Perfect Timing; Not by Accident, by Design.

April 4, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
Time is one of our most precious commodities. Everybody values it, and most people want more of it. That’s why, within your instructional design deliverables, we recommend you develop a Timing Outline for the Virtual Facilitator(s) and Virtual Producer to use as they prepare for and deliver the virtual instructor led-training (vILT) courses you design for them. In previous posts, we’ve talked about the four components of a successful vILT program, but even the most well planned sessions can quickly get off track if facilitators and producers don’t keep an eye on time. When designing our professional development workshops for clients, we always create and use a Timing Outline. This helps our delivery team identify, at a glance, the planned timing allocation for each content segment within the session. This tool is not only helpful during the preparation process but is a critical resource in the moment during a live session. We’ve included a sample of the timing outline below. As you can see, not only do we map out the time for each content segment, but we’ve also built in cushions for a late start, the session kick-off, questions, and the wrap up. These additional time allocations are often overlooked, but it’s important to account for them. If you don’t build in time for a late start or session kick-off, your delivery team may start the session already behind. As they near the end of the session, valuable material or exercises may need to be modified or cut in order to end the session on time. While we certainly do not want our facilitators to cut content, we do recommend ending the session on time. Participants are busy, we want them to be engaged in this learning experience, not worry about how rushed or late they will be because the session ran long. From our experience, if the facilitator attempts to continue past the session end time, participants will tune out or log off anyway. The timing outline will provide everyone involved in the delivery process a clear idea of where everyone should be within the course content at any point in time, and how much time is remaining in the overall course. Setting up the outline, and having it utilized during dress rehearsals and practice sessions will enable you, as the designer, to confirm whether or not your design can effectively be delivered in the time frame of the session or if additional tweaks are needed.In addition, a timing outline is an excellent training tool for facilitators and producers that are new to the content. We’ve created this template that will allow you to fill in the session duration and work backwards filling in each exercise, assignment, or section. Feel free to customize it for your particular program. Our hope is it helps you with a successful vILT delivery. What about you? What have you developed to help your delivery team keep track of time during their sessions?

Planning for the Unexpected...What’s Your Plan B?

January 10, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
The virtual training environment offers individuals the opportunity to connect from wherever they are in the world.  While the convenience is great for everyone involved, as the Producer of the session it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure success, no matter what happens. This means having a backup plan, and sometimes a backup plan for your backup plan. While there are always necessary exceptions, we recommend you produce your sessions from the same controlled environment whenever possible. This environment will not only allow you to prepare for the unexpected and have the necessary contingency plans in place; you will also feel the most comfortable and prepared in a familiar environment. Typically, our Producers have a designated office or conference room where they work from. This is a space they personalize to how they work most efficiently and effectively. When thinking about contingency plans, it’s important to first determine what equipment enables you to best produce your virtual training session and then think about your potential backup plans for each potential point of failure.  Our Producers have several contingency plans in place in case of emergencies like inclement weather, technology failure, or other unforeseen circumstances. We recommend accessing online virtual training sessions from a reliable Ethernet connection and using a landline telephone. From our experience, these connections tend to be more reliable than their wireless counterparts. Our Producers are able to then use additional mobile devices, wireless Internet connections, UPS, and secondary laptops as backup resources for the various points of failure. Be aware of the circumstances surrounding inclement weather in your facility. If you lose power, is there a generator that will kick on? Do you have a UPS in place? Will you be forced to find your own power source? We recommend keeping backup laptops charged, and having a wireless hotspot available. For extreme cases, we recommend having a secondary location you can go to, just in case. This may sound over-the-top, but as we mentioned, the virtual learning environment allows individuals from all over the world to come together online at the same time. That means individuals in all different time zones, dealing with different technology, equipment, and weather patterns are relying on you to produce a successful session, no matter what. Ensuring your contingency plans are in place will undoubtedly help you do that. What backup plans do you have mapped out for your virtual sessions?  

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.

Counting My Blessings

November 15, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Where has the time gone? The holiday season is right around the corner, and before we know it, we will all be staring down the barrel of a brand new 2017. Mondo Learning Solutions is nearing our sixth anniversary in business, and like so many others, I find myself reflecting this holiday season on everything I have to be thankful for.First and foremost, I am thankful for our loyal clients; both for the work they give us and for the referrals they send our way. Our business would be nothing without them, and we look forward to continuing to serve their needs. Secondly, I am thankful for the Mondo team. Without our team of virtual producers, facilitators, instructional designers, virtual platform experts, writers, and assistants, all of whom also wear multiple hats, we wouldn’t be able to provide the level of service our clients have come to expect. I’ve come to realize that running a small business definitely takes a village. Days often start early and end late and while we do our best to maintain regular office hours, we all know that doesn’t always happen. I’m thankful for the love and support of my husband and my three daughters, all of whom have tirelessly supported me and encouraged me on this journey, and who have also fallen victim to the occasional, “I just have one more call to make….” statement. Along those same lines, I’m thankful for morning cups of coffee that often get me through back to back meetings, and cocktails on my patio in the evening after a successful day. I’m thankful my business has allowed me to cut my commute time to zero, and that the construction on my block has finally ended. You don’t realize how loud construction is until you work in the virtual space and are forced to try and avoid the deluge of noise.  My gratefulness extends beyond my core team as well. I am thankful for virtual learning partners like my friends and colleagues at Turpin Communication in Chicago and my fellow Board members with the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the Association for Talent Development (SEWI-ATD). Both regularly share advice, expertise, and provide perspective for me in my daily work. I am thankful for the ability to work virtually with individuals all over the world. I have learned so much, broadened my experiences and my knowledge, and have made friends I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make otherwise. Lastly, I am thankful for you, the readers of our blog. Perhaps without knowing it, you also drive growth in our business, provide perspective, and increase our learning and communication skills with your questions and comments. The end of the year is a busy time for everyone. We’re all scrambling, trying to meet deadlines, and set up client meetings before the craziness of the holidays actually takes hold. But, as I sit here, peering out from under the stack of paperwork on my desk, I realize I am truly blessed. What are you thankful for? 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Turpin Communication | Virtual Learning

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?

