Learning Trends to Watch in 2018

January 9, 2018 15:25 by Dana Peters
  With the New Year upon us, we look ahead towards the opportunities in our field to meet the needs of our clients. Based on our conversations with our clients, the following are the hot topics on their project radars for 2018.   Mobile Learning Mobile devices are everywhere. This is not a new trend. Learning professionals continue to adapt in order to accommodate learners’ mobile lifestyles. Companies have already started moving their content to mobile platforms and applications. Employees rely on mobile devices to access information and training content while on the job. This trend goes beyond the formal training session to meeting the learners where they are, when they need the information. Mobile learning also supports another trend we see gaining in popularity: Microlearning. Microlearning Time is valuable. So is training. Companies are starting to realize that not every training opportunity needs (or can) be a two day training session. Our clients have started to take advantage of microlearning opportunities, short bursts of learning that employees can consume in a short period of time. The trend suggests that as more people continue to do more with less, microlearning techniques are better received and retained by employees. We expect this trend to continue. Content Curation Part of content curation again speaks to the individuals desire to have knowledge at their finger tips. The increase in accessibility of the internet, particularly on mobile devices, puts answers in front of people almost immediately. In a learning atmosphere, we can use that thirst for knowledge by curating relevant and accurate information in one place for employees. We see this happening with unique internal content such as company manuals, policies, procedures etc., but also by leveraging relevant and useful existing content from external sources. This might be content on federal regulations, from law libraries, or targeted general topics such as proper email etiquette, or health and wellness information. Big Data As today’s business world continues to move in a digital direction, data in the business world becomes easier to collect and use. Industries across the board are realizing the value of collecting that information and the learning industry is no different. Again, not a new trend, but we see our clients continuing to capture analytics on learning tool utilization, content access, and knowledge application on the job.  Using the data helps learning and development professionals quantify activity and show value they can directly link to business results. Distributed Workforce This is also a trend we have continued to see grow over the past several years. As more employees desire flexible work schedules and technology continues to improve working from home, larger groups of employees are able to do their jobs remotely. A remote workforce can present new challenges. Managers leading remote teams need different skills to support their teams successfully. Our clients and other learning professionals continue to enhance learning curriculum in support of the skills necessary for both individual contributors and managers to be successful in a remote work environment. Gamification of Learning This is a trend we will explore in more detail later this year, but we do see this trend continuing to gain traction in 2018. New studies indicate that some forms of game based learning have higher retention rates than more traditional methods. We see some clients exploring gamification methods to take the mundane out of mandatory training requirements and encourage employees to engage in the learning process. Some organizations are exploring new ways to ‘gamify’ their existing learning programs for their in house training, compliance courses, information security, and other procedural trainings. As we kick off 2018, we will be on the lookout for these and other trends in the industry, and will continue to share our resources and experiences. Wishing you great success in the year ahead.

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Learning Trends

Planning for the Unexpected...What’s Your Plan B?

January 10, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
The virtual training environment offers individuals the opportunity to connect from wherever they are in the world.  While the convenience is great for everyone involved, as the Producer of the session it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure success, no matter what happens. This means having a backup plan, and sometimes a backup plan for your backup plan. While there are always necessary exceptions, we recommend you produce your sessions from the same controlled environment whenever possible. This environment will not only allow you to prepare for the unexpected and have the necessary contingency plans in place; you will also feel the most comfortable and prepared in a familiar environment. Typically, our Producers have a designated office or conference room where they work from. This is a space they personalize to how they work most efficiently and effectively. When thinking about contingency plans, it’s important to first determine what equipment enables you to best produce your virtual training session and then think about your potential backup plans for each potential point of failure.  Our Producers have several contingency plans in place in case of emergencies like inclement weather, technology failure, or other unforeseen circumstances. We recommend accessing online virtual training sessions from a reliable Ethernet connection and using a landline telephone. From our experience, these connections tend to be more reliable than their wireless counterparts. Our Producers are able to then use additional mobile devices, wireless Internet connections, UPS, and secondary laptops as backup resources for the various points of failure. Be aware of the circumstances surrounding inclement weather in your facility. If you lose power, is there a generator that will kick on? Do you have a UPS in place? Will you be forced to find your own power source? We recommend keeping backup laptops charged, and having a wireless hotspot available. For extreme cases, we recommend having a secondary location you can go to, just in case. This may sound over-the-top, but as we mentioned, the virtual learning environment allows individuals from all over the world to come together online at the same time. That means individuals in all different time zones, dealing with different technology, equipment, and weather patterns are relying on you to produce a successful session, no matter what. Ensuring your contingency plans are in place will undoubtedly help you do that. What backup plans do you have mapped out for your virtual sessions?  

