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.

Are You a Facilitator or a Teacher?

July 12, 2017 11:38 by Dana Peters
  For those of you tasked with the responsibility of delivering courses in the virtual classroom for large corporations, I have a question. Would you label yourself as a facilitator or one of teacher? According to Merriam-Webster… A facilitator is defined as: “someone who helps to bring about an outcome (such as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision”. A teacher is: “one whose occupation is to instruct”. Let’s go back to high school. A teacher stands in front of a class of impressionable young minds. These minds are young, generally lack experience in the subject, and look to the teacher to do just that: teach. These young students go to school to be taught; math, science, chemistry, Spanish etc. Often it is the teacher delivering the information, and students listening and taking notes. Historically, though there are exceptions, it is a passive activity for the students. In corporate learning it’s different, or at least it should be. In the corporate world, your learners are often professionals, sometimes with 5, 10, or even 20 years of real-world experience available to tap into and expand upon. Most will be laser focused on how they spend their time. When attending a required training class they are going to be looking for the benefit to spending their time away from their work. If this is not quickly identified they will probably mentally check out.  The learning experience needs to be personalized, relevant to their work, and clearly advantageous to their success back on the job. The more control they have in the learning process the more committed they will be to the outcomes.  To be effective, we must facilitate learning.  Why is this distinction important? Facilitators encourage discussion and questions related to real-life situations and examples, allowing learners to consider different ways in which the content relates to their jobs.   In a facilitation situation, the learners drive the discussion, moving the conversation in directions that are meaningful to them and their careers. Skilled facilitators will allow this to happen, and guide the discussion to connect to the learning objectives. As a side note, strong facilitators are well prepared. Prepared facilitators know the content and the subject matter so well that conversation can flow freely, diverging several times, and still stay true to the ultimate objectives. Preparation allows the ability to be flexible, nimble, and respond to the needs of each individual. This means that each and every delivery of the content will be different, but accomplish the same objectives. As we said in a previous post, “Proper preparation, planning, and practice allow facilitators to focus on the moment, fully.” By allowing learners to drive discussion, your vILT program will be more applicable to the learners in the classroom at the moment. One class may drive the discussion one way, while another may drive it in the opposite direction. Still, each group of learners’ needs are met. I encourage you to think about your approach and your role in the virtual classroom. Are you a facilitator or a teacher?        

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.

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?  

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Practice | Producer | Tools

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.