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.

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

December 6, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Mondo Learning Solutions has once again expanded our global services by adding Natalia Melo to our learning expert team. Natalia will provide Producer Services in Portuguese for our global clients. While many of our global clients require their employees to communicate in English, Mondo Learning has discovered the act of learning new skills while also translating a language can hinder a participant’s ability to learn. By offering Producer Services in native languages, like Portuguese, this allows us to further meet the virtual classroom support needs of our global clients. As a side note, we also globally support sessions in Spanish, German, and Chinese. As always, 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. Additionally, 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. Natalia Melo is an experienced professional. She has worked as an educator in both English and Portuguese, and has also worked as a business development analyst and a translator. She earned her degree in publishing, advertising, and marketing and takes a collaborative approach to each project. Natalia is well versed in Microsoft Office, Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop. She currently resides in Brazil, but has also worked as an English teacher throughout South Africa and New Zealand. Our clients do business all over the world. Our ability to serve them sufficiently remains our number one priority. As our clients continue to grow, Mondo Learning Solutions is committed to growing with them which means adding additional language services to better meet the training and development needs of our clients.

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

Prepping Your Virtual Facilitator in Ten Minutes or Less

August 23, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
If you are a dedicated reader of our blog, you already know how important I feel the preparation process, specifically the dress rehearsal, is to successful virtual learning programs. Ideally, it’s best to organize a meeting with all involved parties a week or so prior to the first session to run through the material and discuss any questions, as well as identify potential trouble spots for mix-ups or errors. But what if this preparation meeting can’t take place? Often the answer is to meet 30 to 45 minutes immediately before the session to address any last minute questions, confirm plans, and clarify responsibilities. While not ideal, and somewhat risky, this can be an alternative when schedules are tight. But what do you do when your virtual facilitator arrives late for this “just in time” prep session? What if you only have 10 minutes?Being prepared for these last minute situations can help you, as the producer, quickly and easily navigate this scenario, AND keep the virtual learning session on track. The important thing to remember is to stay calm, positive, and supportive. Chances are the late facilitator knows when they should have arrived, and may be feeling a little stressed. Be prepared with a list of the most important things they should be aware of before the session gets underway. This should be a short, five to ten point list that can quickly be discussed. You can prepare this ahead of time, but order of importance should also be considered in case you run out of time to review before the session is scheduled to begin. I’ve included a few suggestions in this post, but it’s important to tailor the list to your session, your virtual platform, and the facilitator’s familiarity with the technology and the presentation.Most importantly, give them the quick tutorial on the most critical tools they will need to facilitate the session and communicate effectively with the participants (and you). Secondly, address any complex or potential challenging segments in the session plan that might interrupt the flow of the session. These can include the specific execution of an activity or exercise, sharing of documents, polls, or broadcasting videos. This may also include the format for how you will begin and end the session. Finally, it will be important to communicate roles. Take a moment to quickly describe for them what they should be focused on, and what your role is, as the producer, in support of them and the participants.  Clearly defining these roles will help alleviate any confusion or conversation collisions throughout the session. Again, the important thing to remember is to stay calm in the moment, be reassuring, positive, and be prepared for the unexpected in advance of the session. Has this happened to you?  What worked for you in a last minute emergency?

