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.

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 Pre-work Predicament

April 9, 2014 14:56 by Dana Peters
Trainers and meeting facilitators see tremendous value in getting a jump start to their virtual instructor-led training (VILT) classes or online meetings by assigning pre-work. Yet time and time again this effort results in only a portion of participants actually completing their assignments and arriving fully prepared for the online event. Let’s take a closer look at this challenge. Why is pre-work assigned? Trainers and meeting facilitators say: Time in the online classroom or meeting space is precious. Pre-work gets participants thinking about the topic beforehand, formulating new ideas, or learning some foundational information. Well planned pre-work leads to well-prepared participants, ready to hit the ground running in our sessions. When submitted ahead of time, pre-work is a way to get to know participants; where they are at with the topic, what their capabilities are, and what their interests/motivations are. Pooled together, pre-work is a snap shot of the participant group as a whole, allowing us to customize the training or meeting objectives before we even get started. Why is pre-work not done? Participants say: Sometimes there is no compelling reason to complete it. We don’t see the value or connection between doing the pre-work and our participation in the class or meeting. It doesn’t seem important or required therefore we assume it’s optional. “What pre-work?” I must have overlooked it amongst the hundreds of other emails I receive each day. I forgot. I set it aside to complete later. Later never came.  It’s boring. I started it but it was too painful to finish. How do we change this? WIIFM. The old “What’s In It For Me.” Simple, but often overlooked. We suggest your introduction to the pre-work include a clear and concise explain of why the pre-work is beneficial to the participant. If you are having trouble articulating the WIIFM from the participant’s perspective for the pre-work you have planned, then you should question if the pre-work you have designed is necessary. Make this commitment: Any and all pre-work will be compelling and necessary. Related to WIIFM, the connection between the pre-work and the goals and objectives of your meeting or training class need to be clear. If the participants sense that skipping the pre-work will result in being lost, out of the loop, and ill prepared in comparison to the rest of their peers, they will be more motivated to do the pre-work. Set expectations. Make it crystal clear to participants how their time on pre-work will contribute directly to the conversation, content, outcome, and their ability to participate. Pre-work should be front and center at the beginning of the training or meeting, first up on the agenda. This will get the session off the ground quickly with energy. Be clear about how much time it will take to complete the pre-work. If the time commitment is on the longer side, consider breaking it up into multiple steps. Provide a mini-checklist so that participants know how much they have done and how far they have to go. Have a submission process. We find pre-work that results in something that is turned in or that you are able to document online as completed is more likely to get done. Communicate well and often. When explaining the pre-work requirement in the initial invitation, ask for acknowledgement and commitment to do the work. Utilize a communication timeline for the whole pre-session process. We suggest automating these steps as much as possible. Share accountability. Hold up your end of the bargain with a promise of quality. 1) You will only design meaningful and interesting pre-work and 2) facilitate sessions that meet, if not exceed, the stated objectives and goals. Be clear on how the objectives or goals of the event will be negatively impacted unless everyone has completed the pre-work going into the session; often peers will hold each other accountable. Sometimes the pressure of letting the group down is enough to make the pre-work a priority on everyone’s task list. Accept the fact that your communication process needs to include multiple reminders and some hand-holding. Make it easy, interesting, and flexible. Invest the time necessary to make the pre-work interesting. It should be visually appealing and command attention. Consider options outside of “read this document before our meeting.” Could you use other mediums: video clips, podcasts, short learning modules, or other paper based activities? Make it easy to get to and work on. If you are sending out reminders, include the pre-work information/links again so participants don’t have to dig around for it. Can your pre-work easily be worked on from the road (on commuter train or business trip)? Can it be completed in short sittings, perfect for fillers in-between meetings or during the wait at the doctor’s office? How do we handle those non-compliers? Following the same vein as being clear about pre-work expectations, we suggest that you are also clear about the consequences for not completing pre-work. This can be as direct as automatically withdrawing the participant from the event attendee list, after sending several reminders, to giving the participant “the out” by allowing them to withdraw from attending voluntarily. These are some of our thoughts on how to handle pre-work challenges. What are some of yours?

The Next Chapter for Mondo Learning Solutions?

April 1, 2014 12:11 by Dana Peters
If you follow me or my company closely, you know we have been in business for a few years now and our focus has been on connecting corporate learning & development professionals with the highest quality learning experts in the field. Acting as a learning matchmaker of sorts, not only have we learned a lot operating under this broad-brush business model, but also we are evolving from it. Old habits die hard and my corporate strategic planning instincts are still in my blood. So this past October, as usual, I sat down to reflect on what we have accomplished and where we are headed. In the back of my mind I had a sense of where we were at, but I think it is important to look at all the data together: client feedback, where leads are coming from, where our relationships are strongest, where clients need help, what we are good at, and where the revenue is coming from. The outcome of all this? For us, all roads lead to the virtual-instructor led training (VILT) space, and so begins the next chapter of Mondo Learning Solutions. We are excited to focus our energies into helping our clients plan, design, and deliver groundbreaking live online training and events. We will continue to connect organizations with the highest quality independent experts and niche training firms, but now we are laser-focused on the live online learning arena. Curious about what this all means? We’ve updated the website to reflect the services we offer, the areas in which we consult, and the professional development workshops available. Visit us at www.mondolearning.com to learn more.