, but a blended learning approach is probably going to be the most effective. A strategy that combines a blend of learning opportunities that work together to comprehensively meet all the learning objectives is often the recipe for success.But let’s get back to the question…how do you know if virtual instructor-led training is the right fit for some of your learning objectives?When working on learning design solutions for clients, we ask ourselves the following three questions to confirm whether or not vILT will meet each of the learning objectives. Do the learners need each other for learning to happen? Do the learners need to be in the same place, at the same time, to learn from each other? Will learners be able to demonstrate achievement of the stated learning objective in the virtual classroom? Let’s look at an easy example of these questions in action.Goal StatementBicycles are a popular mode of transportation in our community. The purpose of this course is to reduce accidents involving bikes by promoting the practice of bicycle safety amongst our bike riders.Learning ObjectivesBy the end of this course, participants should be able to: Explain the rules of the road Identify common bicycling hazards Determine ways to reduce the risk of crash, injury, or death Recommend appropriate safety gear Ride a bike safely Now let’s evaluate each of these objectives against our three questions. As you can see by our example: We answered “yes” to 8 out of the 15 questions (more than 50%). Only one of the learning objectives would be completely addressed exclusively through vILT. (#3 - Determine ways to reduce risk of crash, injury, or death.) Considering the learning goal statement, it is an important one. The response to “Will learners be able to demonstrate achievement of the stated learning objective in the virtual classroom?” is a “yes” on four out of the five learning objectives. Two out of the five learning objectives require learners to be in the same place, at the same time. All and all, this is a prime example of the need for a blended learning approach. vILT would be a viable option in combination with other pre-session and post session exercises, readings, knowledge checks, assignments, and partner work on the road. Hopefully, these three questions serve as yet another tool to help you evaluate the role the vILT plays in meeting your organization’s learning needs.

Meet Virtual Facilitator Blaine Rada

March 8, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
In my line of work, I have the pleasure of working with talented people from all over the world. Today, I would like to introduce someone that is almost in my backyard. Meet Blaine Rada.  As a Chicago-based trainer, speaker, and communication coach, Blaine also serves as a Virtual Facilitator here at Mondo Learning Solutions. Some of our clients find their virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs growing at a rate in which their internal facilitation team can’t meet the demand. When this happens, we are often called upon to provide skilled Virtual Facilitators to supplement the internal team. Our Virtual Facilitators, like Blaine, have years of experience facilitating learning on a diverse set of topics. Once engaged with a client on a new program, Blaine works closely with the client to understand the unique learning needs of the learners, and quickly learn the course curriculum and virtual classroom set-up.Many qualities about Blaine impress me but the following two really standout for me…First, is his ability to make content come alive in the virtual classroom. When the situation calls for it, Blaine has the ability to take client specific or off-the-shelf course material and deliver customized, comprehensive, and relatable learning experiences for our clients. There is an unmatched energy when Blaine is facilitating.Second, is his commitment to continuous improvement. Blaine routinely seeks out new ways to engage and promote learning retention; he is always considering how he can enhance the learning experience. Blaine has an impressive background as well: He is a member of the National Speakers Association and has earned a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, a recognition held by fewer than 15 percent of professional speakers worldwide. He has more than 20 years experience working as a corporate trainer for the mortgage industry. He was also named “America’s Greatest Thinker” in 2005 after competing in The Great American Think-Off, an exhibition of civil disagreement put on by The Cultural Center. In addition to his work with Mondo Learning, Blaine is a regular keynote speaker and trainer throughout the country and also coaches individuals on how to be more effective communicators; skills necessary for all facets of life and business. For more information about Blaine, check out his LinkedIn profile here.  

Setting Learner Expectations for the Virtual Classroom: Why, When, and How.