Be Seen: The Pros & Cons of Facilitator Web Camera Use in the Virtual Classroom (Part 2)

October 18, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
In our last post, we outlined the pros & cons of using a web camera in your virtual training session and we promised we’d go into a bit more detail in our next post. Well here we are. To refresh your memory, the pros & cons list can be found here. In almost all cases, it won’t be a good idea to put a facilitator on camera the entire length of the virtual session. This is true for a number of different reasons. First, the bandwidth necessary for a web camera to function, and function properly, is often an obstacle. Even if the connection speed on your end is sufficient, it’s difficult to know with certainty what the internet bandwidth will be like for all of your participants. If this is the case, the value of having the facilitator on camera goes from being an effective enhancement to a frustrating distraction for your participants. This is even more of a concern if you are working globally. Second, even skilled facilitators will need ample amounts of practice with a web camera in order to effectively deliver a lengthy presentation. There’s nothing natural about it. Engaging with the camera is a skill of its own. This, in addition to ample time to test the camera and set up the facilities workspace will be required in order to make sure lighting and sound quality is up to par. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the use of a web camera adds another layer of complexity to the session delivery that can take away from the goals of the session and meeting the learning objectives. So when do we recommend having a facilitator use a web camera at certain times? Yes, there are instances when a webcam, used effectively, adds value. Introductions The use of a web camera for facilitator introductions can be an excellent value-add to kick off your virtual session. By allowing a facilitator to virtually “meet” your session participants via a web camera at the beginning of the session, you can create a more personal and intimate bond that can be carried through the remainder of the session. Q&A Q&A’s are also great components of a presentation where the web camera can actually bring value and intimacy to the discussion.  Closing The same can be true for closing remarks and thank you sections. These sections are typically shorter, so the web camera won’t need large portions of bandwidth for an extended period of time. They are also sections where participants should be focused on the facilitator, not on slides or other course content. What do you think? Have you successfully utilized a web camera in your virtual training session? In the coming weeks we will outline a few ‘best practices’ for using a web camera in your virtual training session, but until then we’d like to hear from you. What has worked for your sessions?  

Be Seen: The Pros & Cons of Facilitator Web Camera Use in the Virtual Classroom (Part 1)

October 13, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the virtual classroom provides several advantages over the face-to-face environment for both learners and facilitators. However, the virtual environment also comes with what some may perceive as disadvantages. The most common; not being able to physically “see” your audience and the audience not being able to see you. As more and more platforms begin to add capabilities, including the ability to use web cameras in the virtual classroom, it may be assumed that the virtual session can easily be turned into a comparable face-to-face session by simply turning on your web camera. If you have spent any time communicating through a web camera, you know it is not the same as being in person. There’s a time and a place for the use of web cameras in a virtual session. In this post I’ve laid out a list of potential pros and cons you, as a facilitator, can use to evaluate whether or not your being on camera is a “value-add” or a distraction to your learners. At a glance… Pros Participants being able to see the session facilitator(s) helps put a face to name. It’s especially useful for introductions and the welcome time. Allows for virtual eye contact from the facilitator, potentially a more personal experience, if done well. Helps to establish the connection between the facilitator and the learner. Cons Web camera use can create new distractions: Participants may focus on what’s in the facilitator’s camera shot rather than paying attention to what is being discussed. (What’s that on the wall behind the facilitator?) If the audio doesn’t match up to the lip movements of the facilitator. Paper shuffling/background noises in the facilitator’s environment. Poor camera engagement on the part of the facilitator. Eye shifting from notes to camera to elsewhere. There is an increased opportunity for technical issues: If the video feed is slow/skipping (low bandwidth situations). User error. Little to no control over participant device or network. Time investment for the facilitator to test equipment, develop skills, and prepare. Using your virtual platform to its maximum capabilities can be beneficial to the outcomes you’re trying to achieve with your virtual training sessions. The use of web cameras during a session can be a value-add, if done correctly.   Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss in detail why it might not make sense to put your facilitator on camera for an entire virtual session.

Visual Appeal: The Importance of Visual Elements in the Virtual Classroom.

August 9, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all, undoubtedly, heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In my business, I’ve learned that that may actually be an understatement. The design and application of visual elements is critical to a successful virtual presentation or training session. I would argue that the virtual classroom is a visual medium, more so even than a face-to-face classroom environment. Rather than looking at a physical presenter, participants in the virtual space are staring at a screen. It is important that what learners are visually taking in, strongly supports and enhances the instructional message.Studies across industries have found that images, info-graphics, and videos are at least 500 percent more likely to be seen than words that deliver the exact same message, and it goes beyond just the use of images. Visual Design components like aesthetics, colors, and fonts can enhance and encourage engagement and retention.  As a side note, Tim Slade, an e-learning professional, author and speaker for Artisan E-Learning and E-Learning Uncovered, has a lot to say about this. I featured his perspective in a previous post.Visual components in the virtual classroom to consider include the PowerPoint presentation, any electronic documents that are shared or displayed, video clips, image files, webcams, and the physical classroom layout (if customizable). We will cover the visual use of webcams in a future post, but today I’d like to focus mainly on the PowerPoint presentation, the primary visual tool for your classroom. The visual aesthetic of your pre-work materials, as well as any shared or displayed documents is important too, but serve mostly as secondary visual tools. The ideas I present ahead will apply to these secondary visuals as well. First and foremost, I have a few key guidelines for you to consider when designing your virtual classroom slides: Less is More The words on your slides should be just enough to reinforce or support your discussion. It should not be a script of what you are planning to say. Use whitespace. What’s NOT on the slide is just as important as what is. Whitespace helps draw attention and allows your participants to focus in on what is important. Make it Interesting and Relevant In the virtual classroom, slides are a key visual element, they should capture interest quickly. Make sure images are on target and easy for participants to connect with. Are they relevant and suitable for the message you are trying to communicate? Design slides that spark conversation and get participants thinking. Be Clear and Consistent Maintain focus, don’t cover several topics on one slide. Don’t force the participant to read text packed slides, they can’t read & listen to what you, and others, are saying at the same time. Let’s take a look at an example. This “before slide” demonstrates what NOT to do. So where are the opportunities for improvement? There are way too many words on this slide. We’ve determined already that participants cannot read and listen at the same time. The image on the slide is too large, there’s no whitespace, it’s difficult to read, and there’s not a clear focal point. Next, same slide, but designed using our key guidelines. You’ll notice: The image is smaller, which makes it more relevant and less distracting. There’s more whitespace on the slide. We’ve also chosen to illustrate the “process” through movement in boxes rather than bullets. This allows the viewer ample space to comprehend. Additionally, the text that appears on the slide is both important and useful, it doesn’t repeat, but offers a highlight of the important concepts. Visually, the second slide is more appealing. It captures the attention of the viewer, and encourages questions, discussion, and participation. Remember, in the virtual classroom, your participants will mostly be looking at the screen, at your presentation. Virtual sessions often bring together participants from all over the world. While languages across the globe come with their own anecdotes, expressions, and idioms, when selected appropriately, images can be universal. What can be said in 300 words on a slide can be said with a single image and potentially be understood in virtually every language. What can you share about your experiences with virtual presentations? I’d love to hear your thoughts.  

Eight Must-Have Resources for Every Virtual Learning Professional

July 27, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
I read, and I read a lot. The virtual training world is fast moving, and ever changing. For me, one way to ensure I’m staying current with virtual learning trends is to learn from the experiences of others. Each spring, I go through a pretty massive spring-cleaning regimen. Clothes that no longer fit, papers I no longer need, and books I’ve already read, but never seem to pick up again…gone. Books take up a lot of space, and even though I’ve read a lot of great books, I don’t keep the majority of them. The following eight books, however, always remain.  While I’m always on the lookout for more, the books below have served me well as my “go to” resources for tips, best practices, and inspiration for the work I do in the virtual learning space. I hope they will do the same for you. •        Visual Design Solutions by Connie Malamed In the virtual space, visual design is critical. If the design falls short, the quality of the learning experience and end results will too. The easy-to-read comprehensive format allows me to hone in on specific design solutions, concepts, and real life applications. I regularly reach for this book while I’m consulting on projects with clients or creating instructional materials for our own professional development workshops. •       The Book of Road-Tested Activities by Elaine Biech This book is an excellent resource for ideas and techniques associated with engaging training activities. As a virtual learning professional I’m always looking for great tried and tested group activities to implement in our virtual learning environments. While many of the activities in this particular book are created for the in-person ILT environment, they still often spark my creativity as I design for the virtual classroom. Not only does author, Elaine Biech, provide several well-tested games and activities, she also segments the activities by content areas such as communication, listening, sales, teamwork, and leadership skills. •        The Successful Virtual Classroom by Darlene Christopher This book is another good resource for effective engagement. As you can imagine, engagement is paramount for a virtual session to be successful, and author Darlene Christopher provides several proven techniques to engage the online audience. I find myself reaching for this book regularly for example case studies, stories of successes and failures, but also great tools, techniques and example checklists. I am also honored to be quoted in this book. (Thanks, Darlene!) •        Interact and Engage! by Kassy Laborie and Tom Stone Did I mention that engagement is paramount? This is another excellent resource for breaking the monotony of the virtual lecture.  The authors do an excellent job of remedying poor online training experiences and utilize several activities and training techniques to not only improve engagement, but also drive retention of information. The book provides numerous example activities and exercises for taking your virtual session to the next level. Plus it’s written in a light and humorous tone, making it an easy read. •        10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations by Wayne Turmel Author, Wayne Turmel, provides a quick, easy-to-read, resource for nearly every kind of virtual presentation in this book. The book coaches virtual presenters on how to appear calm under pressure, and engage as if they were conducting an in-person session, which is no easy feat for most people. He provides general rules, tools and lists to help guide his reader, and I find myself using this book regularly as a resource for my team, my clients and as a reminder for myself. •        Great Webinars: Create Interactive Learning That Is Captivating, Informative, and Fun by  Cynthia Clay Cynthia Clay is the chief executive officer of Net Speed Learning Solutions. She has worked in the online learning space for a number of years, and shares her wisdom and wealth of experience in this book. She too, put together an easy-to-read resource for creating and managing virtual sessions. I find myself regularly referring to her book when I’m working with clients to really zero in on their eLearning strategy. Her focus is on blended learning. The book outlines best practices, and the importance of meaningful content and an engaging delivery approach to maximize learning. •        Live and Online by Jennifer Hofmann This is another design and interaction resource for me. The book walks you through techniques and suggestions for participant involvement, outlines what works and what doesn’t work in the virtual classroom, and helps you to identify whether or not the tools you’re using are helping or hindering collaboration. Hofmann provides sample exercises using familiar tools.  I use this book regularly as I review instructional design plans for a new or repurposed course. •        The Virtual Presenter’s Handbook by Roger Courville Yet another “bible” for the virtual learning professional, with more tips on how to keep remote attendees engaged. This book provides me with guidance to help train all types of facilitators, and help prepare them for working in the virtual environment. As we all know, it’s different than presenting or facilitating in-person. This book includes several “mistakes” facilitators should avoid when transitioning from an in-person presentation to a virtual presentation. What are your “go to” resource books? Share with me in the comments, I’d love to hear.   

