Building Bulletproof Online Training Programs

June 5, 2014 08:03 by Dana Peters
When talking with clients new to virtual instructor-led training (VILT), I am often asked: “What do we need to get absolutely right to be successful training our employees online in the live virtual classroom?” From our perspective, when the following four components are “done right” an organization is in the optimal position to deliver high-quality virtual learning programs that meet the intended learning objectives. Here they are: Well-aligned virtual platform tools and technology With over 100 virtual classroom platforms, and growing, available on the market today, learning and development departments are not short on options. Selecting the most appropriate tools and technology to meet your organization’s unique programing needs and to achieve your learning program objectives is an important component to positioning your program for ongoing success. A well-aligned learning platform and any related technology tools will be more than capable of meeting the needs of your designers, your delivery team, and your learners. A meticulously prepared facilitation team Everyone involved in the delivery of virtual classes needs to have the appropriate skills necessary to meet and exceed their duties in this environment. Whether it be as the facilitator or trainer, the producer or host, or as the technical support person. Well-defined roles, a solid training program, opportunities for skill practice with feedback and coaching, and an extensive preparation process is required for each person involved to perform at the level necessary for a best-in-class virtual training program. Solid content design, especially created for the live online environment In order to deliver an engaging virtual instructor-led training (VILT) learning experience, the instructional design of each course needs to be specifically created for the VILT environment. Materials from other delivery modalities are good resources, but they will not stand alone successfully in the virtual classroom. They need to be transitioned to take advantage of the delivery tools and functionality your learning platform offers. Structurally, courses will be segmented differently, activities and exercises will be approached differently, and the application of pre- course work, in-between session work, and post-session follow-up components will be applied. A culture and climate that encourages, supports, and prepares online participants Often organizations spend all of their time and energy selecting the right technology, grooming their delivery team, and creating instructionally sound classes, yet their virtual learning program is not meeting their expectations. The energy and demand they anticipated for the program is flat. Why? Often what is overlooked is the time and effort necessary to create a culture and climate that encourages, supports, and prepares online learners. This means marketing the program internally, taking steps to garner executive-level support, and implementing steps to adequately prepare learners to learn in the virtual environment. I would love to hear your thoughts on these components. Is this dead on from your experience or is there something you would add?

Making the Move: Transitioning Face-To-Face Courses to the Virtual Classroom

April 23, 2014 12:10 by Dana Peters
Repurposing, redesigning, transitioning, transforming, or converting. No matter what label you give it, moving a face-to-face classroom course to the virtual classroom is more complicated than it initially appears. At first glance, it seems quite simple. The learning objectives are defined, the course has already been developed, the PowerPoint is ready to go, and the facilitators could deliver the session in their sleep. Transfer all this over to the virtual classroom in a few days and we are ready to go, right? Wrong. In order to design and deliver an engaging virtual instructor-led training (VILT) learning experience, many elements need to be taken into account. Let's explore a few. Back to the Beginning Take a look at the face-to-face course with a fresh set of eyes. Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the face-to-face course currently in place will allow you the opportunity to make improvements and leverage what is working well when you design your VILT course. Consider doing the following: Walk through the learning objectives with the stakeholder, the subject matter expert, and the face-to-face classroom trainer to update learning goals. Review the results from the course as it stands now. Is the current training meeting these goals? Gather feedback from recent course participants. Ask questions like: What concept, process or idea were you able to apply back on the job? What did you like most about the training and why? What was the least relevant item covered in the course? Simply ask all parties involved how this course could be better. Taking the time to review, evaluate, and redefine the course objectives prior to transitioning a course to the virtual classroom sets the stage for success. Delivering a class in the virtual classroom is a whole new ballgame. Facilitating learning in a virtual classroom requires a different set of skills on the part of the trainer. There are several common delivery mistakes we see trainers make as they move from working the traditional face-to-face classroom environment to the virtual classroom. Why not learn from those mistakes and avoid some of the following pitfalls: Lecturing. Listening to someone talk for an hour in the face-to-face classroom doesn't work so why would the virtual classroom be any different? Trying to do it all. Managing all the tools and technology while trying to deliver content, facilitate collaboration, share experiences, and connect with your learners is often too much for one person to handle. Especially when the VILT landscape is a new working environment for you. Consider enlisting the support of a producer (aka host or moderator). This second pair of helpful hands will allow you to focus on facilitating learning, not resolving technical issues. Reading from a script. This lulls participants to sleep or drives them to multitasking. A script is a good tool to help you get comfortable with the material and work seamlessly with your producer, but you will lose your participants very quickly if you read from it during your session. Eliminating the exercises and activities. All too often the hands-on learning gets lost in the transition from the face-to-face classroom to the virtual classroom. Think about how you could use the virtual classroom tools to create collaborative exercises to meet your learning objectives. Not using your annotation tools to focus attention. Sometimes facilitators get so caught up in the point they are trying to make verbally that they forget to use the pointer, highlighter, and drawing tools to help focus participants' attention on what is being discussed. Being too controlling. Be flexible with how your participants are interacting and encourage activity that promotes sharing and involvement in the learning. Consider allowing participants to chat with each other at any time and encourage this communication. Also, avoid asking participants to hold their questions until the end of the session. Make the Most of Your Time Time is a precious commodity in the virtual classroom. It is important to make sure that the time that you have in class is used to drive home the key learning points and make the learning relevant to your participants. To do this, keep the following in mind: Assign pre-course work. If some of your exercises will require participants to bring ideas and thoughts to the table, give them the opportunity to do this thinking and exploration independently before they come to class. Pre-course work is also an excellent way to assign reading and to allow participants to become familiar with basic information on the learning topic. Break things down into small chunks. These shorter bite-sized pieces will keep your session moving and help maintain attention from your participants. Every slide, question, activity, game, and discussion should serve a purpose that works toward the learning objectives. We have outlined just a few of the elements to consider when transitioning face-to-face classes to VILT. What else would you add?    

