Here’s what you need to swiftly move to a virtual environment.
Most likely you’re not delivering much training in classrooms these days. You probably have a catalog of courses that you and your team are ready to deliver for instructors and students in a real classroom. So, what are you doing with all those courses you built? Convert them to virtual instructor led (vILT) courses, of course. vILT is instructor-led training delivered remotely using online tools. You might call it live online, remote classroom, synchronous learning, or distance learning.
Virtual instructor led training (vILT) has been around for a long time, so don’t worry about trying to figure out yet another new way to do things during these challenging times. It’s quite simple when you follow these vILT best practices.
Start with good design. When designing instructor-led courses for remote delivery, it’s important not to overthink it. A course, whether it’s delivered remotely or in person, requires the same components to be impactful. What you need, no matter how you deliver classes, are good course design, instructionally sound content, and interactivity. That means defining clear learning objectives and activities for participants to stay engaged. If you already have well-designed, interactive courses delivered in classrooms, then you don’t have much work to move to virtual training.
Know your audience. Don’t fall into the trap of offering one size fits all fire-hose training. Consider exactly who your audience is for product training. What is their role, and how will your solution help them do their job better? Then design courses from their perspective, and not from the product perspective. Also, rather than covering everything in one course, offer a “getting started” session for people new to your product, and for those less technical. Then, build and deliver advanced courses for deep dives and technical folks.
Make it interactive. Consider the learning pyramid below. You notice learning through passive teaching methods leads to low retention, 30% or less. Passive teaching methods include common approaches such as “show-and-tell,” product walk-throughs, and webinars. These methods are frequently used because they are quick and easy to develop and deliver. Plus, almost anyone can put passive teaching options out there! However, when you include ways for participants to engage with what they learn, retention jumps to as high as 90%! Why is retention so important? The more users retain what they learn, the less internal teams need to support them on basic tasks and “how-to’s.” That means, the better your training is, the less it costs internal teams to support customers.
Engage your students. Use the same best practices for classroom training to really engage your students. Start with introductions, ask questions throughout the course, just like you would in a classroom, and then leverage the online tools to take polls and give quizzes. These are all possible and accessible in remote environments.
Keep classes small. Remote training does not equal a large webinar where you try to cram as many people into one session. Instead, offer small interactive classes with an instructor / student ratio of one instructor to a maximum of 10 to 20 participants; with a moderator or co-teacher for classes over 12 – 15 participants. To keep things interactive include co-teachers or assistants to keep participants engaged and the instructor on schedule.
Limit class time. Another best practice for designing live online classes is to break full-day and multi-day classes into short classes, around two to four hours at a time. Half-days in class allows users to manage their jobs, even while learning. In addition, multi-day classes give you the opportunity to assign tasks in between classes to keep everyone focused and engaged.
Expand your reach. Short virtual classes accommodate different time zones so you can easily reach those students in far flung places without the need to travel. One instructor can reach around the globe in a single day when you schedule courses appropriately. Early morning Pacific time is great for Europe, East Coast and early birds on the West Coast. Afternoon Pacific time is also a good time for North America and Asia Pacific.
Take breaks. Just because you are delivering remotely doesn’t mean you and your participants can’t take coffee and lunch breaks. When you do, make sure to be clear about how long the breaks are and when to return. If you announce class resumes at 11 am, that doesn’t make sense when folks are in different time zones, so use phrases like, “top of the hour,” “15 minutes past the hour.” Having a timer ticking away on the student and/or instructor screens makes it even more clear how long they have left before the class resumes. Most importantly, make sure instructors start the class right on time, to indicate being late isn’t tolerated even in remote classes.
Keep it real. Do you use a camera during the class or not? It’s up to you, but it does help participants connect with the instructor and with each other better. When bandwidth doesn’t comply, then consider keeping the videos on at least for the introductions at the beginning of class.
Pick your tools. As with any project, you need the right tools. Think about the software and the hardware you need to deliver impactful classes. What you need is a tool to provide the remote classroom infrastructure as well as hands-on lab environments for technical product training. Consider Strigo, which includes the virtual classroom and labs in a single training environment, so you seamlessly switch between lectures, demos, and lab exercises. And when you head back to the classroom, Strigo provides a seamless experience for instructors and students to deliver in person. In addition, tools like Strigo allow you to monitor students’ progress and even dive into their environments to collaborate and solve problems. On the hardware side, reliable headphones, microphones, and networks are key for instructors. Make sure you have backups in case batteries run low or you need to hardwire into the network.
With the right approach and the right tools you can be delivering impactful remote classes in a matter of days, not weeks or months. So, start repurposing those courses in your classroom catalog. Remember to keep students engaged with small interactive classes, hands-on labs, and frequent breaks. When you have the right tools, everyone will be up and learning in no time.
Note: This article originally appeared on September 16, 2020 on the Strigo blog.