Pitfalls of Virtual Classroom Training

March 20, 2014 15:23 by Dana Peters

A few weeks ago, I responded to a post on Chief Learning Officer Magazine’s discussion group on LinkedIn. My comments received several “likes” so I thought our readers here might enjoy this information as well.

Here was the posted question:

Pitfalls of Virtual Classroom Training. Like all training modalities, virtual classroom has its own requirements, considerations and unique demands. What pitfalls have you experienced with virtual classroom technology, and how can they be overcome?

Here was my entry. (Warning, I got a little long-winded.) ____________________________________________________________________________________________

I’ll kick things off. Here are a few pitfalls from our experience:

Starting a virtual instructor-led training (VILT) initiative without doing your homework.

VILT is something that should be approached with thought, consideration, and planning. We have consulted with clients recovering from the aftermath of jumping into the VILT deep end. It’s better to take the time planning, preparing, and gaining the internal support needed on the front side. We suggest a pilot in which the first offering is not complicated or terribly complex - low hanging fruit, something small in scale but brings immediate value. Creating an early win helps gain support and will generate some energy for the program.

Gaining buy-in from trainers and instructional designers that have always worked with traditional face-to-face courses. Sometimes there is resistance.

A colleague of mine offers this perspective. Presenting online combines two things many adults do not embrace enthusiastically: public speaking and technology. He works with all sorts of virtual presenters. In the case of face-to-face classroom trainers, I have found some of the resistance comes from learning the technology involved, but more of it stems from not being able to see their learners’ faces and read body language. Many trainers question how they could ever be as effective virtually as they are in person.

To work on buy-in with face-to-face trainers and designers, we explore how these two different learning environments are the same, but different:

  • First, we ask them to make a detailed list of everything that defines a successful training course or session in the face-to-face classroom.
  • Next, we create a detailed list of everything that will define a successful training course in the virtual classroom.
  • Then we compare the two lists. Usually the “ah-ha” moment comes here when the group sees the overlap between the lists. They typically conclude what defines success is the same regardless of where the class takes place. The difference is how the course is designed and the delivery techniques that are utilized.

Inadequately prepared facilitators/trainers/presenters.

This pitfall is easily avoided but often occurs because the time (and money) has not been spent on professional development. There are numerous opportunities for virtual trainers to develop the skills needed to be effective; whether it be workshops, courses, one-on-one coaching, dress rehearsals, or practice sessions.

In addition to having developed the skills to work in the VILT environment, here are a few additional prevention tips to avoid being inadequately prepare:

  • It is important for trainers to allow plenty of preparation time in advance of their delivery. It is much more difficult to wing it in the virtual classroom.
  • Always have a “Plan B” and “Plan C” in case the technology fails you, which it will from time to time.
  • Virtual classrooms involve a lot of moving parts which can be very challenging for one person to handle. When possible, we recommend using a producer to support each delivery. This allows the trainer to focus on the learners and the course content, leaving the technology for the producer to manage.

I will stop here. I am sure all of us working in this space could write a book on the pitfalls and potential remedies. I am looking forward to reading the thoughts of others. ____________________________________________________________________________________________

If you belong to the group, I encourage you to check out the discussion thread. There are several great comments.

What pitfalls would you add to the list I have started here?

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eLearning | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning

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