Over the past couple of years, we’ve travelled less, complied with social distancing guidelines, and used apps like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to stay connected.
We are used to using virtual learning environments (VLEs), breakout rooms, and call-in numbers. We’ve experimented with virtual backgrounds, headsets and microphones, and desk and lighting combinations. With companies reopening their offices and employees going back to work in person, returning to in-person training is also possible. However, virtual training delivery continues to offer benefits that are still attractive, including:
- Learners who have a hybrid schedule with continued work-from-home options will be able to participate even if the training is held on a remote workday
- Learners who are travelling for work will still be able to join the training session
- Larger sessions can be held without a need for large meeting space
Now is the time to ensure that the training you converted to virtual delivery during the pandemic is still effective. Below you will find a checklist to help you navigate the evaluation and improvement of your virtual training delivery.
1. Evaluate scheduling options
When training is conducted in person, participants are typically located in a meeting room with the instructor, limiting distractions. A virtual classroom is more challenging because attendees may fall into the habit of checking emails or working on other tasks while attending a training session. In addition, instructors do not have the benefit of gauging non-verbal cues to identify whether attendees are engaging with the content.
A best practice for virtual training delivery is to limit sessions to no more than 60-90 minutes in length. For longer training meetings, consider splitting these into shorter sessions or spreading them across multiple days. Be sure to include scheduled breaks so that learners have time to grab a cup of coffee and stretch their legs. When returning from a break, try to start on time so you can stay on schedule for the rest of the session.
2. Review the training content
Engage participants from the beginning of the session with an icebreaker. This can be as simple as asking everyone to share a fact or answer a question about themselves. If you have a larger group, consider including a chat box or using a collaborative platform like Padlet. This will create an environment that encourages participation.
Include frequent opportunities for learners to participate. To gauge participation, instructors can have participants click on an emoji to indicate that they understand a session, or instructors can launch a poll with a question or two to confirm their knowledge. Include discussions in breakout rooms that allow participants to share ideas in a smaller group and then have a delegate share with the larger group. Use the VLE application’s chat tool for participant comments and questions. Be creative when thinking about ways to keep participants engaged.
3. Communicate your technology choice
There are many popular platform choices (Ex: Zoom, WebEx, etc.) to deliver your training virtually. Some of these choices may even have free options, but it is important to review the restrictions and limitations of the free versions. Additionally, check with your IT or technology team to see if your organization has a standard virtual meeting app that is provided for all employees and can be used for training delivery.
Regardless of your choice, be sure to provide information about the selected application and include guidelines that participants can use to verify their access prior to the session. If it’s a new tool, an overview of the application could be sent with the meeting invite or confirmation so that learners have a chance to review it in advance. Another option is to include a quick overview at the beginning of the session.
4. Set expectations with the participants
Let the participants know what to expect during the virtual session. Participants likely have questions about whether they should have their camera turned on, how they should ask questions, and how they will use the tools in the virtual meeting app.
When providing the link to a virtual meeting, include guidelines that will help participants prepare for the session. At the beginning of the class, take a few minutes to review housekeeping items, including the agenda and the expected timing. Let the participants know how they can ask questions or share comments with the group during the session.
5. Include a feedback opportunity
Include a process for seeking feedback after the session. Ask participants what worked well and what could be improved in the future. This can be done with a short discussion at the end or with a post-meeting survey. Include questions about the session content, technology, and completion of training objectives. Information gathered can be used to improve the next training session or topic.