6 Strategies to Maintain Relevant Virtual Learning Programs

February 13, 2018 10:23 by Dana Peters
Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to the long-term survival of the virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs you develop and deploy in the ever changing organization you serve. As a learning and development professional, are you prepared to respond quickly when: Leadership changes happen? A merger or acquisition is announced? The vision, mission, 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 flexible and prepared to react to these changes. But how? We suggest the following strategies: Develop Rough Action Plans   Take time to think about realistic scenarios you could face in the near future that would impact the effectiveness of your vILT programs dramatically. Develop a rough action plan to give you a leg up if one of these scenarios were to actually occur.   Follow a Continuous Improvement Process   Once you’ve designed and implemented a vILT program, it’s important to maintain it to make sure your program continues to be relevant and aligns with the needs of the business. Reviewing your vILT programs on a regular basis allows you to refresh portions of each program as updates are needed. Without a continuous review and evaluation, your program can quickly become obsolete, and without the occasional minor update, you may experience the need for a complete overhaul to your program. Or, worse yet, the program in question may be seen as bringing no value and be eliminated altogether.   Evaluate Your Program’s Impact   In line with continuously reviewing your vILT programs, it’s important to survey your learners and the business on a regular basis. Gaining feedback from your learners will help you make sure you’re meeting their individual needs. Surveying the business will confirm you are meeting the company’s learning goals and objectives.   Educate and Inform Leadership   As a learning and development professional, you know your programs inside and out. Your leadership team may not. In order to showcase the value of your programs, involve leadership in the process. Make sure they are aware of how the vILT programs are meeting the needs of the business, and share with them the feedback you collect from your learners. For more information on how best to track the value of your vILT programs, check out our previous post: Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off: Measuring Success Back on the Job.   Enlist Advocates to Help 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 has been communicated effectively, when changes occur in the company that impact your offerings, you’ll have the advantage of advocates on many fronts. If changes to your programs need to be made, multiple perspectives from your advocates can diversify the conversation on how to meet needs.   Be Proactive   Once a new vILT program is underway, it’s important for your Learning and Development team to remain engaged. Monitor the learner feedback and regularly check in with the leadership team to make sure your program is still on target with company objectives and goals. Being “high touch” will allow your Learning and Development team to proactively recommend changes on the front side rather than reacting after the fact. Your ability to maintain flexibility within your vILT programs will ensure its long- term success. What strategies have you implemented to maintain a robust and relevant learning program that meets the needs of the business you serve?

The Modern Learner: Are You Meeting Their Needs?

January 30, 2018 18:10 by Dana Peters
Thanks to several factors, five generations make up today’s workforce; each with their own unique aspirations, motivations, and life experiences. It’s quite possible today’s workforce is the most diverse any business leader has experienced. From a training standpoint, the changing workforce and the emergence of new technology has changed the definition of what today’s learner looks like regardless of generation. The modern learner knows no age. It’s imperative that companies and learning development professionals continually grow and adapt their learning culture to meet the expectations of today’s learner. Reaching today’s learner begins with understanding who they are and what they want.   We’ve developed a short list to define today’s modern learner. Knowing and understanding who today’s modern learner is, can help you decide if your company is doing everything it can to reach them effectively.    Today’s modern learner is…   Requires Convenience   Today’s learner is on the go. They want to be able to ‘learn’ everywhere they are. This can mean accessing learning opportunities from their desk computer and phone, but it can also mean accessing it from home, accessing it from a tablet, or from their mobile device, whenever and wherever they want to.   Seeks Instant Gratification Time is valuable for today’s learner. They are often overwhelmed and overworked and almost always distracted by some internal or external force. Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that the average attention span of today’s adult is just 8 seconds. That means in 8 seconds or less, your learner will decide if your session is worth his or her time. Clearly stating the objectives up front, the course agenda, and intended benefits of the session will hold the learners attention for the duration of the session. Mixed media including video, activities, and small group work will also help retain learners’ attention. In addition, today’s learner wants answers now. On demand learning is crucial for today’s learner. That’s why technology like Google, Alexa, and Suri are so popular. It’s important to make sure your company can provide opportunities and resources for in the moment and on demand learning.    Demands Value & Relevance   This too plays into gratification. Today’s modern learner wants it all. Not only do they demand instant gratification and convenience. They want big returns on their investment of time and energy. Time is valuable and today’s learner does not want to spend time away from day-to-day work for something that has little or no relevance to their current responsibilities or doesn’t enhance their potential for that next promotion or career move.   In Control   The modern learner wants to be in control of his or her learning and development. They want options and choices and they want to be in control of their career and development path. Learning choices should vary in content, in length, in availability, and in medium. The modern learner does not need mandatory learning and development requirements to learn. They choose learning, but it must be flexible, convenient, and on their own terms.   Collaborative   Social elements drive today’s society, both on the personal and professional front. Today’s learners rely on Google for answers and they look to peers and colleagues to provide them with the ability to support their learning on the job. In fact, Bersin reports that nearly 80 percent of workforce learning happens via on the job interactions with peers, teammates, and managers. As stated above, the modern learner wants to learn. They want to grow and adapt to be more successful on their job and they want to share their ideas and collaborate with other like-minded professionals.   I want to be clear, the modern learner can be found in all generations. Too often, these discussions take place with a focus on serving a younger, more technology focused generation.  A Baby Boomer, for example, can appreciate the convenience and technology virtual learning provides just as much (or even more) than a millennial.   Now that you know more about what the modern learner looks like, is your company doing everything it can to reach them?   Let us know in the comments below!  