February 28, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
In addition to dynamite content, setting expectations for your virtual instructor-led training (vILT) courses are an important ingredient to the recipe for success.But how do you make sure your learners are ready and prepared for success in your virtual class?There are many layers to that onion, but today, I’d like to discuss learner expectation setting in regard to why, when, and how. The Why Once your course is ready to go live, it’s important to inform your learners about the class, but it goes far beyond just sending out the class link inviting people to attend. The whole point of your virtual class is to meet the learning goal and stated learning objectives. If the learner doesn’t know why they are taking the class, what value it has to them personally, and what they need to do to be successful before, during, and after class, it is very unlikely that the class will be a success. Simply stated, setting learner expectations for your vILT classes is key to your success and theirs. The When When does setting expectations for our virtual classroom learner happen? To successfully set learner expectations it needs to be communicated (and reinforced) at every communication touchpoint. That means… When they read the course description When they register for the course When they received their course confirmation When they look at the meeting appointment on their calendar When they receive or access their pre-work When they receive their reminders leading up to class When they open their participant guide When they first log into the classroom And it needs to continue through the duration and completion of the course as well. The How The “how” centers on good communication. The message about what you are expecting from your virtual learner at every possible opportunity needs to be clear, concise, and consistent. Define your expectations about: Pre-work requirements Testing links and equipment ahead of time Their environment in which they will be joining class from What’s in it for them Their arrival time Attendance Participation during the session Post session work or next steps back on the job Part of setting expectations is repetition. Your learners are busy people with lots of demands competing for their attention. This is why your communication about expectations needs to be concise, consistent, and frequent…at every touch point. The other part is a bit of a sales and marketing job. Your message should clearly answer the following question: What is the value to the learner of meeting the expectations you have set forth? What are your ideas around setting learner expectations in the virtual classroom?

Considerations When Working with a Global Audience

February 15, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
Virtual instructor-led training (vILT) presents unique opportunities and challenges for companies with operations throughout the world. On one hand, a vILT program can bring together learners from all over the world, efficiently and cost effectively.  On the other hand, there are a few more considerations to keep in mind when facilitating and designing learning content for a global audience. From our experience working on global vILT projects, we wanted to share a few key points we think might be helpful for you to consider. Instructional Design What you show and share during your virtual session needs to be applicable to a global audience. This means any image, particularly images representing metaphors, must be broadly understood. Using an image of a bird with a worm in its mouth with a sunrise in the background to represent moving swiftly on a new market opportunity, may not create the mental connection you are looking for with anyone who doesn’t know or understand the expression, “The early bird gets the worm!” Pay close attention to examples, case studies, or stories you’re including within your learning to make sure they are globally applicable as well as inclusive of multiple cultures. Use pre-work as an opportunity for participants to prepare responses for questions the facilitator will pose in class or contributions the participants may need to make to exercises. This will build confidence for non-native speakers to be more comfortable speaking out and participating in class. Facilitation Techniques Facilitating to a global audience can be even more challenging. Many times you will be presenting to learners who don’t natively speak your language. Let’s use English as an example. Many learners around the world know and understand English, but many don’t consider themselves fluent. It’s important to speak clearly, enunciate your speech, and slowdown in pace. The number one piece of constructive feedback our clients receive from learners is that the facilitator speaks too fast. Consider what specific questions and directions you will pose in class verbally. We suggest having those questions written out on the slides, posed as poll questions, or posted in the chat. Often times, second language learners will be more comfortable reading the questions or writing their responses than speaking. This will encourage active participation from all learners. Consider also posting key learning objectives in the chat or in written form as well. Keep in mind; this may take up some extra class time. Work with your course designers so they understand whom your core audience is and the need to build in extra time for communication. While speaking, it may be tempting to refer to current events, pop culture, or to speak in slang or jargon. Be wary, these references may not connect with learners not native to your country. Additionally, we suggest practicing pronunciation of foreign names. While most learners will not be upset if a virtual facilitator mispronounces their name, they will notice your effort to try and get it right. This will help with connecting with the learner on a personal level and encourages engagement and active participation as well. Scheduling Scheduling is another item to consider when working with a global audience. Pay close attention to the differences in time and eliminate time-sensitive phrases like “Good Morning” from your delivery. During breaks or when timing portions of your learning program don’t use the exact time it is for you. Instead practice using phrases like “ten past the hour” or “half past the hour” to make your time reference applicable to all learners, regardless of time zone. It’s important also to consider global holidays and traditional work hours across the world when scheduling your virtual learning session. For example, most companies would avoid scheduling a virtual learning session on Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, but Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated globally. Independence Day is different for every country, and religious holidays take priority over work in some countries too. While it will be impossible to accommodate every country around the globe, be aware of where your learners are located. Take care to consider major public holidays and work hours. There are many considerations to working with a global audience. What other strategies do you have?

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