Learngistics offers a guide to help you make the move from live training to remote events and platforms.
The pandemic has increased our capacity to do business remotely. This means more meetings, more training, more everything is happening online.
Hybrid or remote training is set to grow in popularity and significance, but making the transition from established, in-person training methods to delivery in a virtual environment can be a challenge at first.
Everything takes longer being done virtually
When moving from live to virtual training delivery, one of the first things you notice as an instructor is that everything seems to take longer. The technology can act as a bit of a buffer that slows down communication between instructors and facilitators. When refactoring learning to be delivered virtually, care must be taken to consider the differences between delivering in person and delivering via an online platform.
Some of the areas that slow down the learning could be:
- Getting the class started — just dealing with tech and making sure everyone can hear and see the instructor is something that never plays a factor in live in person delivery.
- Supporting Tech issues — often remote learners will need support figuring out how to turn on their cameras or microphones.
- Introductions — even something as simple as participant introductions and gathering learning expectations would take a lot longer online.
- Breakout groups — moving learners into groups online can take more time, and it takes longer to visit each one. Instructors need to spend more time upfront explaining the exercise clearly before moving into breakout rooms.
Essentially, the use of virtual platforms for training requires subtle changes in the way that instructors and learners communicate and present to one another. You need to shift the way you approach your training objectives as the material and exercises.
Write very clear step-by-step instructions for all of your activities
With virtual training, there is a definite loss of classroom interaction. In a virtual environment, the instructor loses the ability to make traditional direct contact with each learner. They can’t walk around the classroom and assess how each attendee responds or carries out the required exercises. There is no easy way to look over a learner’s shoulder and correct or coach them, or explain the finer points of a question they are trying to answer.
One part of the solution is to provide clearer directions and guidelines upfront. Structure is always important in training, but with in-person training, especially with an experienced instructor, there is some leeway for a free, two-way flow of communication, to “play things by ear,” and respond and correct as necessary.
With virtual training, the structure must be laid down from the very beginning, with clear guidelines and more detailed explanations. Breakout sessions and the feedback that follows them should be broken up into shorter periods, and carefully managed, scheduled and organized.
You Need a Virtual Producer
Virtual classrooms need producers to help organize and oversee training sessions. Your instructors and facilitators must be able to carry on delivering the training material without having to worry about the technology. Producers can handle the logistics while your facilitators get on with their work.
Virtual classroom producers assist with pre-class planning, offer tech and platform support to facilitators and participants during the training, and report on the class once it is wrapped up, ensuring constant improvement for future classes.
Your producer will work with you to create a tech guide for your courses and will take you through a dry run before each scheduled class. During the class, the producer will handle tech support, troubleshooting, and backup plans to keep everything running on schedule and without any glitches.
Whether you call them virtual classroom producers, hosts, technical support, co-facilitators or sherpas, using the producer will improve the learner experience and free your instructor to focus on teaching, not pushing buttons.
Use the right platform
There are many conferencing platform options available, from Skype to Zoom and Webex. With your producer’s help, you need to select the one that is just right for you. For example, it is not always optimal to conduct training sessions on platforms that are designed for meetings. Instead look for purpose-built platforms, such as Cisco’s Webex Training platform, which has specific features designed to increase learner engagement and facilitate the learning process.
Microsoft Teams is a great option if your company is an Office 365 user and there are plenty of files to share. Also, never forget about security. There should be firewalls and other enterprise restrictions in place to keep your information safe while you share information.
Consider the participant technology
Another challenge with online training is that each participant may be working with a different standard of technology while connecting from a different environment, via internet connections that vary wildly in strength and quality. Some of them may not have a good internet connection, for example, while others are working with laptops that don’t support the latest version of the software.
Also, think about the physical environment students are working in. Some might be in their private home offices, while others are sitting at their kitchen counters. It is a good idea to stipulate the minimum requirements beforehand to maintain a relatively consistent standard and provide maximum benefits for everybody as far as possible. Facilitators will also have to pay attention to participation levels, checking in frequently for feedback and choosing the right moments to take breaks.
Build expectations around participation (establish the ground rules)
Before training starts, lay down the ground rules about how each session will run. Explain the basic rules, such as whether cameras should be on or off (on is usually a better option) or the use of chat for sharing information, feedback and links, while avoiding unnecessary comments and questions or creating any distractions.
Ask participants to organize their surroundings so that distractions are kept to a minimum. List these basics in an introductory email, which you can send out a few days before the scheduled session.
Use the chat to share info and links
Although the chat function on training and meeting platforms can become a distraction, they can also be very useful if they are managed correctly. For example, it could serve to recap key points, to provide links to training resources during the training or to complete a survey after the training session is completed.
As an instructor, you likely already have well-developed presentation skills – these will have to be adapted slightly for a virtual platform. Speaking via a camera and microphone to a remote audience can take a bit of an adjustment if you are used to addressing a boardroom or training venue. In terms of technology, quality camera and audio equipment is essential.Focus on audio first, a decent camera with outstanding audio will be significantly better than a great camera with poor audio. Once again, work with a producer to help set everything up and ensure that everything works without interruption.
Re-engineer your course delivery
Presenting to a remote audience has a completely different feel and energy compared to a live presentation. Not only will your verbal delivery have to change, but you will have to adjust your use of visual aids too.
Instead of having to project your voice from the front of a room, you are now talking to a camera and microphone, which is right in front of your face, meaning that you should probably tone down your delivery to a more conversational tone, while still maintaining an air of authority.
Your visual material will need to be more engaging, which means you might have to use bigger fonts and perhaps more illustrations. You can increase engagement through periodic use of chat and polling. You will also have to take more breaks than you usually would during an in-person training session. There are many great resources and articles out there to help you understand how to refactor your materials to be delivered virtually.
Managing Zoom fatigue with students
Zoom fatigue can be a real problem during extended virtual meetings and training sessions. Being on any kind of virtual platform for an extended period of time is extremely taxing on our brains. Participants can quickly lose interest and stamina and even start getting drowsy. Zoom fatigue looks and feels very similar to burnout or exhaustion, and should be easy to spot in your learners. Look out for the following:
- Participants turning off their cameras periodically
- Visible fidgeting or multi-tasking among participants
- Participants rubbing their eyes or shifting their gaze away from their screens
Tell your learners to be aware of any of the following symptoms and to let you know if they arise:
- Feeling tense, drained or just low in energy.
- Sore eyes
- Distractedness and difficulty maintaining focus
The best way to avoid Zoom fatigue is to take frequent breaks, encouraging participants to walk away from their screens for a few minutes. Divide your presentation up into smaller parts to facilitate these frequent breaks and build in interaction and check-ins every four or five minutes.
Learngistics specializes in facilitating and supporting both virtual and live training events and learning programs for corporations. Since 2005 we’ve helped facilitate thousands of training programs for our clients. After years of supporting live training classes Learngistics has invested in building the skills necessary to help our clients move into the virtual and hybrid learning method. Contact us for more information and to see how we can help you access and optimize your hybrid or virtual training.