Virtual Training

Going Virtual with Traditional Classroom Training

I’ve been working on an article focusing on our experiential approach to a more engaging and productive environmental health and safety (EH&S) program. But over the past week, to be blunt… “shit’s gotten real.” So while EH&S is still a topic worth discussing, it can wait a little bit. We are all scrambling to figure out what our new normal is… we are all questioning just how long that new normal will last… and there is uncertainty as to how much the “old normal” will return on the back end. That applies first and foremost to our families, but the reality is we work for companies that are trying to figure all of this out, too.

The unknown includes how to keep traditional learning and development going – from onboarding to leadership development to sales training – in spite of a growing portion of the workforce having been instructed to work from home. Here are a few tips on how to get started leveraging your in-person training in a different manner, while remaining learning effective. (BONUS: it’s a lot more cost effective, too!)

First and foremost, GO VIRTUAL!

With the vast number of LinkedIn posts, online articles, and emails that have been running rampant over the past couple of weeks, I assume all companies now know that virtual instruction is a real thing. But it is shocking how many organizations don’t utilize virtual instruction as part of their toolkit, including those who’ve always had a distributed workforce. There are a number of webinar options (Zoom, Go To Meeting, and WebEx, just to name three) that can be used for effective virtual instruction. Virtual is a reality!

Recognize that not all virtual sessions are created equal

Virtual classroom isn’t as simple as “use it and they will learn”. A large number of companies schedule virtual sessions as a way to provide an information dump – that is, they use the tool as an easy way to present information to a large dispersed audience, and expect that they will be able to perform better as a result. Nine times out of ten (or nine!), that approach is ineffective. So you can’t take a classroom training and convert it to a virtual session by simply presenting the information and cutting out all of the activities! You still need to consider what you want the learner to do differently after the training, and adjust your virtual strategies accordingly! Which brings us to the final tip…

Mimic classroom activities in a virtual manner

Utilize the interactive tools that are available to mimic your in-person structure as closely as possible. For example:

  • Want to mimic a classroom group discussion? Use chat and video functionality to gather participant responses to open-ended dialogue
  • Want to gather consensus data on a question? Have participants “raise” a virtual hand or use polling functionality
  • Want to capture “parking lot” questions or follow-up items after the training? Use a virtual whiteboard to type and save questions for later
  • Want to have participant provide input on a chart or help fill in missing information during an activity? Allow participants to “write” on the screen to capture, organize, and debrief their thoughts
  • Need to control the room? Use muting functionality and virtual hand raising to keep conversation organized
  • Want to conduct tables activities? Use virtual breakout rooms to assign small groups of participants together, and jump between rooms to moderate their progress just as you would walking between tables!
  • Want to provide time for participants to apply learning? Pause the meeting or schedule a series of meetings with time in-between for learners to apply on the job and report back to the virtual class in a second session

When applied appropriately, virtual classroom can replicate many traditional classroom learning approaches, allowing organizations to continue providing effective training even while participants are home-bound. And as mentioned at the beginning of this article, the cost savings realized through virtual instruction are unmatched, especially when factoring in-person training event expenses like facility, food, and travel. (Even when investing in the material conversion process, we’ve had clients realize a full ROI after only TWO implementations!)

If you have questions or would like to discuss specific strategies for converting your classroom training to virtual, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

In the meantime, everyone please stay safe and help flatten the curve!

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