Dress Rehearsals…A Non-Negotiable in the Virtual Classroom

June 14, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all been there. You’re attending a conference. As the presenter takes the podium to begin, it happens. The lavaliere mic doesn’t work, and a blue screen illuminates the room where a presentation should be. Everyone is thinking….”Didn’t they test all this beforehand?” For musicians, artists, and, yes, even virtual facilitators and virtual producers, the dress rehearsal is an important step in making sure your first live delivery is a success, and not technical torture for all involved. Your team has spent countless hours creating killer content that involves the participants in the learning process and uses the technology to its maximum capability.  Session expectations have be en well communicated, pre-work is in the participants hands, and it seems that the only thing left to do is have that first live session. But this scenario leaves out an important element, the dress rehearsal. A tempting corner to cut that often becomes a regret. 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. It is also an opportunity to communicate last minute changes and adjustments, eliminating any surprises or miscommunications during the first live session. For experienced facilitators, the technology is the part that needs to be tested and practiced. The words and content come easy. It’s the virtual delivery in the actual platform that can be challenging. Each virtual learning platform comes with a myriad of tools and functionalities at the presenter’s disposal. If you’re working with a technical host, you may not have to know exactly how they all function, but it’s still a good idea to understand the capabilities of the virtual environment and test them out together. Here is a checklist of items we typically test. Presentations should be loaded so transitions and animations can be checked and double-checked. Any video clips should be streamed to test for sound, accuracy, and playback quality. The session audio, presenter headset, and other equipment should be tested, as well as web cameras if they will be used. Slides, polls, and other content can benefit from a second or third set of eyes checking for errors and flow.  Breakout room transitions and transitions to other planned activities within the session should be practiced.  A walk-through of specific activities that are new or complex. The opportunity to practice verbally setting up the activity and the giving directions of how the participants will participate will identify any minor verbal changes that are needed. Clarify roles. If you are working with a host, use the dress rehearsal to confirm who will be responsible for monitoring chat, welcoming participants, and other minor details. Review the flow. Flow is important in a virtual session, and running through the content ahead of time can help determine if the presentation is as relevant, clear, and organized as intended. It might be temp ting for experienced facilitators to want to skip the dress rehearsal, but more times than not multiple items surface in the process that could have had a negative impact on that first live session. Even if everything turns out to be perfect, and no mistakes are discovered, we all sleep better knowing we’ll avoid the infamous blue screen because we’ve tested and re-tested during the dress rehearsal.

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Learning | Practice | Virtual Learning

Peeved: Top Ten Mistakes Virtual Presenters Make That Annoy Learners.

