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.

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?