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?

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.

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?

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.

Creating Learning Videos Using VideoScribe

May 24, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all probably participated in a virtual instructor-led training (vILT) session where video clips were utilized. Either in a class-time activity, part of a pre-work assignment, or even embedded into marketing materials to promote the learning event. You might think those videos cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, to create and require a team of career videographers to produce. In some cases, you are right, but today, I’d like to share with you a unique and inexpensive tool we’ve used to create whiteboard-style animation videos on a few instructional design projects. The tool is called VideoScribe. VideoScribe provides anybody, from experienced videographers to complete novices, the ability to create high-quality, whiteboard-style animation videos. Our designers have used the product to create learning videos for vILT courses but, for us, this tool has turned into what I call a “two for one”. Not only are we using it on instructional design projects, but we are also using it for our own marketing purposes as a creative way to communicate who we are and what we do. You can learn more about VideoScribe and how it is being used to communicate concepts, share ideas, and create awareness on their website. The client work we have done with the tool is confidential, but you can check out one of the promotional videos we developed to support our own company marketing efforts: The creative possibilities seem endless. What ways do you think you could utilize VideoScribe in your learning programs?