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.

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

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

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?        

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.

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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Events | Learning | Training | Virtual Learning

Using Movie Trailers to Prepare Your Participants

November 3, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Successful virtual learning programs engage learners before they even log in the virtual classroom. The purpose of bringing learners together live and online is to allow for the opportunity to collaborate, explore new ideas, and build on each other’s experiences. Time in class together is very precious. The work we ask our learners to invest independently, before class in prework, should set the knowledge base foundation they will need to be an active contributor in class and add value to their learning experience. As instructional designers, specifically for courses that take place in the virtual classroom, we have developed a variety of different types of prework. Recently, we created pre-work for a few clients that also doubled as promotional video clips for virtual training courses we were developing. We called them movie trailers. These short videos are easy to view and not only help inform potential participants about the session to create interest in registering, but quickly educates them on core concepts related to the topic in an entertaining way. I wanted to pass along the tool that we used to create these clips.  Filmora is a video editing software that provides frame-by-frame preview, basic editing capabilities, and simple and advanced effects in an easy-to-use, modern interface. In addition to on screen titles and text, split screen capabilities, and picture in picture, the screen-recording feature allows you to record video directly from your computer. So if you’re doing a promo video for a training session on internal process procedures or software, you can capture video that directly illustrates the process. The video stabilization feature can help steady even an amateur videographer’s shaky hand, or fast-moving images. Overall, we found Filmora to be extremely user friendly. You can utilize a lot of the program’s capabilities with the free version, but may need to upgrade (for a minimal cost) if your plan is to share or post your video on the web. What tools are you using to create video clips?

Supporting Sessions Around the World: Mondo offers Producer Services in German

October 25, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Mondo Learning Solutions has once again expanded our Producer Services to include German delivery options for our clients. With the expansion, we welcome Christoph Stadler to our team as a learning expert. This expanded language capability, along with our ability to deliver services in Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese, in addition to English, will allow us to further meet the virtual classroom support needs of our global clients. Many of our global clients require their employees to communicate in English as part of their job requirements. However, the process of learning new content, while also being in “language translation mode” adds an additional layer of complexity to the learning process. We have found eliminating the language obstacle can improve comprehension, and allow participants to feel more comfortable and confident participating in group discussions and exercises. In their native language, participants can fully understand examples, scenarios, case studies, and the exercises utilized in a virtual session. When sessions are delivered in a native tongue, learners are more likely to walk away meeting the intended learning objectives of the course and the desired application of new skills back on the job. Christoph Stadler is an experienced project manager, and consultant specializing in communications and branding. He has had experience working with clients at all levels from multi-national companies to startups. He is fluent in German, French, and English with an extensive business and technical background. He has founded three companies and has more than 20 years experience in corporate communications, digital content creation, and graphic design. Stadler has proven himself to be enthusiastic, self-motivated and an efficient team leader. We’re very pleased to welcome him to our team. The convenience of virtual instructor-led training programs brings participants together from all over the world. Many of whom, consider English their second language. By expanding our services to include additional languages, we better support our clients’ growing demand to provide participants with more convenient, effective, and efficient ways to complete their training and development requirements.

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Learning | Producer | Virtual Instructor-Led Training

Ditch the Bubbly: Water is What Matters.

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