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.

Happy Birthday Mondo Learning Solutions!

January 25, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
Mondo Learning Solutions is celebrating six years in business today! Our small business became officially registered with the state of Wisconsin on January 25, 2011, and we couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve accomplished since then. In six years, we’ve worked with some amazing clients, many who have been with us since the very beginning, and still more who hire us for ongoing services as our company continues to grow. Repeat and referral business has been instrumental in the success of our company, and speaks volumes to the quality services we set out to provide from day one. As you may well know, our purpose is to help our clients plan, design, and deliver groundbreaking online learning training and events. Over time, we’ve grown our company to one that provides services, consulting, and professional development opportunities, solely focused on the virtual learning space. As I reflect on our history I am amazed at what has been accomplished: We have developed a consulting approach that focuses on four components to success in the virtual learning, presentation, and meeting space. In 2016, we supported more than 500 virtual learning sessions. Since inception we have been involved in the design and implementation of nearly 50 virtual learning courses around the world. We’ve grown our expertise in several platforms including Adobe Connect, WebEx, GoToTraining, Blackboard Collaborate, and Zoom. In addition to English, we have the ability to deliver services and facilitate sessions in Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and German. I left the corporate world, and made the decision to start this business in August 2010. Today, the Mondo Learning Solutions family now consists of over 15 learning experts and consultants. Ten are based here in the United States, one in Germany, one in Brazil, and one in China. We are a small but mighty family, and we plan to continue to grow and expand to meet the needs of our global clients as necessary. Celebrating six years in business has given us time to reflect on the things we’ve accomplished as a company.  The path may not be exactly as we envisioned, but it has truly been a fantastic ride. Cheers to six years in business! Thank you to all our clients and readers. Here’s to many more successful years.

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Learning | Presentation | Training

Happy Holidays

December 13, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
For me, this time of year is always a time of reflection. In between the long lines at the store, the frantic last minute attempt to find the perfect gift, and the holiday baking, I find myself really examining my year. Was I the person I truly wanted to be? Did I reflect that in my work and my personal life? Could I do better? As a business owner, a mother, a wife, and the matriarch of my family unit, I try to unplug, hit refresh, and examine my approach to life as we enter the New Year. In recent years some of our family goals have centered on becoming better stewards in our community. Last year, my family decided we wanted to waste less food, be better recyclers, and be more conscious of how we give back to our community.  What seemed like simple goals has evolved into a new lifestyle for us, and for me a new passion for the work being done by a local food pantry. Working toward these family goals has not only been rewarding, but it has been an opportunity for us to talk about issues impacting our community and a great excuse to spend time together. This year, we encourage you to do the same. I encourage you to find something that matters to you; think about how you could make a difference, and what you want to do in 2017.  For me, it’s not always about the business. Of course we always have business goals, but there is more to life than work. It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle of the season; and even easier to let the stress of year-end deadlines, conference calls, and last minute meetings take away from the joy this season can bring. Our plan now is to enjoy this holiday season, and we encourage you to do the same. Reflect, relax, and unwind. Start fresh in the New Year. Happy Holidays from our team to yours, and best wishes on a successful 2017!

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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? 

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Turpin Communication | Virtual Learning

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

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. 

Do Your New Employees Experience “Sink or Swim”?

March 19, 2013 15:05 by Dana Peters
A family friend recently started a new job for a large global company here in Milwaukee. Her first two weeks of formal orientation at headquarters were meticulously planned with a solid blend of learning experiences, open discussions, social opportunities, and knowledge exchanges. She was completely jazzed and inspired. [More]

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Learning | Onboarding | Training