The Role of a Virtual Learning Session Producer … Defined

November 11, 2013 14:33 by Dana Peters
Some potential clients, interested in our Virtual Learning Session Producer Services, come to us with a clearly defined set of producer duties and responsibilities they would like to outsource. Others, know they need a second pair of hands to support their virtual classes, but are not exactly sure what that role looks like in their environment. With an uptick in inquiries about how we support live online classes, I thought it fitting to resurrect some of the content from a newsletter article I wrote about a year ago defining the producer role. What is a producer? A producer is someone who handles the majority of the technical aspects of a Virtual Instructor-Lead Training (VILT) Session. The producer allows the facilitator (trainer or presenter) to focus on the delivery of the content and their learners. We are going with the term producer for this post, but, keep in mind, what we referred to as a producer is also known as a host or moderator. Specific producer responsibilities can vary by organization, but the following are what we see consistently. Producers: Invite participants to the session and make sure they have everything they need before class. Arrive early to make sure the classroom is ready to go and all functionality is working properly. Await the participants’ arrival and welcome them to class. Address/resolve connectivity issues to ensure participants are ready to go when class starts. Kick off the session, review the session tools the participants will utilize, and introduce the facilitator. Handle technical questions, issues, and problems that arise during the session. Manage chat and respond to any messages. Alert the facilitator when he or she needs to be involved or address something. Document items on the whiteboard. Manage breakout sessions and assist the facilitator with other session activities. Launch applications, set-up breakout rooms, and manage polling for the facilitator. Co-facilitate as requested. Reset the classroom at the conclusion of the session. Handle post-session evaluations (collect and collate). Handle homework reminders and questions. Complete any post-session reporting as required. Abilities of a successful producer: Natural ability to improvise - always has a plan B and often a plan C. Clear and polished verbal communication. Multi-tasking is second nature. Strong grasp on technology and a quick study with new tools. Flexible and able to “roll” with whatever comes up. Virtual Intuition – reads virtual body language well. A warm and welcoming demeanor. Natural problem solver. Works well under pressure. Has an eye for detail. Why should a producer be part of the equation? The producer manages the technical aspects of the session and learner administrative duties which allow the facilitator to focus completely on the delivery of the session content and their learners. If there are technical issues before or during the session, especially at the individual participant level, the facilitator can continue to facilitate class while the producer troubleshoots the technical issues. Multiple voices and personalities provide a natural “change up” at certain points during the session which can help increase participant engagement. For facilitators that are just learning the virtual delivery “ropes”, having a producer can help them become more confident and comfortable in the virtual classroom. When I wrote about this in our newsletter, I received several comments and perspectives from our readers about the responsibilities of the producer role. What are you experiences?

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Online Learning | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning