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?

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

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

Be Seen: The Pros & Cons of Facilitator Web Camera Use in the Virtual Classroom (Part 1)

October 13, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the virtual classroom provides several advantages over the face-to-face environment for both learners and facilitators. However, the virtual environment also comes with what some may perceive as disadvantages. The most common; not being able to physically “see” your audience and the audience not being able to see you. As more and more platforms begin to add capabilities, including the ability to use web cameras in the virtual classroom, it may be assumed that the virtual session can easily be turned into a comparable face-to-face session by simply turning on your web camera. If you have spent any time communicating through a web camera, you know it is not the same as being in person. There’s a time and a place for the use of web cameras in a virtual session. In this post I’ve laid out a list of potential pros and cons you, as a facilitator, can use to evaluate whether or not your being on camera is a “value-add” or a distraction to your learners. At a glance… Pros Participants being able to see the session facilitator(s) helps put a face to name. It’s especially useful for introductions and the welcome time. Allows for virtual eye contact from the facilitator, potentially a more personal experience, if done well. Helps to establish the connection between the facilitator and the learner. Cons Web camera use can create new distractions: Participants may focus on what’s in the facilitator’s camera shot rather than paying attention to what is being discussed. (What’s that on the wall behind the facilitator?) If the audio doesn’t match up to the lip movements of the facilitator. Paper shuffling/background noises in the facilitator’s environment. Poor camera engagement on the part of the facilitator. Eye shifting from notes to camera to elsewhere. There is an increased opportunity for technical issues: If the video feed is slow/skipping (low bandwidth situations). User error. Little to no control over participant device or network. Time investment for the facilitator to test equipment, develop skills, and prepare. Using your virtual platform to its maximum capabilities can be beneficial to the outcomes you’re trying to achieve with your virtual training sessions. The use of web cameras during a session can be a value-add, if done correctly.   Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss in detail why it might not make sense to put your facilitator on camera for an entire virtual session.

Visual Appeal: The Importance of Visual Elements in the Virtual Classroom.

August 9, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all, undoubtedly, heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In my business, I’ve learned that that may actually be an understatement. The design and application of visual elements is critical to a successful virtual presentation or training session. I would argue that the virtual classroom is a visual medium, more so even than a face-to-face classroom environment. Rather than looking at a physical presenter, participants in the virtual space are staring at a screen. It is important that what learners are visually taking in, strongly supports and enhances the instructional message.Studies across industries have found that images, info-graphics, and videos are at least 500 percent more likely to be seen than words that deliver the exact same message, and it goes beyond just the use of images. Visual Design components like aesthetics, colors, and fonts can enhance and encourage engagement and retention.  As a side note, Tim Slade, an e-learning professional, author and speaker for Artisan E-Learning and E-Learning Uncovered, has a lot to say about this. I featured his perspective in a previous post.Visual components in the virtual classroom to consider include the PowerPoint presentation, any electronic documents that are shared or displayed, video clips, image files, webcams, and the physical classroom layout (if customizable). We will cover the visual use of webcams in a future post, but today I’d like to focus mainly on the PowerPoint presentation, the primary visual tool for your classroom. The visual aesthetic of your pre-work materials, as well as any shared or displayed documents is important too, but serve mostly as secondary visual tools. The ideas I present ahead will apply to these secondary visuals as well. First and foremost, I have a few key guidelines for you to consider when designing your virtual classroom slides: Less is More The words on your slides should be just enough to reinforce or support your discussion. It should not be a script of what you are planning to say. Use whitespace. What’s NOT on the slide is just as important as what is. Whitespace helps draw attention and allows your participants to focus in on what is important. Make it Interesting and Relevant In the virtual classroom, slides are a key visual element, they should capture interest quickly. Make sure images are on target and easy for participants to connect with. Are they relevant and suitable for the message you are trying to communicate? Design slides that spark conversation and get participants thinking. Be Clear and Consistent Maintain focus, don’t cover several topics on one slide. Don’t force the participant to read text packed slides, they can’t read & listen to what you, and others, are saying at the same time. Let’s take a look at an example. This “before slide” demonstrates what NOT to do. So where are the opportunities for improvement? There are way too many words on this slide. We’ve determined already that participants cannot read and listen at the same time. The image on the slide is too large, there’s no whitespace, it’s difficult to read, and there’s not a clear focal point. Next, same slide, but designed using our key guidelines. You’ll notice: The image is smaller, which makes it more relevant and less distracting. There’s more whitespace on the slide. We’ve also chosen to illustrate the “process” through movement in boxes rather than bullets. This allows the viewer ample space to comprehend. Additionally, the text that appears on the slide is both important and useful, it doesn’t repeat, but offers a highlight of the important concepts. Visually, the second slide is more appealing. It captures the attention of the viewer, and encourages questions, discussion, and participation. Remember, in the virtual classroom, your participants will mostly be looking at the screen, at your presentation. Virtual sessions often bring together participants from all over the world. While languages across the globe come with their own anecdotes, expressions, and idioms, when selected appropriately, images can be universal. What can be said in 300 words on a slide can be said with a single image and potentially be understood in virtually every language. What can you share about your experiences with virtual presentations? I’d love to hear your thoughts.  