Peeved: Top Ten Mistakes Virtual Presenters Make That Annoy Learners.

May 24, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Participants are brutally honest. Or at least they can be when it comes to providing constructive feedback for your virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs. If you’ve never collected feedback from your participants after a session, you should. It’s a major way to really understand what portions of the program need a makeover. Over the years we have had the opportunity to hear from a lot of participants about what they like about learning in the virtual space and what drives them up the wall. Like members of your own family, they will tell you the honest truth if you ask, and will tell you in a roundabout way if you don’t. Below, we’ve outlined what I’ve identified as the top ten participant pet peeves, and suggestions on how to avoid them. My hope is that throughout the development of your virtual instructor-led training programs, you can use this as a list of what to be mindful of.  Top Ten Participant Pet Peeves #10: “What is the point of me doing two hours of pre-work? It was never incorporated into our class activities or even referenced!” Time is a valuable commodity. Your participants are busy and often times have "to do" lists that stretch for days. At the same time, pre-work is a necessary element to most vILT classes. Generally, participants don’t mind doing pre-work, as long as it’s relevant. They want to know the time and energy they invest in pre-work will add value to their learning experience. Honor this by making sure your pre-work is impactful. #9: “How am I supposed to complete two hours worth of pre-work if you send it to me the day before our session?” Again, your participants are busy. If you want to ensure they actually complete the pre-work, give them their assignments and outline the expectations well in advance of the session. Showing respect for their time, will ensure a mutual respect for the value-add the pre-work brings to the course. #8: “I signed up for this course, but I have no idea how to get there. If this were in-person I’d have a date, a time, and a location where I need to be. Why didn’t anybody tell me how to get to the classroom?” Communication is key in a virtual learning environment. This starts even before the session does. Make sure you’re participants have the correct log-in credentials and the correct hyperlink that goes directly to your virtual learning classroom. In some cases, this communication is your learners’ first experience with you. Not communicating effectively or accurately is sure to make an impression, just not a good one. Make sure you provide all this information concisely and accurately and you’re participants will be on board with the session from the beginning. #7: “I thought this class was scheduled to be done by now? Why is the facilitator still talking?” It’s no surprise that a lot of these pet peeves center around time. Time is valuable, as we’ve said. While participants value the training and development that emerges from most virtual sessions, they still expect sessions to start and end on time, and you should too. Participants are often blocking off specific times during their day to complete these training sessions. If there is a delay in the start of the class, communicate clearly the reasons and do your best to still end on time. #6: “Oh no, not another awkward ice breaker… I don’t care where my fellow participant went on their last vacation, and I can certainly tell you what emotion I’m feeling right now. You won’t want to hear it.” Ice Breakers only belong in the classroom if they are relevant to the topic at hand. If it’s a smaller class size, having participants introduce themselves, their department, or where they are geographically located is a nice way for everyone to get familiar with who is in the room. Asking them to come up with a word or phrase to describe some relevant portion of the training they are about to take is great too. Keep in mind though that nobody wants to listen to 25 or more people introduce themselves and a laundry list of extra items. They aren’t going to remember everything about everyone, and they certainly don’t want to hear about what 25 different people are going to bring when they are trapped on a deserted island. You get the idea. Be creative, but don’t be kitschy, and take advantage of tools in your virtual environment that might allow people to introduce themselves in different ways. #5: “What does that say?” The virtual learning environment provides several opportunities to be visual. Just like the in-person classroom setting though, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to see something because it’s too small, too cramped, or clouded by distracting animations and designs. In a virtual space, you have no control over what size screen your participants will access the session from. To keep your learners from having to bury their noses in their laptops, do your best to keep long paragraphs of text to a minimum, don’t make the text too small, and make sure any graphics or animations are useful and not distracting. Work with a design team to select appropriate color combinations that make your content easy to read and understand. When in doubt use a "less is more" approach. #4. “Oh, you’re still talking? Great, let me just … zzzzzz…” Participants have a hard time tolerating virtual sessions that are boring, scripted, and lecture based. In an in-person classroom setting it’s easier for the facilitator to make eye contact and engage with their learners in a non-verbal way. In a virtual session, it’s important to be more deliberate. Design the course so it’s not just one person talking the entire time. Involve participants in the discussion, ask them questions, and get their input or they will just zone out. #3: “Hello? Hey, look at me… I have an answer! Hello?!” Participants want to engage. They want to be heard, and when they know the answer or can add something valuable to the discussion they want to be able to share. That can be difficult in a virtual session if they aren’t given the opportunity to do so, or if you aren’t watching for their cues. It’s important to pay attention to the tools the participants have at their disposal. A virtual raised hand, or a chat message is the only way they can communicate with you without interrupting. Make notes to yourself that remind you to look for chat activity or raised hands, and give your participants ample opportunity to contribute. If necessary, work with a host or a second facilitator who can help watch for that type of communication. #2: “Wait, what did she say? I wasn’t listening … I was distracted… those directions weren’t very clear.” Clear, concise, and accurate instructions are imperative for a virtual learning environment to run successfully. Particularly when it comes time for learners to do an exercise or break into teams to complete an activity. Make sure the activities are easy to understand, and practice the delivery of your instructions. Take extra effort to speak slower, and repeat important pieces of information more than once. Even though you expect your learners to give the virtual learning environment 100 percent of their attention, we all know that doesn’t always happen. They might be distracted by noise in their location, activity in the hall, or even chats and discussions happening inside your virtual space. #1: “What’s the point of this session? Am I supposed to benefit from this information somehow?” Any virtual learning session has to serve a purpose, and more importantly, that purpose needs to be clear to those attending the course. This starts with the instructional design process. A solid design targets a set of objectives and sets the stage for participants before they even log in to the virtual environment. Good presenters will outline the expectations for the course work, and make sure learners are aware of the benefits to them. This step is critical if you want participants to do more than just sign in. Outlining the development opportunities and the potential takeaways learners can receive will ensure they not only sign in, but that they listen and engage as well. Do you have other pet peeves that you’ve heard from your participants? We’d love to hear them- leave your comments below.

