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In the age of COVID, the necessity and permanence of virtual instructor-led training has become obvious to even the most reluctant of trainers. Like it or not, the virtual classroom is the safest, most efficient, and most effective way to deliver training materials across the board as an alternative to being in a bricks and mortar classroom. Large and small companies, government departments and schools, and retail and restaurants are all finding themselves faced with the tasks of learning the ins and outs of virtual platforms and adjusting (or building) course material to suit. After all, pandemic or not, employees are in continual need of up-skilling and learning in order to be productive.
In a scenario like this, where not everyone is familiar with virtual training but suddenly must produce and deliver it, there’s a wide range of quality in these new programs, both in material and delivery style. For instance, if a company’s classroom “training” was based solely on a PowerPoint presentation, there’s a good chance the virtual programs are also heavily based on presenting slides—which is not true training. If a trainer’s method involves a monotone, day-long information dump, it’s likely their virtual sessions will have a similar tedious quality and, as a result, will effectively disengage their participants.
The biggest question out there is, “HOW?” Article upon article has appeared in ezines and social media touting the importance of keeping learners engaged. But HOW is that done in a virtual classroom while also ensuring the transfer of knowledge and skill?
Consider the following:
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
- Start with the premise that TRUE training must include a cycle of presentation, application, and feedback for EACH new skill you’re teaching.
- Present the new skill in a concise way – the need-to-know information only.
- Allow your participants to apply each skill you’re teaching – find a way for learners to practice through gamification, surveys, or group activities.
- Provide feedback by debriefing the activity with your learners.
- Use your voice! Practice intonation and enunciation. Infuse your presentations with energy. Be descriptive. Show your excitement for the topic and your participants will be excited about what they’re learning.
- Engage your learners every 3-5 minutes by asking a question that requires a response, posting a poll or survey, or having a group discussion. This allows you to check for understanding and allows your learners to be active rather than passive participants.
- Limit the length of your sessions to 2 or 3 hours and include at least one 5-minute break every 60-90 minutes. These are the industry standards with good reason. Participants can only focus for so long and you must consider eye strain and the discomfort of sitting for an extended period.
With these fundamental strategies, you can transform your virtual sessions from ineffective, boring lectures to engaging and successful training. Involve your participants in the process. Make your classroom a learning community. Apply TRUE training—it’s the key to engagement in the virtual classroom.