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.

Virtual Learning Programs That Survive and Thrive

September 26, 2017 13:33 by Dana Peters
Adaptability is the name of the game when it comes to the long-term survival of the virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs you design, develop, and deploy. Continuous change is the environment most organizations are operating in, which means we need to move with change as Learning and Development professionals. And certainly we want to do more than just “weather the storm”. We want to thrive as we forge ahead to meet the business needs of the ever changing organizations we serve.Are you prepared to respond quickly when: Leadership changes are made? A merger or acquisition is announced? The vision, mission, and/or goals of the company shift? A swing in your market place occurs, positive or negative? You, your colleagues, and your vILT programs must be nimble and flexible enough to adapt to these changes. But how? We suggest a proactive approach that includes the following five actions. Develop Rough Action Plans. Take time to think about realistic scenarios that you could face in the near future. Develop a rough action plan to give you a leg up if the scenario were to actually occur. Invest Time in Continuous Improvement Processes. Once you’ve designed and implemented your vILT programs, it’s important to maintain lines of communication to make sure your programs continue to align with the company mission and leadership’s goals. Reviewing your vILT courses on a regular basis allows you to refresh portions of the content as changes and updates are needed. Without a continuous review, your course can quickly become obsolete, and without the occasional minor update, you may experience the need for a complete overhaul of your course design. Or it may be seen as bringing no value and be eliminated altogether. Ask for Feedback From Your Learners. In line with continuously reviewing your vILT programs, it’s important to gather feedback from your learners on a regular basis. The collection of learners’ needs over time helps you to understand how job functions are changing and what skill development opportunities would bring the most value to the business. This intel should help you bring the right learning opportunities, to the right people, at the right time. Educate and Inform Leadership. As Learning and Development professionals you probably know your programs inside and out. Your leadership team may not. In order to showcase the value of your programs it’s important to involve leadership in the process. Make sure they are aware of how the vILT programs are performing. Specifically, how they are meeting the needs of the business. For more information on how best to track the value of your vILT program, check out our post: Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off: Measuring Success Back on the Job. Communicate Value and Results. Along the lines of educating your leadership team, vILT programs should be championed at all levels of the company. If the value of your programs have been communicated effectively; when changes occur, you’ll have the advantage of advocates on many fronts. If updates to your programs do need to be made, multiple perspectives can diversify the conversation on how best to do that. These proactive efforts will help to secure your vILT programs long-term success, and the consistent, high quality learning opportunities your learning population needs to be successful on the job. What other actions have you taken to be sure your virtual learning programs can survive and thrive through the changes that may lie ahead?

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?

Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off (Part 1)

August 16, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
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Is Your Virtual Training Program On Target or Missing the Mark?

July 25, 2017 09:00 by Dana Peters
Is your virtual instructor-led training (vILT) program meeting the needs of your business, or is it falling short of expectations? If your program is not quite hitting the mark, perhaps there is work to be done in one of the following five key areas. PlanningPlanning is an important step early in the process to ensuring the success of your program. Proper planning is centered on the goals you have for each of your vILT classes. What are you trying to accomplish? Identify key learning objectives and design your class to meet those objectives. Identifying your needs will help you decide which platform, delivery method, and learning design will put you in the best position for success. For more information on planning your vILT course, check out a recent post on evaluating learning objectives for the virtual classroom. PreparationEveryone knows that preparation is important but it is often the part of the process that gets short changed. Many companies will spend thousands of dollars in resources designing their vILT programs, and not nearly as much time or energy making sure their facilitation team is fully prepared to deliver the sessions. We see this most when industry experts or professionals are looped into the process after the design phase of the program. While the content and subject matter might seem like an easy leap for many industry professionals, the environment, the technology, and the delivery method may be more of a stretch and requires skill development and preparation. We recommend the use of dress rehearsals as part of the preparation process. 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. For more tips on preparation check out our post on dress rehearsals.Delivery Effective delivery is where the rubber meets the road. Your virtual facilitators can make or break your virtual training simply on how they deliver the session. Do they have well developed facilitation skills? Are they enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the topic? Do they present with energy or do they sound as if they are reading from a script? We recommend the use of a content outline, and a detailed facilitator guide for the session. This will allow facilitators to deliver the course material in a manner that achieves the core objectives while also letting learners drive discussion. We’ve done several posts on facilitator delivery techniques and preparation. Check those out here and here.EngagementPart of delivery is engagement. If your learners aren’t engaged throughout the session, the learning objectives cannot be met. A good facilitator will engage with learners on a personal level. They will incorporate existing technology to ask questions, encourage dialogue, and drive discussions. As mentioned in the delivery section, facilitators should be able to meet the course objectives while letting learners drive the discussion in directions most applicable to them. Check out our post on facilitating versus teaching for more information on engaging your learners. Follow-up Feedback and follow-up is the most easily forgotten part of a successful vILT program. This is important for two reasons.First, for the continuity of your program. Gathering feedback from your learners will provide you with valuable information on what is working and what isn’t, what needs to be changed, adapted, or cut. Secondly, following up with your learners is the ultimate litmus on whether or not your vILT program is actually accomplishing your learning objectives. Are learners accomplishing what is intended, back on the job? Is it truly applicable to their careers? Whether or not your learning objectives are met determine the ultimate success of your vILT program from both a learner perspective and the business results perspective. Watch for our two part post on learner follow up coming next month.Avoiding any one of these key steps could be a mistake for your vILT training program. Take a look at your program; are you accomplishing each one of these? Are there others you would add to the list?