May 24, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Participants are brutally honest. Or at least they can be when it comes to providing constructive feedback for your virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs. If you’ve never collected feedback from your participants after a session, you should. It’s a major way to really understand what portions of the program need a makeover. Over the years we have had the opportunity to hear from a lot of participants about what they like about learning in the virtual space and what drives them up the wall. Like members of your own family, they will tell you the honest truth if you ask, and will tell you in a roundabout way if you don’t. Below, we’ve outlined what I’ve identified as the top ten participant pet peeves, and suggestions on how to avoid them. My hope is that throughout the development of your virtual instructor-led training programs, you can use this as a list of what to be mindful of.  Top Ten Participant Pet Peeves #10: “What is the point of me doing two hours of pre-work? It was never incorporated into our class activities or even referenced!” Time is a valuable commodity. Your participants are busy and often times have "to do" lists that stretch for days. At the same time, pre-work is a necessary element to most vILT classes. Generally, participants don’t mind doing pre-work, as long as it’s relevant. They want to know the time and energy they invest in pre-work will add value to their learning experience. Honor this by making sure your pre-work is impactful. #9: “How am I supposed to complete two hours worth of pre-work if you send it to me the day before our session?” Again, your participants are busy. If you want to ensure they actually complete the pre-work, give them their assignments and outline the expectations well in advance of the session. Showing respect for their time, will ensure a mutual respect for the value-add the pre-work brings to the course. #8: “I signed up for this course, but I have no idea how to get there. If this were in-person I’d have a date, a time, and a location where I need to be. Why didn’t anybody tell me how to get to the classroom?” Communication is key in a virtual learning environment. This starts even before the session does. Make sure you’re participants have the correct log-in credentials and the correct hyperlink that goes directly to your virtual learning classroom. In some cases, this communication is your learners’ first experience with you. Not communicating effectively or accurately is sure to make an impression, just not a good one. Make sure you provide all this information concisely and accurately and you’re participants will be on board with the session from the beginning. #7: “I thought this class was scheduled to be done by now? Why is the facilitator still talking?” It’s no surprise that a lot of these pet peeves center around time. Time is valuable, as we’ve said. While participants value the training and development that emerges from most virtual sessions, they still expect sessions to start and end on time, and you should too. Participants are often blocking off specific times during their day to complete these training sessions. If there is a delay in the start of the class, communicate clearly the reasons and do your best to still end on time. #6: “Oh no, not another awkward ice breaker… I don’t care where my fellow participant went on their last vacation, and I can certainly tell you what emotion I’m feeling right now. You won’t want to hear it.” Ice Breakers only belong in the classroom if they are relevant to the topic at hand. If it’s a smaller class size, having participants introduce themselves, their department, or where they are geographically located is a nice way for everyone to get familiar with who is in the room. Asking them to come up with a word or phrase to describe some relevant portion of the training they are about to take is great too. Keep in mind though that nobody wants to listen to 25 or more people introduce themselves and a laundry list of extra items. They aren’t going to remember everything about everyone, and they certainly don’t want to hear about what 25 different people are going to bring when they are trapped on a deserted island. You get the idea. Be creative, but don’t be kitschy, and take advantage of tools in your virtual environment that might allow people to introduce themselves in different ways. #5: “What does that say?” The virtual learning environment provides several opportunities to be visual. Just like the in-person classroom setting though, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to see something because it’s too small, too cramped, or clouded by distracting animations and designs. In a virtual space, you have no control over what size screen your participants will access the session from. To keep your learners from having to bury their noses in their laptops, do your best to keep long paragraphs of text to a minimum, don’t make the text too small, and make sure any graphics or animations are useful and not distracting. Work with a design team to select appropriate color combinations that make your content easy to read and understand. When in doubt use a "less is more" approach. #4. “Oh, you’re still talking? Great, let me just … zzzzzz…” Participants have a hard time tolerating virtual sessions that are boring, scripted, and lecture based. In an in-person classroom setting it’s easier for the facilitator to make eye contact and engage with their learners in a non-verbal way. In a virtual session, it’s important to be more deliberate. Design the course so it’s not just one person talking the entire time. Involve participants in the discussion, ask them questions, and get their input or they will just zone out. #3: “Hello? Hey, look at me… I have an answer! Hello?!” Participants want to engage. They want to be heard, and when they know the answer or can add something valuable to the discussion they want to be able to share. That can be difficult in a virtual session if they aren’t given the opportunity to do so, or if you aren’t watching for their cues. It’s important to pay attention to the tools the participants have at their disposal. A virtual raised hand, or a chat message is the only way they can communicate with you without interrupting. Make notes to yourself that remind you to look for chat activity or raised hands, and give your participants ample opportunity to contribute. If necessary, work with a host or a second facilitator who can help watch for that type of communication. #2: “Wait, what did she say? I wasn’t listening … I was distracted… those directions weren’t very clear.” Clear, concise, and accurate instructions are imperative for a virtual learning environment to run successfully. Particularly when it comes time for learners to do an exercise or break into teams to complete an activity. Make sure the activities are easy to understand, and practice the delivery of your instructions. Take extra effort to speak slower, and repeat important pieces of information more than once. Even though you expect your learners to give the virtual learning environment 100 percent of their attention, we all know that doesn’t always happen. They might be distracted by noise in their location, activity in the hall, or even chats and discussions happening inside your virtual space. #1: “What’s the point of this session? Am I supposed to benefit from this information somehow?” Any virtual learning session has to serve a purpose, and more importantly, that purpose needs to be clear to those attending the course. This starts with the instructional design process. A solid design targets a set of objectives and sets the stage for participants before they even log in to the virtual environment. Good presenters will outline the expectations for the course work, and make sure learners are aware of the benefits to them. This step is critical if you want participants to do more than just sign in. Outlining the development opportunities and the potential takeaways learners can receive will ensure they not only sign in, but that they listen and engage as well. Do you have other pet peeves that you’ve heard from your participants? We’d love to hear them- leave your comments below.

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Learning | Training | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning

Just Ask: The Right Questions Fuel vILT Sessions.

