Virtual training has been around for years. Platforms such as: Adobe Connect, Zoom, GoToMeeting, and WebEx are among the many outlets that have provided the technology for online learning to ensue. Since the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal within the training development arena.
Virtual Training Today
Traditional person to person training courses and programs are being forced to be put on halt or transferred to a virtual platform. Although there are many voice risks and uncertainties around virtual settings, virtual trainings actually have many advantages. Virtual trainings can reduce costs, which in turn eliminates the travel expenses companies would have to shell out to fly their leaders to the program sites. It can also attract people from all over the world, which can increase profit. Once you have the participants enrolled, the big question is, how do you continue to engage these leaders across your virtual classroom?
Designing for Virtual Engagement
It is hard to keep participants engaged when you are competing against the biggest distraction machine: a computer. It’s your classroom versus email, Facebook, YouTube and other various outlets. It may be hard to get 100% engagement from your participants, but there are some ways you can design for engagement to increase your participation percentage. Increasing your participation can directly raise your retention rates.
Designing for engagement entails detailed brainstorming and thorough planning. It will be helpful to start with a storyboard and facilitator guides. Facilitator guides help with planning out the details of your classroom and helps keep your classroom consistent among multiple facilitators. Different virtual platforms have layouts where it can also help you with the flow of your classroom. Within these layouts you will be able to add breakout rooms and different pods for engagement. Pods such as: chat boxes, whiteboards, timers, polls, and Q&A’s. Incorporating these different pods throughout your classroom curricula will help keep your participants engaged. You should prompt for interaction at least every 5-7 minutes during your classroom. Polls are one of the best and easiest forms of interaction for participants. (Learn more about Adobe Pods here).
It is pertinent to provide content that is very visual for your learners. Having slides that include too much text within the slide is a sure way for your engagement to decline within your virtual classroom. Be sure to minimize your text on each slide and incorporate numbered and bulleted lists. It also helps to include audio and video, infographics, charts, and funny newspaper clippings to assist in reinforcing your topic. According to an article written on engagement in virtual classrooms, the authors found that visual imagery is related to higher levels of course engagement by participants.
Obtaining an Enthusiastic Facilitator
To help with executing your interactive and engaging content, you need an energetic and engaging facilitator. Your facilitator can make or break your virtual classroom. It is extremely hard looking at a computer for over an hour listening to a facilitator that can’t grab your attention. You remember being in college and sitting in your geology class listening to your lethargic professor talk about rocks? You can easily mentally check out and venture off to doing your own work or checking your social media.
It is essential to have a captivating and experienced facilitator who is able to attract and sustain participant’s attention. As well as foster development though their connection and transparency. Having an instructor that can connect with their participants on an emotional level by revealing past experiences and relatable stories, actively keeps students engaged. It also helps to have a facilitator that is experienced in facilitating online courses and programs and is well versed in the online platform that is being used for your virtual training.
Collaboration and teamwork are a huge part of leadership development training. It is a way to keep your students engaged while learning and also a great way for them to foster a team environment. Fostering this teamwork environment encourages your students to be open and transparent with each other in a smaller and more vulnerable setting.
You may wonder, “how can I keep the essence of collaboration among students within a virtual training classroom?” Easy! A lot of online learning platforms have the option to have breakout rooms within a classroom. These breakout rooms are similar to how you would breakout out your students into teams during an in-person training. This way, the participants can still be active with one another, share ideas and have deeper conversations regarding the content to gain a new perspective or understanding.Facilitators also have the option to pop in and out of these breakout rooms to check in on the participants progression and provide any input or additional instructions if needed.
Ultimately, this tool is a great way for interactivity among learners in smaller groups and to enhance engagement levels.
Although virtual training differs from your traditional in-person training, it is still possible to have a successful engaging online training program. Just remember the following tips when designing or redesigning your content and your engagement rates will increase:
- Include interactions at least every 5 -7 minutes
- Limit text per slide and use visual imagery
- Seek a personable and engaging facilitator
- Incorporate collaboration exercises among the learners throughout the training
In conclusion, keeping these tips in mind will help elevate your virtual training experience and engagement for your participants.
- Lee, Alistair. Creating Virtual Classrooms that Engage. Adobe Connect, 13 Jan. 2020. Webinar
- Ehrler, Mercy. “How to Best Engage Virtual Learners in a Corporate Training Event”. HRtechnologist.com. 16 Jul. 2019. Web.
- Pulley, Phillip. “Visualize the Possibilities: Using Visual Elements to Enhance Online Learning”. Schoology.com. 6 Jul 2018. Web
- Pappas, Christopher. “5 Proven Ways to Engage Employees in Your Virtual Classroom”. Elearningindustry.com. 30 Dec 2015. Web