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.

Meet Virtual Facilitator Blaine Rada

March 8, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
In my line of work, I have the pleasure of working with talented people from all over the world. Today, I would like to introduce someone that is almost in my backyard. Meet Blaine Rada.  As a Chicago-based trainer, speaker, and communication coach, Blaine also serves as a Virtual Facilitator here at Mondo Learning Solutions. Some of our clients find their virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs growing at a rate in which their internal facilitation team can’t meet the demand. When this happens, we are often called upon to provide skilled Virtual Facilitators to supplement the internal team. Our Virtual Facilitators, like Blaine, have years of experience facilitating learning on a diverse set of topics. Once engaged with a client on a new program, Blaine works closely with the client to understand the unique learning needs of the learners, and quickly learn the course curriculum and virtual classroom set-up.Many qualities about Blaine impress me but the following two really standout for me…First, is his ability to make content come alive in the virtual classroom. When the situation calls for it, Blaine has the ability to take client specific or off-the-shelf course material and deliver customized, comprehensive, and relatable learning experiences for our clients. There is an unmatched energy when Blaine is facilitating.Second, is his commitment to continuous improvement. Blaine routinely seeks out new ways to engage and promote learning retention; he is always considering how he can enhance the learning experience. Blaine has an impressive background as well: He is a member of the National Speakers Association and has earned a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, a recognition held by fewer than 15 percent of professional speakers worldwide. He has more than 20 years experience working as a corporate trainer for the mortgage industry. He was also named “America’s Greatest Thinker” in 2005 after competing in The Great American Think-Off, an exhibition of civil disagreement put on by The Cultural Center. In addition to his work with Mondo Learning, Blaine is a regular keynote speaker and trainer throughout the country and also coaches individuals on how to be more effective communicators; skills necessary for all facets of life and business. For more information about Blaine, check out his LinkedIn profile here.  

Pitfalls of Virtual Classroom Training

March 20, 2014 15:23 by Dana Peters
A few weeks ago, I responded to a post on Chief Learning Officer Magazine’s discussion group on LinkedIn. My comments received several “likes” so I thought our readers here might enjoy this information as well. Here was the posted question: Pitfalls of Virtual Classroom Training. Like all training modalities, virtual classroom has its own requirements, considerations and unique demands. What pitfalls have you experienced with virtual classroom technology, and how can they be overcome? Here was my entry. (Warning, I got a little long-winded.) ____________________________________________________________________________________________ I’ll kick things off. Here are a few pitfalls from our experience: Starting a virtual instructor-led training (VILT) initiative without doing your homework. VILT is something that should be approached with thought, consideration, and planning. We have consulted with clients recovering from the aftermath of jumping into the VILT deep end. It’s better to take the time planning, preparing, and gaining the internal support needed on the front side. We suggest a pilot in which the first offering is not complicated or terribly complex - low hanging fruit, something small in scale but brings immediate value. Creating an early win helps gain support and will generate some energy for the program.Gaining buy-in from trainers and instructional designers that have always worked with traditional face-to-face courses. Sometimes there is resistance.A colleague of mine offers this perspective. Presenting online combines two things many adults do not embrace enthusiastically: public speaking and technology. He works with all sorts of virtual presenters. In the case of face-to-face classroom trainers, I have found some of the resistance comes from learning the technology involved, but more of it stems from not being able to see their learners’ faces and read body language. Many trainers question how they could ever be as effective virtually as they are in person. To work on buy-in with face-to-face trainers and designers, we explore how these two different learning environments are the same, but different: First, we ask them to make a detailed list of everything that defines a successful training course or session in the face-to-face classroom. Next, we create a detailed list of everything that will define a successful training course in the virtual classroom. Then we compare the two lists. Usually the “ah-ha” moment comes here when the group sees the overlap between the lists. They typically conclude what defines success is the same regardless of where the class takes place. The difference is how the course is designed and the delivery techniques that are utilized. Inadequately prepared facilitators/trainers/presenters.This pitfall is easily avoided but often occurs because the time (and money) has not been spent on professional development. There are numerous opportunities for virtual trainers to develop the skills needed to be effective; whether it be workshops, courses, one-on-one coaching, dress rehearsals, or practice sessions. In addition to having developed the skills to work in the VILT environment, here are a few additional prevention tips to avoid being inadequately prepare: It is important for trainers to allow plenty of preparation time in advance of their delivery. It is much more difficult to wing it in the virtual classroom. Always have a “Plan B” and “Plan C” in case the technology fails you, which it will from time to time. Virtual classrooms involve a lot of moving parts which can be very challenging for one person to handle. When possible, we recommend using a producer to support each delivery. This allows the trainer to focus on the learners and the course content, leaving the technology for the producer to manage. I will stop here. I am sure all of us working in this space could write a book on the pitfalls and potential remedies. I am looking forward to reading the thoughts of others. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ If you belong to the group, I encourage you to check out the discussion thread. There are several great comments. What pitfalls would you add to the list I have started here?

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eLearning | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning