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.

Getting vILT Right on a Global Scale

February 27, 2018 12:30 by Dana Peters
Effectively managing and maintaining a global virtual instructor-led training (vILT) program comes with unique challenges.  In our experience the best run programs are managed with a strong emphasis on attention to detail, clear and consistent communication, and a high level of commitment to process improvement. A vILT global program typically involves a large pool of facilitators, a globally diverse set of participants, and a dependency on technology. While managing a global program certainly is not easy; technology has made the communication and management of logistical details required for successful execution much easier. Below are our top five tips to consider when managing global vILT programs. “Gather” your facilitators For a global vILT program, you will likely have a global team of facilitators. We recommend utilizing technology to not only train your facilitators, but to also store your content. File sharing sites allow facilitator guides, timing outlines, and presentation decks to be housed in one location. Facilitators around the globe can access those files for their own preparation and in real time. From a version management perspective this will also ensure your team of facilitators are working from the most current version of the course content. Champion the Program Just like any vILT program, a global program will require commitment and ‘buy in’ from leaders in all parts of the globe. Establishing clear guidelines and effectively communicating the goals for the program will help you earn leadership support. This support is necessary to drive participation in the program and foster application of newly learned skills back on the job. For more information on getting the leadership team to champion your program, check out our previous post: Making the Pitch: Selling Your Executives on Virtual Learning. Establish Consistency Consistency is crucial for a successful global program. It’s important to establish a program management strategy and to stick to it. We suggest dedicating specific resources to be responsible for the communication surrounding the program. The marketing of the program, invitations, pre-work, and learning materials need to be delivered and communicated consistently. We also recommend specific resources be responsible for all aspects of scheduling, both on the learner side and the facilitation delivery side. In addition to maintaining these processes, it is also important to adapt those processes as things change or gaps are discovered. Know your Time Zones Running a global program means managing sessions in multiple time zones. Additionally, you may have a session running in East Asia by a facilitator in the United States. Technology can be helpful when converting class times to different time zones, but we recommend posting the session in a standard time zone in which the participants are used to working with and always stating times with time zone included. This will make it easier for your facilitation team to determine the class time for their location and will help alleviate conversion mistakes. It’s also important to know the national holidays in countries where your company does business. If facilities are closed, chances are your participants will not be participating. It’s important to avoid scheduling classes on national holidays or communicate expectations for your participants in order to avoid last minute cancellations or low class numbers. Speak the Language It’s a proven fact that people learn more effectively and retain more information when content is delivered in their native language. While working with a global audience, it’s important to avoid colloquial speak and slang terms or analogies familiar only to a particular region. Pop culture references can also be tricky. While many parts of the globe can understand and speak/write English, if you find a need for multiple sessions a year in a particular country or region you should consider translating your session to that region’s native language. This means translating not only the material, but also utilizing a native speaking facilitator and producer for those sessions as well. Following these five tips can help you manage and maintain a successful global vILT program. What about you? What strategies do you have for managing a global vILT program effectively?

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?

Believe…A Stress Free Year End is Possible

November 14, 2017 10:46 by Dana Peters
It’s that time of year again. The holidays are right around the corner, and before we know it the New Year will be upon us. The end of the year always comes with the traditional holiday stressors like family, cooking, shopping, and holiday travel.  But for virtual instructor-led training (vILT) professionals, the end of the year can bring on even more stress if proactive steps aren’t taken throughout the year. We’ve compiled a list of the most common stressors faced by many vILT professionals, and more importantly, how to avoid them. Last Minute RequestHere it is November and the rush of calls, emails, and instant messages from learners declaring their need for more opportunities to take “xyz” course before year end is in full swing. Despite several scheduled courses during the first ten months of the year, this mad dash to meet course completion goals seems to always crop up in the last two months of the year. Avoid this stressor by making sure to effectively communicate your learning opportunities early and often. Think about how an effective marketing campaign works and apply some of those strategies. Regular communication from a variety of channels and encouragement to enroll now in the courses needed will offer some relief to the year-end rush. Scheduling on Short NoticeWith the last minute request volume that seems to come at year-end, the desire to serve learners and accommodate these needs leads to the attempt to schedule a few more sessions before the year is over. Between the holidays, vacation schedules, budget restraints, and other year-end business demands, this can be next to impossible. The key to avoiding this stressor is preparation. Build in a buffer. Schedule extra classes around the end of the year several months in advance as part of the preparation for the onslaught of learners needing classes. Extra classes can be consolidated or cancelled if need be but adding them last minute is very difficult.Low Attendance RatesSchedules at the end of the year are jam packed for everyone, including learners. Despite extra effort to add a few last minute classes to the learning calendar, often the result is low attendance rates and cancellations. Avoid this stressor by communicating year round learner expectations for attendance and participation. For more information, check out this post we previously wrote on setting learner expectations.  Finalizing Next Year’s BudgetThe end of the year often means final budget decisions for the New Year. It’s a stressor every department in every company has to deal with, and one virtual learning professionals have to deal with too. All dollars need to be justified and accounted for. To relieve some of the stress, continuously demonstrate value and contribution to business results throughout the year, not just when it’s time for budget discussions. Plan for the budget meeting by understanding what the goals of the business are in the upcoming year and creating the connection from your learning programs to meeting those goals.  We’ve done a few posts on earning executive buy-in that you might find helpful.Can you relate? What else is stressful for you this time of year? While each of these may resonate with you, survival is possible with proper preparation.

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?

Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off (Part 2)

August 22, 2017 08:53 by Dana Peters
Measuring Success Back on the Job   In our last post, we discussed building the pathway to learning application to help learners apply what they have learned in the virtual classroom back on the job. This was the first of two items we believe need to be included in the design of virtual learning programs in order to make sure valuable resources (time and money) do not go to waste. As a reminder from the Part 1 post, those two things we need to include are A “post learning event path” that helps our learners apply what they have learned back on the job. A plan to measure results back on the job. This plan should address the following two statements:  We know we are successful when_________________.  We will measure that success by__________________. With number one under our belt, today we’re going to talk about the plan to specifically measure those results back on the job. When it comes to measuring and evaluating learning, I turn to my colleague who is an expert in this area, Ken Phillips, CEO of Phillips Associates. You are probably familiar with the Kirkpatrick Model with the four levels of learning evaluation. Ken outlines these levels in his article: “Learn the Secrets of Survey Design”. In summary those levels are:   Level 1: identifies learner reaction to your program. Level 2: measures whether or not your learners learned anything. Level 3: measures whether or not learners actually applied what they learned back on the job. Level 4: measures whether the business has improved as a result of the applied learning. For the purposes of this post we are going to focus in on Level 3 and Level 4. For a Level 3 survey to be effective, Ken provides several tips in regard to content, format, and measurement. As mentioned, more details can be found in Ken’s “Learn the Secrets of Survey Design” article. Unlike a survey issued to the learner immediately following your virtual learning program (Level 1), the Level 3 evaluation should also involve those interacting with the learner, often referred to as observers.  Observers (those that work with, for, or supervise the learner) are in the position to provide valuable feedback on observable behaviors they are experiencing in their interactions with the learner. Interviews, surveys, and 360-degree assessments are solid tools to support Level 3 evaluation. Level 4 evaluations, according to Ken, are the holy grail of evaluations. I agree. The c-level executives are looking for evidence of business results from their investment in learning and development. Ken suggests thinking about Level 4 evaluations in two phases: (1) Identifying business metrics that have a strong relationship with learning program content and (2) connecting the learning program to the business metrics. Check out Ken’s article: “The Holy Grail of Learning Evaluations: Level 4” for more details. How about you? How do you achieve Level 3 and 4?

Designing Virtual Learning That Pays Off (Part 1)

August 16, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
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Is Your Virtual Training Program On Target or Missing the Mark?

July 25, 2017 09:00 by Dana Peters
Is your virtual instructor-led training (vILT) program meeting the needs of your business, or is it falling short of expectations? If your program is not quite hitting the mark, perhaps there is work to be done in one of the following five key areas. PlanningPlanning is an important step early in the process to ensuring the success of your program. Proper planning is centered on the goals you have for each of your vILT classes. What are you trying to accomplish? Identify key learning objectives and design your class to meet those objectives. Identifying your needs will help you decide which platform, delivery method, and learning design will put you in the best position for success. For more information on planning your vILT course, check out a recent post on evaluating learning objectives for the virtual classroom. PreparationEveryone knows that preparation is important but it is often the part of the process that gets short changed. Many companies will spend thousands of dollars in resources designing their vILT programs, and not nearly as much time or energy making sure their facilitation team is fully prepared to deliver the sessions. We see this most when industry experts or professionals are looped into the process after the design phase of the program. While the content and subject matter might seem like an easy leap for many industry professionals, the environment, the technology, and the delivery method may be more of a stretch and requires skill development and preparation. We recommend the use of dress rehearsals as part of the preparation process. 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. For more tips on preparation check out our post on dress rehearsals.Delivery Effective delivery is where the rubber meets the road. Your virtual facilitators can make or break your virtual training simply on how they deliver the session. Do they have well developed facilitation skills? Are they enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the topic? Do they present with energy or do they sound as if they are reading from a script? We recommend the use of a content outline, and a detailed facilitator guide for the session. This will allow facilitators to deliver the course material in a manner that achieves the core objectives while also letting learners drive discussion. We’ve done several posts on facilitator delivery techniques and preparation. Check those out here and here.EngagementPart of delivery is engagement. If your learners aren’t engaged throughout the session, the learning objectives cannot be met. A good facilitator will engage with learners on a personal level. They will incorporate existing technology to ask questions, encourage dialogue, and drive discussions. As mentioned in the delivery section, facilitators should be able to meet the course objectives while letting learners drive the discussion in directions most applicable to them. Check out our post on facilitating versus teaching for more information on engaging your learners. Follow-up Feedback and follow-up is the most easily forgotten part of a successful vILT program. This is important for two reasons.First, for the continuity of your program. Gathering feedback from your learners will provide you with valuable information on what is working and what isn’t, what needs to be changed, adapted, or cut. Secondly, following up with your learners is the ultimate litmus on whether or not your vILT program is actually accomplishing your learning objectives. Are learners accomplishing what is intended, back on the job? Is it truly applicable to their careers? Whether or not your learning objectives are met determine the ultimate success of your vILT program from both a learner perspective and the business results perspective. Watch for our two part post on learner follow up coming next month.Avoiding any one of these key steps could be a mistake for your vILT training program. Take a look at your program; are you accomplishing each one of these? Are there others you would add to the list?