Will You Get the Budget Dollars You Need for Your Virtual Learning Program?

August 2, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
It’s that time of year again. Time to work on your 2017 budget, and perhaps time to discuss whether or not investment in a virtual learning strategy should be included. A proper virtual learning program provides several opportunities for growth, performance improvement, and expense reduction, and yet, your executive team may still need convincing. I did two posts a few months back on how to make the pitch for virtual learning.  If you’ve completed your research, and determined a virtual learning program will propel your company forward; these posts provide you with information on how to convince the executive team that opening the pocket book makes good business sense.Let me know what you think. Have you approached your executive team about virtual learning? I’m always interested in hearing how these conversations progress. Good luck with your 2017 budget conversations.

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Executive | Learning | Virtual Learning

Eight Must-Have Resources for Every Virtual Learning Professional

July 27, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
I read, and I read a lot. The virtual training world is fast moving, and ever changing. For me, one way to ensure I’m staying current with virtual learning trends is to learn from the experiences of others. Each spring, I go through a pretty massive spring-cleaning regimen. Clothes that no longer fit, papers I no longer need, and books I’ve already read, but never seem to pick up again…gone. Books take up a lot of space, and even though I’ve read a lot of great books, I don’t keep the majority of them. The following eight books, however, always remain.  While I’m always on the lookout for more, the books below have served me well as my “go to” resources for tips, best practices, and inspiration for the work I do in the virtual learning space. I hope they will do the same for you. •        Visual Design Solutions by Connie Malamed In the virtual space, visual design is critical. If the design falls short, the quality of the learning experience and end results will too. The easy-to-read comprehensive format allows me to hone in on specific design solutions, concepts, and real life applications. I regularly reach for this book while I’m consulting on projects with clients or creating instructional materials for our own professional development workshops. •       The Book of Road-Tested Activities by Elaine Biech This book is an excellent resource for ideas and techniques associated with engaging training activities. As a virtual learning professional I’m always looking for great tried and tested group activities to implement in our virtual learning environments. While many of the activities in this particular book are created for the in-person ILT environment, they still often spark my creativity as I design for the virtual classroom. Not only does author, Elaine Biech, provide several well-tested games and activities, she also segments the activities by content areas such as communication, listening, sales, teamwork, and leadership skills. •        The Successful Virtual Classroom by Darlene Christopher This book is another good resource for effective engagement. As you can imagine, engagement is paramount for a virtual session to be successful, and author Darlene Christopher provides several proven techniques to engage the online audience. I find myself reaching for this book regularly for example case studies, stories of successes and failures, but also great tools, techniques and example checklists. I am also honored to be quoted in this book. (Thanks, Darlene!) •        Interact and Engage! by Kassy Laborie and Tom Stone Did I mention that engagement is paramount? This is another excellent resource for breaking the monotony of the virtual lecture.  The authors do an excellent job of remedying poor online training experiences and utilize several activities and training techniques to not only improve engagement, but also drive retention of information. The book provides numerous example activities and exercises for taking your virtual session to the next level. Plus it’s written in a light and humorous tone, making it an easy read. •        10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations by Wayne Turmel Author, Wayne Turmel, provides a quick, easy-to-read, resource for nearly every kind of virtual presentation in this book. The book coaches virtual presenters on how to appear calm under pressure, and engage as if they were conducting an in-person session, which is no easy feat for most people. He provides general rules, tools and lists to help guide his reader, and I find myself using this book regularly as a resource for my team, my clients and as a reminder for myself. •        Great Webinars: Create Interactive Learning That Is Captivating, Informative, and Fun by  Cynthia Clay Cynthia Clay is the chief executive officer of Net Speed Learning Solutions. She has worked in the online learning space for a number of years, and shares her wisdom and wealth of experience in this book. She too, put together an easy-to-read resource for creating and managing virtual sessions. I find myself regularly referring to her book when I’m working with clients to really zero in on their eLearning strategy. Her focus is on blended learning. The book outlines best practices, and the importance of meaningful content and an engaging delivery approach to maximize learning. •        Live and Online by Jennifer Hofmann This is another design and interaction resource for me. The book walks you through techniques and suggestions for participant involvement, outlines what works and what doesn’t work in the virtual classroom, and helps you to identify whether or not the tools you’re using are helping or hindering collaboration. Hofmann provides sample exercises using familiar tools.  I use this book regularly as I review instructional design plans for a new or repurposed course. •        The Virtual Presenter’s Handbook by Roger Courville Yet another “bible” for the virtual learning professional, with more tips on how to keep remote attendees engaged. This book provides me with guidance to help train all types of facilitators, and help prepare them for working in the virtual environment. As we all know, it’s different than presenting or facilitating in-person. This book includes several “mistakes” facilitators should avoid when transitioning from an in-person presentation to a virtual presentation. What are your “go to” resource books? Share with me in the comments, I’d love to hear.   

Design Matters: Graphic Design Tips for the Non-Designer

June 8, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
At this point, many of us are well aware of the benefits Virtual Instructor-Led Training (vILT) brings to organizations. The list includes cost savings, user convenience, extending reach to distant audiences, and faster deployment of new programs, just to name a few. The use of virtual learning technology also requires an elevated level of time and attention be given to the visual elements of all course content. While some Learning and Development teams are equipped to support this visual need with graphic design talent on staff; many are not. Many are forced to wear multiple skills hats to develop new courses from concept to delivery. Great outside resources are always wonderful to come across. Here is one I wanted to share.Tim Slade, an e-learning professional, author and speaker for Artisan E-Learning and E-Learning Uncovered, says good graphics are what brings your content to life. Design can be the difference between boring and memorable; the difference between a waste-of-time and beneficial. Slade recently published an article that outlines three basic graphic design principles that I feel provide an excellent outline for beginners and even non-designers. Slade discusses the importance of fonts, colors and the use of cohesive images, and graphics to enhance the quality of your content. He encourages practitioners to think about the information being presented, and decide what emotions are evoked. “Whether you realize it or not, you have an emotional response to different types of fonts,” Slade says in the post. “This emotional response either supports or contradicts the tone of your content.” Pairing different types of fonts for different pieces of content can also bring cohesiveness to the document and make things easier to understand and comprehend.  Slade recommends thinking about colors of your presentation in the same way. He outlines several ‘emotions’ that can be inferred from various color combinations including friendly and cheerful for orange or strong, dependable and trusting for blue. Strategic and proportional use of color and cohesive images can add a sense of personality to your documents as well, says Slade. Slade outlines several additional tips in his webinar recording found here. The virtual space provides many opportunities but it often requires those of us in this business to wear multiple hats- including sometimes the creative hat of a graphic designer. With practice, the right resources, and a little ambition we can all become more skilled at the art of design. Or at least enough to be dangerous.  

Peeved: Top Ten Mistakes Virtual Presenters Make That Annoy Learners.

May 24, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Participants are brutally honest. Or at least they can be when it comes to providing constructive feedback for your virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs. If you’ve never collected feedback from your participants after a session, you should. It’s a major way to really understand what portions of the program need a makeover. Over the years we have had the opportunity to hear from a lot of participants about what they like about learning in the virtual space and what drives them up the wall. Like members of your own family, they will tell you the honest truth if you ask, and will tell you in a roundabout way if you don’t. Below, we’ve outlined what I’ve identified as the top ten participant pet peeves, and suggestions on how to avoid them. My hope is that throughout the development of your virtual instructor-led training programs, you can use this as a list of what to be mindful of.  Top Ten Participant Pet Peeves #10: “What is the point of me doing two hours of pre-work? It was never incorporated into our class activities or even referenced!” Time is a valuable commodity. Your participants are busy and often times have "to do" lists that stretch for days. At the same time, pre-work is a necessary element to most vILT classes. Generally, participants don’t mind doing pre-work, as long as it’s relevant. They want to know the time and energy they invest in pre-work will add value to their learning experience. Honor this by making sure your pre-work is impactful. #9: “How am I supposed to complete two hours worth of pre-work if you send it to me the day before our session?” Again, your participants are busy. If you want to ensure they actually complete the pre-work, give them their assignments and outline the expectations well in advance of the session. Showing respect for their time, will ensure a mutual respect for the value-add the pre-work brings to the course. #8: “I signed up for this course, but I have no idea how to get there. If this were in-person I’d have a date, a time, and a location where I need to be. Why didn’t anybody tell me how to get to the classroom?” Communication is key in a virtual learning environment. This starts even before the session does. Make sure you’re participants have the correct log-in credentials and the correct hyperlink that goes directly to your virtual learning classroom. In some cases, this communication is your learners’ first experience with you. Not communicating effectively or accurately is sure to make an impression, just not a good one. Make sure you provide all this information concisely and accurately and you’re participants will be on board with the session from the beginning. #7: “I thought this class was scheduled to be done by now? Why is the facilitator still talking?” It’s no surprise that a lot of these pet peeves center around time. Time is valuable, as we’ve said. While participants value the training and development that emerges from most virtual sessions, they still expect sessions to start and end on time, and you should too. Participants are often blocking off specific times during their day to complete these training sessions. If there is a delay in the start of the class, communicate clearly the reasons and do your best to still end on time. #6: “Oh no, not another awkward ice breaker… I don’t care where my fellow participant went on their last vacation, and I can certainly tell you what emotion I’m feeling right now. You won’t want to hear it.” Ice Breakers only belong in the classroom if they are relevant to the topic at hand. If it’s a smaller class size, having participants introduce themselves, their department, or where they are geographically located is a nice way for everyone to get familiar with who is in the room. Asking them to come up with a word or phrase to describe some relevant portion of the training they are about to take is great too. Keep in mind though that nobody wants to listen to 25 or more people introduce themselves and a laundry list of extra items. They aren’t going to remember everything about everyone, and they certainly don’t want to hear about what 25 different people are going to bring when they are trapped on a deserted island. You get the idea. Be creative, but don’t be kitschy, and take advantage of tools in your virtual environment that might allow people to introduce themselves in different ways. #5: “What does that say?” The virtual learning environment provides several opportunities to be visual. Just like the in-person classroom setting though, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to see something because it’s too small, too cramped, or clouded by distracting animations and designs. In a virtual space, you have no control over what size screen your participants will access the session from. To keep your learners from having to bury their noses in their laptops, do your best to keep long paragraphs of text to a minimum, don’t make the text too small, and make sure any graphics or animations are useful and not distracting. Work with a design team to select appropriate color combinations that make your content easy to read and understand. When in doubt use a "less is more" approach. #4. “Oh, you’re still talking? Great, let me just … zzzzzz…” Participants have a hard time tolerating virtual sessions that are boring, scripted, and lecture based. In an in-person classroom setting it’s easier for the facilitator to make eye contact and engage with their learners in a non-verbal way. In a virtual session, it’s important to be more deliberate. Design the course so it’s not just one person talking the entire time. Involve participants in the discussion, ask them questions, and get their input or they will just zone out. #3: “Hello? Hey, look at me… I have an answer! Hello?!” Participants want to engage. They want to be heard, and when they know the answer or can add something valuable to the discussion they want to be able to share. That can be difficult in a virtual session if they aren’t given the opportunity to do so, or if you aren’t watching for their cues. It’s important to pay attention to the tools the participants have at their disposal. A virtual raised hand, or a chat message is the only way they can communicate with you without interrupting. Make notes to yourself that remind you to look for chat activity or raised hands, and give your participants ample opportunity to contribute. If necessary, work with a host or a second facilitator who can help watch for that type of communication. #2: “Wait, what did she say? I wasn’t listening … I was distracted… those directions weren’t very clear.” Clear, concise, and accurate instructions are imperative for a virtual learning environment to run successfully. Particularly when it comes time for learners to do an exercise or break into teams to complete an activity. Make sure the activities are easy to understand, and practice the delivery of your instructions. Take extra effort to speak slower, and repeat important pieces of information more than once. Even though you expect your learners to give the virtual learning environment 100 percent of their attention, we all know that doesn’t always happen. They might be distracted by noise in their location, activity in the hall, or even chats and discussions happening inside your virtual space. #1: “What’s the point of this session? Am I supposed to benefit from this information somehow?” Any virtual learning session has to serve a purpose, and more importantly, that purpose needs to be clear to those attending the course. This starts with the instructional design process. A solid design targets a set of objectives and sets the stage for participants before they even log in to the virtual environment. Good presenters will outline the expectations for the course work, and make sure learners are aware of the benefits to them. This step is critical if you want participants to do more than just sign in. Outlining the development opportunities and the potential takeaways learners can receive will ensure they not only sign in, but that they listen and engage as well. Do you have other pet peeves that you’ve heard from your participants? We’d love to hear them- leave your comments below.

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Learning | Training | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning

Hello? Is This Thing On? Finding Your Energy in the Virtual Classroom.

May 17, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
One of the greatest challenges for many facilitators transitioning from face-to-face courses to virtual ones, is finding the energy they need from the virtual space. Good face-to-face presenters thrive on the energy and reactions they get from their learners: smiles, laughs, head nods, or even confused looks - all help the facilitator respond, react, and move forward accordingly. In most virtual instructor-led trainings those cues disappear. Some facilitators find this change difficult, and many even describe it as plain uncomfortable. We’re here to help you through it. There are ways to draw energy from your virtual audiences, and for us, it starts with personalization. Personalization is a great way to draw energy from your virtual session. Get to know your learners Keep the class sizes small and intimate so it provides you with more opportunity to really get to know who is participating. Assigning pre-work for the session will lend insight into the learners’ personalities as well as what they’d like to gain by attending the session. This will feed you ways to connect with the learners when you meet in class. Use your learners’ names as often as feels natural. This will help establish a connection and add to the personalization. Knowing your learners will help you connect with them on a deeper level, a level that should foster some energy during the course. Use the tools Most virtual environments provide tools and techniques for learners to interact in ways that mimic a face-to-face environment. Encourage learners to utilize annotation tools to agree, disagree, or even applaud and laugh during discussions. While not quite the same as emotions in a traditional in-person classroom, these tools can help add to the energetic vibe of the course- for you, as well as for the other learners. Encourage use of the chat function throughout the session to share any thoughts that come to mind - not just a place to respond when you ask a question or for them to post their questions. Typing a welcome message and other casual dialogue starters will help encourage this. You may need to enlist your host to help you with this. Whenever possible leave phone lines open and encourage open dialogue. Again this works best if the class size is somewhat smaller. Take advantage of video features whenever possible (and not cumbersome), and encourage learners to interact and get involved with the discussion. Many virtual environments offer opportunities for small group or breakout discussions. Utilize those small group discussions as much as possible, and treat them as an opportunity to gather energy by listening in, and “walking around” to the different groups. Hearing the verbal discussions, and seeing the small group work come together should give you some energy, and points to tie back to the course instruction. As you can see, the virtual environment offers plenty of opportunity to energize you as a facilitator. Your environment There are two things that I have on my desk when I facilitate virtually; a mirror and pictures of smiling family and friends. The mirror keeps me in check on what my body language and facial expressions are like. Since I know my energy comes through in my voice, I need to see that my energy is up when I look at myself. The pictures give me someone to talk to rather than feeling like I am talking into cyber space. While you may not have the facial expressions and strict verbal cues you’re used to from a face-to-face session; you can have lively discussion, robust collaboration, and even more energy if you know where to find it. Where do you find energy in your virtual training presentations?