Four Mistakes to Avoid With the Visuals in Your Next Virtual Learning Session

April 24, 2018 12:54 by Dana Peters
The design and application of visual elements is critical to the success of any virtual instructor-led training session. Consider the quality of your visuals (like the PowerPoint slides) as it relates to the needs of your learners. From beginning to end, your slide design should support and enhance your learning objectives and your instructional message. Visual design components like aesthetics, colors, and fonts can enhance and even encourage engagement and retention. Poor design, however, can affect learners’ overall experience and the intended outcome for the session. There are several key things you should avoid when creating the visual elements of your virtual learning session. Clutter Less is more. Don’t fill up your slides with a word for word script or with images that aren’t relevant to your presentation. Negative space can be used to draw attention to specific areas or emphasize certain points. Remember, what’s not on the slide is sometimes just as important as what is. Color Craze Color is great. It can be used to enhance or even illicit specific emotions and convey messages to your audience. It can also be a distraction if not used appropriately. Maintaining a color scheme is important, we suggest sticking to a pallet of colors and using a few complimentary colors for emphasis. Colored text, as well as the type of font you are using can also play a role in retention and understanding. Make sure the color and the font you are using for your text is easy-to-read. Noise Noise is anything not relevant to your topic on hand. Try not to cover more than one idea on the screen at a time. Slide animation can be used for emphasis, but do so purposefully. It should not be a distraction. Keep it subtle and simple. It’s important to maintain a focus, and make sure your visual elements offer consistent opportunity for conversation, discussion, and learning. Organizational Chaos Finally, organization is critical. When tackling the visual elements of your virtual session it’s important to maintain order and consistency. Learners should be able to cohesively move through the session from one concept or idea to the next; without getting lost. Avoiding clutter and reducing noise within your visuals will help, but the use of concise slide titles and transitional agenda slides can help guide the learner through the progression of the session and maintain order in the delivery of the content. Of course, design can’t be mastered entirely with one post, but these items pertaining to your visual elements in your virtual training session are a good place to start.

Spring is Here…Time to Tidy Up Your vILT

March 20, 2018 09:56 by Dana Peters
Can it be? The calendar tells me the first day of spring is right around the corner. Here in Wisconsin, the weather is very slowly turning, and soon we will emerge from our winter hibernation.  With spring comes the inevitable cleaning sweep, and it reminds me of the post we did last year about ‘spring cleaning’ your Virtual Instructor-Led Training (vILT) materials. This one is worth a revisit. As we mentioned in last year’s post, it’s easy to “coast” once a program is successfully up and running. However, 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 Ideally, you’d implement a content review schedule of your vILT, noting any examples, timestamps, or other references that may require a quick revision and update. Annually or even bi-annually, we recommend revisiting the established learning objectives to confirm whether or not they are still on target with the needs of the business and the learners. 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. Here’s wishing a warm and productive spring to you and your team.

6 Strategies to Maintain Relevant Virtual Learning Programs

February 13, 2018 10:23 by Dana Peters
Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to the long-term survival of the virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs you develop and deploy in the ever changing organization you serve. As a learning and development professional, are you prepared to respond quickly when: Leadership changes happen? A merger or acquisition is announced? The vision, mission, 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 flexible and prepared to react to these changes. But how? We suggest the following strategies: Develop Rough Action Plans   Take time to think about realistic scenarios you could face in the near future that would impact the effectiveness of your vILT programs dramatically. Develop a rough action plan to give you a leg up if one of these scenarios were to actually occur.   Follow a Continuous Improvement Process   Once you’ve designed and implemented a vILT program, it’s important to maintain it to make sure your program continues to be relevant and aligns with the needs of the business. Reviewing your vILT programs on a regular basis allows you to refresh portions of each program as updates are needed. Without a continuous review and evaluation, your program can quickly become obsolete, and without the occasional minor update, you may experience the need for a complete overhaul to your program. Or, worse yet, the program in question may be seen as bringing no value and be eliminated altogether.   Evaluate Your Program’s Impact   In line with continuously reviewing your vILT programs, it’s important to survey your learners and the business on a regular basis. Gaining feedback from your learners will help you make sure you’re meeting their individual needs. Surveying the business will confirm you are meeting the company’s learning goals and objectives.   Educate and Inform Leadership   As a learning and development professional, you know your programs inside and out. Your leadership team may not. In order to showcase the value of your programs, involve leadership in the process. Make sure they are aware of how the vILT programs are meeting the needs of the business, and share with them the feedback you collect from your learners. For more information on how best to track the value of your vILT programs, check out our previous post: Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off: Measuring Success Back on the Job.   Enlist Advocates to Help 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 has been communicated effectively, when changes occur in the company that impact your offerings, you’ll have the advantage of advocates on many fronts. If changes to your programs need to be made, multiple perspectives from your advocates can diversify the conversation on how to meet needs.   Be Proactive   Once a new vILT program is underway, it’s important for your Learning and Development team to remain engaged. Monitor the learner feedback and regularly check in with the leadership team to make sure your program is still on target with company objectives and goals. Being “high touch” will allow your Learning and Development team to proactively recommend changes on the front side rather than reacting after the fact. Your ability to maintain flexibility within your vILT programs will ensure its long- term success. What strategies have you implemented to maintain a robust and relevant learning program that meets the needs of the business you serve?

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?

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?        

Top Five Strategies to Engage Learners in the Virtual Classroom

June 20, 2017 07:17 by Dana Peters
Learner engagement is key to a successful virtual instructor-led training (vILT) session. Promoting active involvement from your participants can be a difficult task in any instructor-led course, but it can be particularly challenging in the virtual classroom environment. Your learners are remote, sometimes scattered all across the globe, and you’re often competing with busy work schedules, emails, phone calls, and other meetings. So how does a good facilitator connect with learners in the moment, despite these challenges? Keep Class Size SmallSince active participation is important to the success of your virtual learning session, it’s best to keep your class sizes smaller. Think back to your school days. It was much easier to disappear in a lecture hall filled with 200 plus people than it was in a small face-to-face classroom with 15 to 20 other students. A smaller class size allows you (and anyone helping you with the delivery) to keep track of who’s participating and who’s not. It also allows more tentative learners a chance to participate without the pressure of their ideas and answers being shared in front of a sizeable classroom full of people. Of course, it’s not always possible to keep class sizes small. In instances where it isn’t, consider small group breakout activities.Personalize ItThis can be interpreted in a few ways. First, learn as much as you can about the learners that will be in your class. Prior to the session, and during. This might mean a short survey that is part of their pre-work or an introductions activity as the participants gather before class starts. That introduction might include a question related to the course content. Second, utilize what you know about your unique group of participants to connect the content of your course to their specific needs and the work that they do back on the job. Doing so, will provide learners with relatable experiences they can build upon and share. Check out our previous post on facilitation techniques for more detailed information.Use the ToolsThe tools in the virtual classroom are specifically designed for promoting engagement, idea sharing, and conversation. Use them! Utilize breakout rooms, whiteboards, polls, or chat activities to spark small and large group discussion, and leave the phone lines open (as long as there’s not too much noise or distraction) to encourage verbal conversation as well. Asking participants for simple contributions in chat or on the whiteboard can fuel a rich discussion.  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 dive deeper, you could call on one or two individuals to elaborate for the group the reason for their selection.Examine How You Ask QuestionsThe types of questions you ask and more specifically, how you ask them, are crucial. It goes beyond asking open-ended questions, you have to extend the conversation and offer opportunities for more participants to get involved. Check out our previous post on the types of questions you can use to facilitate productive conversation. Set and Maintain Learner ExpectationsWe have talked in the past about the importance of setting learner expectations in your virtual classroom.  If a learner doesn’t know why they are taking the class, what value it has to them personally, and what they need to do to be successful before, during, and after class, they are unlikely to be engaged. Good communication is required in order to set and maintain those expectations throughout the course, and we’ve outlined a few strategies for setting expectations in a previous post. Of course there are many more ways to engage learners in the virtual classroom, but these five strategies are a good start. We hope they add value to your virtual instructor-led training sessions. What about you? What have you done to promote engagement in your vILT programs? We’d love to hear.

Perfect Timing; Not by Accident, by Design.

April 4, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
Time is one of our most precious commodities. Everybody values it, and most people want more of it. That’s why, within your instructional design deliverables, we recommend you develop a Timing Outline for the Virtual Facilitator(s) and Virtual Producer to use as they prepare for and deliver the virtual instructor led-training (vILT) courses you design for them. In previous posts, we’ve talked about the four components of a successful vILT program, but even the most well planned sessions can quickly get off track if facilitators and producers don’t keep an eye on time. When designing our professional development workshops for clients, we always create and use a Timing Outline. This helps our delivery team identify, at a glance, the planned timing allocation for each content segment within the session. This tool is not only helpful during the preparation process but is a critical resource in the moment during a live session. We’ve included a sample of the timing outline below. As you can see, not only do we map out the time for each content segment, but we’ve also built in cushions for a late start, the session kick-off, questions, and the wrap up. These additional time allocations are often overlooked, but it’s important to account for them. If you don’t build in time for a late start or session kick-off, your delivery team may start the session already behind. As they near the end of the session, valuable material or exercises may need to be modified or cut in order to end the session on time. While we certainly do not want our facilitators to cut content, we do recommend ending the session on time. Participants are busy, we want them to be engaged in this learning experience, not worry about how rushed or late they will be because the session ran long. From our experience, if the facilitator attempts to continue past the session end time, participants will tune out or log off anyway. The timing outline will provide everyone involved in the delivery process a clear idea of where everyone should be within the course content at any point in time, and how much time is remaining in the overall course. Setting up the outline, and having it utilized during dress rehearsals and practice sessions will enable you, as the designer, to confirm whether or not your design can effectively be delivered in the time frame of the session or if additional tweaks are needed.In addition, a timing outline is an excellent training tool for facilitators and producers that are new to the content. We’ve created this template that will allow you to fill in the session duration and work backwards filling in each exercise, assignment, or section. Feel free to customize it for your particular program. Our hope is it helps you with a successful vILT delivery. What about you? What have you developed to help your delivery team keep track of time during their sessions?

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