The Producer Checklist: Another Key to Success in the Virtual Classroom

July 13, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Depending on your perspective, multi-tasking can be viewed as either a positive, productive activity or a negative, sometimes distracting one. For our Virtual Producers, their ability to keep their eyes on several things at one time is a necessity. Helping them be prepared to technically support that classroom of “spinning plates” is where a solid Producer Checklist comes into play. We never run a session without one. The checklist is a critical tool for Virtual Producers to remain focused on what needs to be accomplished, create more accurate and predictable results, and meet every little detail of each unique session for our clients. We’d like to share with you an example of a Producer Checklist, which you may find useful for your virtual learning session. As you can see, our Producer Checklist includes the basic session information at the top, which eliminates any confusion on delivery. We’ve also broken the checklist into sections: Pre-Session, During Session, and Post-Session to make it as easy as possible to follow. In addition to including the pre-session, during session and post-session duties for your Producer, it’s a good idea to also include emergency contact information for session instructors and key contacts like content organizers, platform technical support, and session administrators. It’s impossible to predict, but mistakes happen; technology happens, or rather sometimes doesn’t. Having the necessary contact information easily available for your Producer is helpful in case pre-work documents are missing, the wrong link was sent to participants or the technology simply isn’t working. It’s also a good idea to include any reminders or session notes for your Producer. These may include unique post-session communication requirements, timing information, or something similar. Our hope is that this checklist will provide you a starting point for your virtual sessions. Our continued work with clients has garnered several general components for each section that we regularly adapt and change as it suits our clients; you should feel free to customize these components as well. For more information on the role of a Virtual Producer, check out our post: The Role of the Virtual Learning Session Producer. How have you’ve used this Producer Checklist, or something similar, in your work?  

Tags: , , , , ,

Practice | Producer | Tools

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Learning | Practice | Virtual Learning

To Script or Not to Script? That is the Question.

May 27, 2015 12:37 by Dana Peters
Last week, we had a call with a new client to discuss the concept of developing a fully scripted facilitator guide vs. a simple facilitator outline documenting the general plan for each content section with related facilitator talking points (what I would call a semi-scripted guide). This is a topic that comes up regularly with clients new to the virtual learning space.We have several pieces of advice to share when it comes to whether or not your sessions should be fully scripted or not. First let’s take a look at the pros and cons of scripting out your session, and then we will dig into a few of the specifics. PROS of Scripting Multiple facilitators and producers can pick up the guide and have a clear concept of class objectives, what should happen, and when. Facilitators and producers are able to deliver sessions seamlessly without having to meet extensively beforehand. Allows for easy mass delivery of sessions over a long period of time, utilizing a large delivery team. Helps keep timing of the course on track. Enables the delivery of consistent content to all participants regardless of when they take the class and who facilitates it. Provides support for facilitators who may be less confident or nervous. CONS of Scripting Less prepared/experienced facilitators may rely too much on the script, not enhancing the content with their own experiences, stories, and examples. Can lead to monotonous talking; drives participants to multi-task or be inattentive. Can create a road-block for facilitators and producers to operate in the moment, and respond to immediate needs of learners. Can lead to the atmosphere of the session feeling more mechanical and robotic than natural and organic. Because of the level of detail, scripting involves more updating and maintenance to stay current and accurate as the class/lessons evolve. As you can see, there are several things to consider when deciding whether or not to fully script out your virtual instructor-led course. Think about this checklist as it relates to your facilitators. Who will be delivering the session on a regular basis? How much time will they have to prepare, or how familiar are they with the content? How comfortable are they presenting virtually? Are they experienced facilitators in general? Is this a mass delivery of sessions over a long period of time? Will you be drawing on a pool of facilitators and producers, with any combination being paired up to deliver a session? All of these items will come into play.A scripted facilitator guide provides opportunity for multiple presenters in multiple regions to effectively deliver consistent course content to every participant taking the class. There’s no confusion on what should be covered in the course, though a top-notch facilitator will insert relevant and powerful examples that will undoubtedly be different. Having a scripted outline can also help instructors stay on track, and may even help if the presenter has any feelings of nervousness. A scripted approach also allows any instructor to pick up the materials, and deliver the class with a clear concept of objectives and expected outcomes, provided they have ample time to prepare. The key to using a scripted facilitator guide for your virtual instructor-led training classes is preparation. Less prepared facilitators will rely too much on the script, leading to long and even monotonous reading from an instructor to the class. This doesn’t work in person, and it certainly doesn’t work in a virtual environment. Scripted speech, void of interactive and personal examples from an instructor, can and often does, lead to inattentiveness and attempts to multi-task from learners. Even prepared facilitators can get caught up in the script. In some cases, facilitators and producers will get so caught up in staying on track with the script that they miss out on opportunities to really engage learners in the moment. Experience and practice will help. Take a minute to consider the pros and cons. Is there anything else you would add to either list? How do they apply to your learning environment, your facilitators, and your participants? We’d love your feedback.

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. 

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?