How to Adapt Your Training to Improve the Virtual Learning Experience

In Part 1 of this series, we shared tips for adapting your in-person ILT content to virtual. For Part 2, we will focus on how to adapt your training to improve the virtual learning experience.

We spend a lot of time working with our internal facilitators and client trainers on ways to improve the learning experience of our programs. With the rapid shift to virtual training last year, one of the main concerns from our group of trainers was participant engagement. Working from home adds certain challenges to the job of a corporate trainer, specifically, their ability to engage and captivate their audience.

When it comes to a face-to-face ILT session, a trainer can read the room and adjust based on the verbal and nonverbal cues they are receiving. When a trainer is conducting a virtual facilitation, there are some obvious obstacles that need to be considered when adapting the training.

A facilitator’s job is never easy, but there are some things that a content provider or internal department can do when redesigning a program for virtual training. These tips and ideas will not only help to engage the audience, but they will also increase the interaction your trainers have with their virtual audience.

  1. Slide design:

If you are in the Shark Tank and pitching a business idea via PowerPoint®, the rule of thumb for your slide deck is “less is more.” Regarding a virtual training session, that could not be farther from the truth. With so many potential distractions (kids, deliveries, other people working from home, email, etc.) you need to keep your learners engaged. Designing slides with captivating visuals or graphics to draw their attention is a must. Consider adding animation or relevant text that will keep things moving along and maintain their interest.

  1. Set your learners up for success:

Most participants will join the session a few minutes before the start of the training; use that time wisely! Engage them with a series of slides or video to help orient them to the platform. Make sure they are set up properly to get the full learner experience. Provide learners with FAQs or troubleshooting tips to ensure they can navigate the platform or have the proper audio setup. This will be a huge help for your trainers, as well, so they can start on time and make sure there is a consistent experience for all participants.

  1. Create conversation:

In a face-to-face session, dialogue and discussion between a trainer and participants is “easy” when you are in the same physical location. That is not to say that dialogue does not occur during a virtual session. It just means that you must encourage it in other ways. Make sure to design opportunities for the trainer to ask for input and to “come off mute.” Poll questions, virtual breakout rooms or a group chat are great ways to facilitate thoughtful discussion.

  1. Mind the “firsts”:

Build extra time into the agenda for the “firsts.” This could be the first time logging in, moving to a breakout room or downloading a resource. Participants will quickly learn the routine as they become more comfortable with the process and platform, but it’s important to take this into consideration when redesigning the agenda for a virtual program.

  1. Don’t drop the self-directed activities:

It is important to give learners some quiet time to answer and reflect upon the conversation or application questions that come up during the session. Prompt your trainers to give learners time by muting the audience. Display a timer on screen to notify learners of how much time they have. When time is up, have the trainer welcome everyone back to reconnect and debrief. Have them encourage participants to “raise their hand” and share their thoughts with the group.

  1. Give clear instruction:

With virtual training, the need and ability to play short videos is vital to engaging your audience. However, make sure to give detailed instruction on the reason (the “what” and “why”) for the video. Let the audience know what they are about to watch, what they are supposed to do with that information and why it is relevant to the training. Your audience will quickly lose interest if they are not crystal clear on what they are supposed to be doing or looking for.

  1. Redesign your activities:

When redesigning a program for virtual training, one of the key areas of focus should be your learner activities. This will certainly depend upon the platform you use, but the goal is to create engagement and interaction between the participants and facilitator. Polls, chats, webcams or annotation tools are just a few examples of things that can help enhance the learning experience for all participants. Another great tool that virtual trainers have is the virtual breakout room which helps to facilitate small-group discussion or role-play activities.

  1. Redesign participant materials:

Engaging participant materials are vital to creating a successful virtual learning experience. In a virtual setting, the pace is much quicker, and participants are essentially “on their own.” Handouts need to align with the slides to help participants keep track during the session. They can also be used as a post-training resource.

  • Learner workbooks/handouts should help guide the participant through the session or self-directed activities. There should also be ample room for typing or writing notes
  • Downloadable electronic materials that are fillable can be updated easily and they provide the option to print for learners that prefer paper
  • Strive for a cohesive look and feel across the materials with templates to avoid recreating the wheel every time you need a new course or want to convert existing content to virtual

Adapting your training for a virtual platform is certainly a challenge. There are multiple factors to consider when designing an engaging virtual learning experience. Keeping your trainers and audience in mind as you create Leader’s Guides, participant handouts, slides, learning activities and other various materials will help keep you on the path toward a successful virtual learning experience.

Up Next: Part 3 of our Designing and Delivering Virtual Training series focuses on how to create a more productive virtual breakout room.

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