Spring Cleaning Isn’t Just for Your Closet; Virtual Programs Need Tidying Too.

March 21, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
Ahhh spring is in the air! The flowers are peeking out from under their blanket of dirt, and here in the Midwest we’ve already been able to enjoy some rather unseasonably warm weather. With warmer days and more daylight comes the annual spring cleaning sweep. While you’re in the process of digging out your summer wardrobe and purging the rest of your winter clutter, we think it’s a good time to examine your virtual instructor-led training (vILT) materials as well. After setting up a vILT program, it’s easy to get complacent, particularly when a program is running smoothly, and the feedback from your facilitators and learners is positive. When starting, you probably put in a lot of work. You hired a team of designers, put together strategic initiatives, and set out to meet the goals of your business. But it can’t stop there. In the spirit of continuous improvement, it’s important to regularly revisit your virtual courses to determine the following is still happening: The learning objectives are being met The examples and case studies are relevant and effective All slide content is accurate The exercises are on target The documentation for delivering the session is accurate (like the facilitator guide) The “on the job” impact is being realized If you’re not evaluating the ‘on the job’ application of your training, you should be. Tracking whether your learners are able to apply what they have learned back on the job, will not only ensure the longevity of your program, but the overall success of your business. In addition, we encourage you to comb through your material at least annually, if not bi-annually; take note of examples, time stamps, or other relevant material that may require a quick slide revision or update. But also, revisit the established learning objectives.  With your stakeholders, determine whether the objectives have remained the same or if they’ve grown or changed. Then determine whether or not your existing vILT program still meets those learning objectives. While some updates may require only a few slide additions and changes, some may require a complete session overhaul.  Either way, your learners, and ultimately your organization, will benefit from having fresh, relevant, and applicable training programs.  

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Learning | Training | Virtual Instructor-Led Training

Quiz Time! Does Your Company Culture Support vILT?

March 14, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
In case you missed our previous post, there is still time to take our quiz and see!Looking for something to revitalize your company’s training and education program? A new virtual training program or an expansion of your existing program might be the right move. But will your company culture support vILT? Before spending the time and resources to launch a robust vILT program, consider taking our assessment to help determine how ready your organization is, and what steps you need to take in order to develop a culture that fully supports vILT. Find out now! Does Your Company Culture Support vILT?

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Online Learning | Training | Virtual Instructor-Led Training

Does Your Company Culture Support vILT?

February 7, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
Take our quiz and see! Continuing education and development of employees is important for the success of any organization. Throughout our work, we encounter many companies interested in transitioning to, or ramping up, a virtual instructor-led training program for their company. Aside from choosing the right platform, preparing your facilitators, and designing your learning materials, which we’ve already discussed in previous posts, it’s important to evaluate whether or not your company culture is ready to actually support vILT.  There is a lot to consider: Does your executive team value learning and development programs as critical to your organization's success? Is your senior management team in full support of adding vILT programs into the mix of your organization's learning program offerings? Do your employees currently expect continuing education and development opportunities? Are your learners and front-line managers asking for vILT offerings? Do your learners have private, quiet, environments to attend virtual classes individually? It’s important to assess these and other criteria when first launching or when planning to expand your vILT program. We’ve developed a short assessment you can take to help determine how ready your organization is, and what steps you need to take in order to develop a culture that fully supports vILT.

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Tools | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning

Will You Get the Budget Dollars You Need for Your Virtual Learning Program?