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.

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.

Say What You Mean: Defining Learning Lingo for Your Organization.

June 6, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all heard (and regularly use) terms like e-learning, webinar, web-based training, virtual training, digital learning, and distance learning.  However, ask ten people what e-learning means and you’re likely to get ten different answers.I’ve had the pleasure of working with all sorts of clients, large and small, with varying degrees of sophistication within their learning and development departments. Working with different clients means learning their learning culture’s unique language. Even the simplest of terms may mean something different to the client than it does to me and the Mondo Learning Solutions team members on the project. To make things more confusing, terms are often used interchangeably, even though technically, they do have different meanings. If you are in a situation where an outside professional is assisting you with the development and delivery of learning programs, establishing definitions is important. If that weren’t enough, let’s consider the other internal folks outside of our profession. While the learning terms used may be clear to everyone on your learning and development team, it may not be clear to your learners or stakeholders. Taking from my personal experience, I think of this issue a little bit like the different terms or words for items used all over the country. The same terms to name certain items in Wisconsin, where I’m based, might be called something completely different in a different part of the country.  A few examples: bubbler and drinking fountain, shopping cart and buggy, or even pop and soda. Not having moved here until I was 24, imagine my surprise when someone asked me where the bubbler was.When defining terms related to learning delivery methods, you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. Let’s take a quick look at the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) official definitions for the following terms: Web-based Training (WBT): Delivery of educational content via a Web browser over the public Internet, a private intranet, or an extranet. Web-based training often provides links to other learning resources such as references, email, bulletin boards, and discussion groups. WBT also may include a facilitator who can provide course guidelines, manage discussion boards, deliver lectures, and so forth. When used with a facilitator, WBT offers some advantages of instructor-led training while also retaining the advantages of computer-based training. E-learning: A wide set of applications and processes, such as web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, intranet/extranet (LAN/WAN), audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, CD-ROM, and more. Webinar: A small synchronous online learning event in which a presenter and audience members communicate via text chat or audio about concepts often illustrated via online slides and/or an electronic whiteboard. Webinars are often archived as well for asynchronous, on-demand access. ILT (instructor-led training): Usually refers to traditional classroom training, in which an instructor teaches a course to a room of learners. The term is used synonymously with on-site training and classroom training (c-learning). Asynchronous Learning: Learning in which interaction between instructors and students occurs intermittently with a time delay. Examples are self-paced courses taken via the Internet or CD-ROM, Q&A mentoring, online discussion groups, and email. Synchronous Learning: A real-time, instructor-led online learning event in which all participants are logged on at the same time and communicate directly with each other. In this virtual classroom setting, the instructor maintains control of the class, with the ability to "call on" participants. In most platforms, students and teachers can use a whiteboard to see work in progress and share knowledge. Interaction may also occur via audio or video conferencing, Internet telephony, or two-way live broadcasts. While these may be the official definitions for the profession, organizations across the country have their own “dialect”.  This is where it can be challenging.As you can see, virtual instructor-led training (vILT) is not defined independently by ATD, but that is the term, we here at Mondo Learning Solutions, use to define what others might call synchronous learning, a webinar, or even e-learning.I agree that official definitions are helpful, but what is more important is that everyone is on the same page. Existing company vocabulary and semantics might mean your company refers to a web-based training as a webinar, or a vILT class as e-learning, and that’s ok. As long as everyone is aware of those semantics and what is actually being defined. What about you? Has definition differences of common training terms caused any problems within your organization? We’d love to hear your stories.