May 10, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Whether in a face-to-face environment or in the virtual classroom, good facilitators will engage and interact with their learners. Facilitators are taught to use questioning techniques and methods designed to ensure understanding, and encourage participation. In a face-to-face classroom facilitators can use eye contact, body language, and gestures in addition to different questioning techniques to encourage participants to respond and add to the dialogue throughout the course. In a virtual space, those cues are not as obvious. The types of questions you ask, and more specifically how you ask them are even more crucial. It goes beyond asking open-ended questions, in most cases you want to extend the conversation and offer opportunities for more participants to get involved. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the questioning strategies I’ve learned throughout my career. These are not all encompassing, and I invite you to share your own in the comments below. Questioning Strategies for the vILT Classroom Asking for the Evidence. The goal with this approach is to encourage your participants to offer evidence for a previous answer or response. Some examples: Why do you think that? How do you know that? What is that based off of? Asking participants to support their position with more information provides an opportunity for other participants to weigh in with different interpretations, scenarios, or evidence of their own. Creating Links and Extending. It’s important for your questions to create links to other portions of the session as well as to your participants’ own experiences. Ask your participants to link what is being discussed to previous content or their own situations and challenges. Some examples: How does this concept relate to the case study we covered at the beginning of class? Has this situation we just talked about ever happened to you? How so? Who can share a current workplace example of the challenge we just discussed? Linking and extending the conversation is imperative for learners to truly benefit from the discussion. It provides an opportunity for the discussion to click, and drives learning and engagement at a whole new level. It makes the content very real. Using Hypotheticals. There are instances where real life examples may not exist. Asking participants to come up with real life examples in some cases may not be possible, or the information may be confidential. In those instances, asking learners to imagine the hypothetical can drive effective conversations as well. Some examples: What might happen if you did encounter a situation like this in your workplace? How would you respond, react? What would you do? What might be the potential benefits of implementing a program like this in your workplace? Collaboration and brainstorming on challenges is a great way to move conversations forward.  Drawing Conclusions or Wrapping Things Up. Questions to summarize the session is an excellent way for learners to identify takeaways and move forward. Some examples: What else do you need in order to be prepared to handle “x”? Based on what we have learned today, what are your next steps? What do you plan to do differently based on what we have discussed today? Your goal with any question strategy is to maximize participation in the virtual session. Listen to your learners, and ask follow up questions in a way that forces everyone to get involved. Ask different types of questions to move the conversation forward and uncover valuable takeaways for your learners. What are some of the questioning strategies you’ve learned in your virtual sessions?

Virtual Facilitators, Are You Prepared to be Spontaneous?

May 3, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
For facilitators of virtual instructor-led training, a commitment to planning, preparation, and practice is the most effective strategy to foster spontaneity in class. Wait, what? I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but a significant amount of work needs to be invested before anyone even logs into your class in order for you to be that spontaneous engaging facilitator you want to be.   To better illustrate this point, let me share a “light bulb” moment experienced by one of my workshop participants. During a recent workshop session, a group of virtual facilitators and I became engaged in a discussion about the nuts and bolts of planning a virtual learning event. As I stressed the importance of planning, preparation, and practice, one workshop participant shared her concerns. “I am not seeing how I can be spontaneous when the entire class is mapped out in such detail…it feels like shackles to me…where’s the personality…I need to operate in the moment.” Knowing that spontaneity is important, we decided to move forward with the class agenda and revisit everyone’s perspective on the topic later in the workshop. By the time we finished going through case studies and a few exercises, the same participant realized that facilitators simply can’t be spontaneous if they aren’t well-prepared with a solid plan going into a session. The work you do in advance will allow you to operate in the moment, be yourself, and effectively roll with the technical challenges and participant curve balls. What do we mean by planning, preparation, and practice? This means being organized enough to plan the session outline, and even script or semi-script out the content of your virtual session. Not surprisingly, as facilitators, you want to sound natural in your delivery, and be flexible and nimble in responding to participant needs and discussion points in the moment. You desire the outcomes that flow from spontaneous discussion and worry that scripting out parts of the session or creating a timeline will hinder your ability to seize the moment. I’m here to tell you that, almost always, the exact opposite is true. A detailed outline gives you a strong foundation to manage time and discussion in a targeted, but flexible manner. You may have the luxury of having this part of the planning done for you by your instructional design team. In a recent post, I covered several pros and cons of using a script or outline for your virtual learning session. These tips may help with your planning process: To-Script-or-Not-That-is-the-Question. Additionally, having prepared contingency plans, determined ahead of time, will help facilitators make adjustments on the fly if a class size is smaller than expected, participant reaction to the material is different, or if technology fails. I call it “plan B” and “plan C.” Without contingency plans, a delivery team is left scrambling and the time, energy, and attentiveness will not go to the participants, it will go to figuring out what the new plan should be. Keep in mind that if you are working with a producer or a host, contingency plans that relate to failed technology may be his or her responsibility. Preparation is also important when it comes to delivery. Facilitators should be comfortable enough with the class material to realize, in the moment, which exercises will or will not work with a particular group of participants. For example, some groups of participants will be better suited for informal verbal discussion exercises, while others, perhaps larger groups, may benefit from seeing ideas shared in writing on a whiteboard. This can help move the discussion to a deeper level or to prioritize ideas. The right amount of practice will ensure you are familiar with the material and the virtual environment. It also gives you the opportunity to “test drive” your plan. I have seen many last minute changes made after a dress rehearsal because an exercise didn’t hit the mark or content didn’t flow as expected. I have also witnessed less significant content removed or condensed to allow additional time for more critical information. Proper preparation, planning, and practice allow facilitators to focus on the moment, fully. This strategy actually increases a facilitator’s ability to be spontaneous. Do you agree? I’d love your feedback.  

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?

Does the Facilitation Team Bring Its A-Game to Your vILT Programs?

February 24, 2015 12:14 by Dana Peters
I have yet to meet a delivery team for the virtual classroom that didn’t want to knock it out of the park on every single session; you know, bring their A-game and really rock the house. Having a meticulously prepared facilitation team is another component organizations need to focus on in order to successfully implement (and maintain) a thriving vILT program. A facilitation team, at minimum, generally consists of a presenter (trainer/facilitator) who is responsible for meeting the learning objectives of the course and a producer (host/moderator) who handles the technical aspects of the environment so that the presenter can focus on the content, the participants, and course material.  Well-defined roles, and a facilitation team that is familiar with the course material, the technology, the participants, and the learning objectives of the course will mean the difference between success, and a quick derailment. Extensive time and preparation should be allowed for each member of the facilitation team to become comfortable with: their role within the virtual learning environment their modified skill set to be effective in this environment the technology required to fulfill their responsibilities the course materials and content While the delivery methods between a face-to-face session and a virtual session are different, how we define success in the learning environment, and what we need to do in order to be successful are the same. Facilitators should be prepared to utilize the same skillset they are familiar with for delivering in-person trainings, with adjustments to account for not being able to see faces and read body language. There is a lot we could dig into when it comes to the virtual facilitator’s skillset. Here are a few of the biggies.Virtual facilitators need to learn to ask questions differently. “Are there any questions at this point?” Nine times out of 10 when a virtual facilitator asks a closed ended question like this one, it will be greeted by silence. Whereas a question like this one is more likely to result in responses: “I have just given you several scenarios…which one is most relevant to your work and why? I’ll give you a minute to think about this. Please raise your hand when you are ready to share.” A few more thoughts around questions: I always suggest counting to 5 before deciding no one wants to contribute. Remember, they need to think of a response, remember how to raise their hand, and take their phone off mute. Always give clear direction as to how you want participants to respond. Making connections with participants. Use participants’ names frequently in session. Reach out to participants before the session and learn what they are hoping to gain from the session. Learn as much about the group as you can. Yes, this will take time, but it will make the session more personal which draws people in. Ask people for simple contributions and call on certain participants to elaborate. 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 steer the discussion down a certain path you could call on one or two individuals to elaborate for the group. Facilitators won’t become experts overnight. They should be given the material and ample amounts of time to not only prepare for session delivery, but also to practice and become familiar with using the virtual environment. Consider a development plan that provides an opportunity for facilitating in real-life situations, and the opportunity to observe other facilitators in action. Of course, a virtual facilitator is in the best position for success when working with materials developed specifically for the virtual learning environment. Check out our post on this topic: The Design Difference: Considerations for the Virtual Classroom. What successes have you had in preparing your own facilitation team? Is there anything that worked particularly well for your organization?   From our perspective this component in our approach is just as important as the other three. If you’re wondering what the other components are, you can read about them in my post: Building Bullet Proof Online Training Programs.