August 2, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
It’s that time of year again. Time to work on your 2017 budget, and perhaps time to discuss whether or not investment in a virtual learning strategy should be included. A proper virtual learning program provides several opportunities for growth, performance improvement, and expense reduction, and yet, your executive team may still need convincing. I did two posts a few months back on how to make the pitch for virtual learning.  If you’ve completed your research, and determined a virtual learning program will propel your company forward; these posts provide you with information on how to convince the executive team that opening the pocket book makes good business sense.Let me know what you think. Have you approached your executive team about virtual learning? I’m always interested in hearing how these conversations progress. Good luck with your 2017 budget conversations.

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Executive | Learning | Virtual Learning

Making the Pitch: Selling Your Executives on Virtual Learning (Part 2)

April 26, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
As we reviewed in Part 1 of this post, more and more companies are turning to virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs to support their skill development needs and competency attainment goals. We know that gaining executive level support is crucial for vILT programs to be successful. In order to do so, learning and development professionals need to put on their sales hats and move beyond the day-to-day mechanics of how a vILT program works to communicate the big picture value. Success lies in positioning. What business need does vILT address? If leaders don’t see relevant benefits, they will not be on board. In the five-step sales process we outlined in Part 1 of this blog; steps 2 and 3 require the seller to identify the needs of their buyer and then present a solution that solves the immediate business need. In essence, we are the sellers, our decision maker is the buyer, and our solution is our product so it makes sense to consider a sale process as we determine how to win this support. So what are some common needs vILT addresses? In our work, we have watched our clients leverage vILT to address a multitude of challenges they are facing. We’ve outlined several of those challenges below, and discussed how vILT can solve the problem. Our hope is, that if you, and your executive, are dealing with the same or similar challenges this post may shed some insight on how to frame your sales pitch. Challenge: Budget Cuts Despite all the research and documentation telling us not to; in a down economy or a struggling market, training and development is, unfortunately, one of the first things to be trimmed back. Companies may eliminate some programs all together to save money, or may implement a company-wide travel ban which restricts employees and trainers from traveling to conduct or attend company training. A virtual instructor-led training program can provide an opportunity for companies to reduce expenses while maintaining or even exceeding their learning and development goals. When budgeting hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses in order for employees and trainers to attend or deliver training sessions is not practical, making a modest investment in vILT to connect training facilitators and learners virtually is a solution to consider. When proposing that vILT will solve a budget challenge, make sure you go into that conversation with some solid numbers. Any executive is going to want to know how much savings is estimated and how you arrived at your number. Challenge: Bridging Geographic Gaps Between Departments and Regions As covered in Part 1 of this post, business is done on a global scale today. More and more companies are turning to vILT programs to effectively manage globally disbursed employees, and develop a consistent culture and message across departments and divisions in different geographic locations. Virtual training sessions allow participants and facilitators to connect from anywhere there’s an Internet connection – allowing for more opportunities for collaboration and exposure to expertise and insight from colleagues across the globe. When addressing how vILT will bridge different segments of employees and help break down silos, it is important to help executives envision the potential impact. Compare the exposure people in the organization have with today’s learning and development strategy in comparison to what they will have with a robust vILT program. Challenge: Reaching Segments of the Population at a Deeper Level This challenge is related to the last one. In geographically dispersed organizations in which there are smaller pockets of employees in more remote locations, it is often times challenging to get them the same learning opportunities as your larger populations. Whether the issue be distance, facilities, or adequate employee coverage while folks are in training, virtual instructor-led training can eliminate or at least reduce some of these obstacles – thus allowing the expansion of your learning offering to these hard to reach segments. When proposing how vILT can effectively reach these segments of the population we suggest supporting this value with data. The comparison of today’s approach to vILT enabled training should demonstrate the power of the solution to combat this challenge. Challenge: The Need for Fast Delivery of More Information Virtual training programs offer an air of convenience for learners and facilitators. A virtual learning environment can quickly and visually connect employees from all over the globe, and do it in a personal way. The speed of delivery provides the opportunity to be more productive by utilizing less time. Travel time eats into productivity. With virtual sessions, learners can reserve a couple of hours during the day to complete the necessary training instead of spending days on the road or a full day in a training session. Time that isn’t spent traveling can be spent working.   Again, data is on your side when proposing how vILT provides the opportunity to deliver more in less time. Compare time investments of both the learner and the training team with today’s delivery approach in comparison to programs delivered virtually. Another angle on the time savings benefit is to compare how long it takes to deploy a training initiative today, start to finish, vs. a comparable vILT initiative. Many executives live and breathe speed to market. You’ll be speaking their language with this one. These are just a sampling of the variety of situations where a vILT training program can solve a business challenge. What are some ways that you’ve gotten executive buy-in for your VILT program? Are there other challenges your vILT program has addressed? We’d love your feedback.