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.

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?    

The Pre-work Predicament

April 9, 2014 14:56 by Dana Peters
Trainers and meeting facilitators see tremendous value in getting a jump start to their virtual instructor-led training (VILT) classes or online meetings by assigning pre-work. Yet time and time again this effort results in only a portion of participants actually completing their assignments and arriving fully prepared for the online event. Let’s take a closer look at this challenge. Why is pre-work assigned? Trainers and meeting facilitators say: Time in the online classroom or meeting space is precious. Pre-work gets participants thinking about the topic beforehand, formulating new ideas, or learning some foundational information. Well planned pre-work leads to well-prepared participants, ready to hit the ground running in our sessions. When submitted ahead of time, pre-work is a way to get to know participants; where they are at with the topic, what their capabilities are, and what their interests/motivations are. Pooled together, pre-work is a snap shot of the participant group as a whole, allowing us to customize the training or meeting objectives before we even get started. Why is pre-work not done? Participants say: Sometimes there is no compelling reason to complete it. We don’t see the value or connection between doing the pre-work and our participation in the class or meeting. It doesn’t seem important or required therefore we assume it’s optional. “What pre-work?” I must have overlooked it amongst the hundreds of other emails I receive each day. I forgot. I set it aside to complete later. Later never came.  It’s boring. I started it but it was too painful to finish. How do we change this? WIIFM. The old “What’s In It For Me.” Simple, but often overlooked. We suggest your introduction to the pre-work include a clear and concise explain of why the pre-work is beneficial to the participant. If you are having trouble articulating the WIIFM from the participant’s perspective for the pre-work you have planned, then you should question if the pre-work you have designed is necessary. Make this commitment: Any and all pre-work will be compelling and necessary. Related to WIIFM, the connection between the pre-work and the goals and objectives of your meeting or training class need to be clear. If the participants sense that skipping the pre-work will result in being lost, out of the loop, and ill prepared in comparison to the rest of their peers, they will be more motivated to do the pre-work. Set expectations. Make it crystal clear to participants how their time on pre-work will contribute directly to the conversation, content, outcome, and their ability to participate. Pre-work should be front and center at the beginning of the training or meeting, first up on the agenda. This will get the session off the ground quickly with energy. Be clear about how much time it will take to complete the pre-work. If the time commitment is on the longer side, consider breaking it up into multiple steps. Provide a mini-checklist so that participants know how much they have done and how far they have to go. Have a submission process. We find pre-work that results in something that is turned in or that you are able to document online as completed is more likely to get done. Communicate well and often. When explaining the pre-work requirement in the initial invitation, ask for acknowledgement and commitment to do the work. Utilize a communication timeline for the whole pre-session process. We suggest automating these steps as much as possible. Share accountability. Hold up your end of the bargain with a promise of quality. 1) You will only design meaningful and interesting pre-work and 2) facilitate sessions that meet, if not exceed, the stated objectives and goals. Be clear on how the objectives or goals of the event will be negatively impacted unless everyone has completed the pre-work going into the session; often peers will hold each other accountable. Sometimes the pressure of letting the group down is enough to make the pre-work a priority on everyone’s task list. Accept the fact that your communication process needs to include multiple reminders and some hand-holding. Make it easy, interesting, and flexible. Invest the time necessary to make the pre-work interesting. It should be visually appealing and command attention. Consider options outside of “read this document before our meeting.” Could you use other mediums: video clips, podcasts, short learning modules, or other paper based activities? Make it easy to get to and work on. If you are sending out reminders, include the pre-work information/links again so participants don’t have to dig around for it. Can your pre-work easily be worked on from the road (on commuter train or business trip)? Can it be completed in short sittings, perfect for fillers in-between meetings or during the wait at the doctor’s office? How do we handle those non-compliers? Following the same vein as being clear about pre-work expectations, we suggest that you are also clear about the consequences for not completing pre-work. This can be as direct as automatically withdrawing the participant from the event attendee list, after sending several reminders, to giving the participant “the out” by allowing them to withdraw from attending voluntarily. These are some of our thoughts on how to handle pre-work challenges. What are some of yours?

How Do We Want to Be Perceived?

June 14, 2013 10:35 by Dana Peters
I was on the road earlier this week with Greg Owen-Boger from Turpin Communication. Turpin is one of my Learning Partners and we were in Appleton, WI, for the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter of the American Society of Training & Development’s monthly program. The chapter goes by NEW ASTD for short. [More]

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Learning Trends | Train the Trainer | Turpin Communication