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Learning | Training | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning

Does the Facilitation Team Bring Its A-Game to Your vILT Programs?

February 24, 2015 12:14 by Dana Peters
I have yet to meet a delivery team for the virtual classroom that didn’t want to knock it out of the park on every single session; you know, bring their A-game and really rock the house. Having a meticulously prepared facilitation team is another component organizations need to focus on in order to successfully implement (and maintain) a thriving vILT program. A facilitation team, at minimum, generally consists of a presenter (trainer/facilitator) who is responsible for meeting the learning objectives of the course and a producer (host/moderator) who handles the technical aspects of the environment so that the presenter can focus on the content, the participants, and course material.  Well-defined roles, and a facilitation team that is familiar with the course material, the technology, the participants, and the learning objectives of the course will mean the difference between success, and a quick derailment. Extensive time and preparation should be allowed for each member of the facilitation team to become comfortable with: their role within the virtual learning environment their modified skill set to be effective in this environment the technology required to fulfill their responsibilities the course materials and content While the delivery methods between a face-to-face session and a virtual session are different, how we define success in the learning environment, and what we need to do in order to be successful are the same. Facilitators should be prepared to utilize the same skillset they are familiar with for delivering in-person trainings, with adjustments to account for not being able to see faces and read body language. There is a lot we could dig into when it comes to the virtual facilitator’s skillset. Here are a few of the biggies.Virtual facilitators need to learn to ask questions differently. “Are there any questions at this point?” Nine times out of 10 when a virtual facilitator asks a closed ended question like this one, it will be greeted by silence. Whereas a question like this one is more likely to result in responses: “I have just given you several scenarios…which one is most relevant to your work and why? I’ll give you a minute to think about this. Please raise your hand when you are ready to share.” A few more thoughts around questions: I always suggest counting to 5 before deciding no one wants to contribute. Remember, they need to think of a response, remember how to raise their hand, and take their phone off mute. Always give clear direction as to how you want participants to respond. Making connections with participants. Use participants’ names frequently in session. Reach out to participants before the session and learn what they are hoping to gain from the session. Learn as much about the group as you can. Yes, this will take time, but it will make the session more personal which draws people in. Ask people for simple contributions and call on certain participants to elaborate. 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 steer the discussion down a certain path you could call on one or two individuals to elaborate for the group. Facilitators won’t become experts overnight. They should be given the material and ample amounts of time to not only prepare for session delivery, but also to practice and become familiar with using the virtual environment. Consider a development plan that provides an opportunity for facilitating in real-life situations, and the opportunity to observe other facilitators in action. Of course, a virtual facilitator is in the best position for success when working with materials developed specifically for the virtual learning environment. Check out our post on this topic: The Design Difference: Considerations for the Virtual Classroom. What successes have you had in preparing your own facilitation team? Is there anything that worked particularly well for your organization?   From our perspective this component in our approach is just as important as the other three. If you’re wondering what the other components are, you can read about them in my post: Building Bullet Proof Online Training Programs. 

Culture Shock…Is Your Organization Prepared to Support Virtual Learning?

February 5, 2015 08:52 by Dana Peters
In the past, I’ve talked about four components organizations need to focus on in order to implement, and maintain, a successful, virtual instructor-led training program.One of those components is taking the steps to create a culture and climate, within your organization, that encourages, supports, and prepares your online learners. For many organizations, this component often gets overlooked. Culture drives everything you do within your organization, and it’s no different with virtual training. Taking the steps to market the program internally, garner executive level support, and implementing specific steps to adequately prepare participants to learn in a virtual environment can mean the difference between a vILT program that is “just OK,” and one that can really knock someone’s socks off. Now, I know what you’re thinking. In a work environment where we’re already doing more with less this sounds like a lot of work. Let’s break this component down into pieces.  Marketing Creating awareness and buzz around the program you want to implement is not only beneficial, but also crucial to its success. If possible, enlist the help of your marketing department. Create a message that sells the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the class, and then deliver it frequently and in different ways. The audience needs to know what they are gaining from taking the class. It’s important to express the value, the relevance, and why the class is a solution to a specific problem or need they have.Executive Level Support Leaders have a major influence in shaping an organization’s culture. In order for any major shift in “how we do things” to be successful it must have adequate support and backing from leaders at the top. Even better, a leader championing the “new way.”Show your managers and senior executives the technology you’ve selected, and illustrate the benefits the organization will reap from implementing a successful program. Common benefits we see with clients are: Cost savings. Money in travel alone to attend or deliver training, not to mention lost productivity time while out of the office on the road. More convenient and flexible training opportunities for both learners and presenters. Collaboration opportunities. Learners have access and exposure to the expertise of their distant colleagues they may not normally be able to attend training with. Show your executives the value of the program, and the plan for marketing the material, and let them be your advocates. Preparing Your Learners Taking steps to adequately prepare your learners for the virtual training experience will be crucial to the success of your program. For many participants, the virtual learning environment is new, and unfamiliar. In addition to constructing a marketing message for the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the program it’s important to focus on the ‘how’ as well. Participants should be informed of the tools and equipment needed to access the virtual training sessions and what the expectations and outcomes will be as a result of the session. This should be done, not surprisingly, well in advance. Demonstrations of the virtual learning environment (as you plan to use it) should be scheduled to visually show the ease of use of your designated platform. This could be as easy as a quick video tutorial or as in depth as a live orientation session. Additionally, documentation and instructions should be distributed to learners, and additional direction, instructions, and platform use reminders should be built in to the training sessions. As your learners become more familiar with the virtual learning environment, they should become more comfortable. Is there anything you would add to this list? Have you had experience implementing similar ideas in your company? I would love to hear your feedback.  From our perspective this component in our approach is just as important as the other three. If you’re wondering what the other components are, you can read about them in my post: Building Bullet Proof Online Training Programs.