No Travel: Now is the Time to Create Effective Virtual Learning Experiences

By Dan Keckan published October 9, 2020

Blog, eLearning, , , , ,

Many organizations have been forced to rapidly provide Virtual Instructor-Led Training. Hit the ground running with these tips for turning your classroom courses into effective and engaging virtual learning experiences without sacrificing quality.

Tips For Creating Virtual Learning Experiences

These are unique and challenging times for all of us. With the added pressures due to COVID-19 restrictions, getting your people the information and training they need may seem daunting. The fortunate companies have robust Learning and Development (L&D) departments to help with the transition to virtual training. However, many companies do not have that luxury, and L&D departments may not have the bandwidth to respond to every piece of knowledge transfer required. We do not know how long these restrictions will last, but learning must continue. The following are simple steps—from development to facilitation—to help you create an effective and engaging virtual learning experience and to avoid a virtual brain dump.

For generalized content, before you create anything, check if there is an off-the-shelf option available to save you time and money. Some resources are LinkedIn Learning, Pryor Learning, Kantola Training Solutions, Percipio or BizLibrary.

Virtual Doesn’t Have To Be Death By PowerPoint

We’ve all attended webinars that were simply an instructor talking for an hour and displaying PowerPoint slides. That is not training. That is a presentation. Online does not have to be boring or one-sided. It can and should be engaging and interactive. With a few tweaks to your Instructor-Led Training (ILT), you can make your Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) just as effective.

First, review your learning objectives. What are the learning outcomes that you want to achieve with your training? Make sure they are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely. The learning objectives are your guide for creating interactions with your audience. When you have your learning objectives, review your content. Is there anything that you are providing that does not relate directly to your objectives? This is a good way to make sure that you are providing your learners with only the information they need.

Now that you have your objectives and relevant content, it’s time to make sure you are involving learners in the training. It’s easy for a learner to become distracted in a VILT. By including interactions, you will keep them engaged. Every two to three slides, offer some opportunity for audience participation. Make use of the tools provided by the web conferencing tool you use. Types of interactions are polls, chatboxes, whiteboards, and breakout rooms. Make sure the interactions are relevant to the learning objectives and that your web conferencing tool supports it. (If you do not have a web conferencing tool, some options to consider are Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Adobe Connect.)

Another great tool to increase engagement is stories. Stories provide context for content and make the information relatable for learners. Use the story as an interaction by asking participants questions about the key points or to finish the outcome of a scenario. This approach leads to a two-way partnership in delivering the material.

Pro TipKeep interactions and discussions relevant to the learning objectives. Do not have an interaction simply because three slides have gone by without one.

Visual Appeal Is Important For Learning Too

When creating your PowerPoint slides, there are visual elements you can use to help create effective learning. First, minimize the amount of text on the screen. In a 2017 study, it was shown that the brain is not capable of consciously listening and reading at the same time. You want the learners to listen to you instead of reading, so use images instead of text on the screen.

The Interaction Design Foundation provides additional guidelines for using visuals to convey information. Look at their recommendations below and see where your eyes drift first.

(Check out our samples page to see how we’ve applied visuals to convey information.)

You Have Your VILT Created, Now What?

Before you send out the training invitations to learners, here are some tips to make sure you have a successful rollout.

It is a good idea to do a trial run. Glitches and snags are bound to happen. Have you ever conducted training that was 100% perfect? Probably not. By piloting your VILT with a few people, you can mitigate many issues. Make sure you try all the activities, videos, and animations in your slides. Practice what you are going to say. Instruct your test people to ask questions and point out content that is unclear. Get feedback on the level of engagement and the flow of the training.

Next, make sure you understand how the learners log into the VILT. Read the Frequently Asked Questions of the tool to see if there are any tips you can provide to the learners. You want to make sure that logging into the course is as simple as possible, so they are relaxed and ready to learn.

It’s Go Time

The content is great, the training is engaging, and the bugs are worked out, but you realize that delivering VILT is different than ILT. It is easy to get caught up in reading your notes when delivering VILT. You do not have the learners in front of you to gauge their level of attention and your energy starts to slacken. Remember, your energy level comes through in your voice. You need to be engaged in the content if you expect your learners to remain engaged. A simple way to do this is to stand while delivering your VILT. When you stand, you are more likely to keep your energy level up. Use hand gestures and smile. Yes, the learners will not see you, but it will come through in your voice. Stop periodically to address questions in the chatbox. This makes the learners feel like you are paying attention to their needs and involving them in the training.

Pro Tip: Enlist the help of another person to field questions in the chatbox for you so you can stay focused on the content and facilitating the activities.

If there is a snag in the training such as a technical glitch or you lose your train of thought, don’t let it derail you. Just as you would while in front of a classroom, adapt and adjust and keep smiling. Let’s keep positive and continue getting our people the information they need when they need it. We would be happy to consult with you and your team and answer any questions you have.