Converting Instructor-Led Training to Virtual Training
By Jennifer Newton, Dan Regan, and Jim Shute.
Moving from ILT to VC
Instructor-Led Training (ILT) programs have proven highly effective in providing and sustaining knowledge and skills among retail personnel. The challenge is to deliver a Virtual Classroom (VC) program that is just as effective, but in a virtual environment. Here’s what we need to consider.
Intimacy. Large face to face sessions allow a lot of time for smaller interactions to get to know other participants and the facilitators. How can we maintain and grow the connections of participants when we eliminate the F2F and networking time between modules?
Active Participation. In a personal setting, we can control and manage access to the training and the completion of the program. How do we ensure successful completion of the modules when participants are on their own to consume the learning? Specifically, how do we ensure they are the ones behind the screen and that they are actually engaged?
Engagement. Pro-Active has designed ILT programs with performance objectives in mind and created the components to achieve those goals. Many times, these face to face programs have a physical activity component. How can that be replicated in a virtual classroom?
This article explores ways to address the above issues through the curriculum conversion and delivery process.
The ideal approach is to create a blended training program using virtual classrooms, videos, WBTs and a variety of participant engagement tools to give the virtual program similar learning value to the face to face program.
Using a platform like Zoom, most of the facilitated learning portions of an ILT program can be replicated online. It is recommended that the class size remain small enough to allow all participants to interact with the facilitator and each other.
Further, it is best to divide learning content into 90- to 120-minute modules that are delivered over time. This spaced learning will help participants reflect on (and apply) content between sessions. Participants can join sessions via computer, tablet, or smart phone.
Finally, presentations must be modified to help ensure participant engagement by using the tools within the classroom and external to the classroom. The best practice for virtual classes is to offer some form of constructive engagement every 5 minutes or so.
Virtual Classroom Tools
Here are some examples of virtual classroom tools.
Ideally, both the facilitator and participants should use their webcams. While they do not need to be on each moment of the program, this best practice increases engagement and participation.
The chat feature allows participants to respond to a question or brainstorm ideas. Additionally, they can ask questions and interact with the producer as needed. The host can save the chat history to create a FAQ document as required. The chat feature can also be done privately between participants for an activity that would require partners to share details or brainstorm. Using chat will allow engagement points throughout the facilitated sessions. Finally, chat activities break up the presentations to keep the audience engaged.
The whiteboard (annotation) feature replaces the classroom flip chart. Each slide in a PowerPoint can be written on by the facilitator and participants. A blank slide would allow participants to brainstorm ideas on potential risks when talking about competitors. A slide that has details would allow participants to claim one of the topics (with their initials) to explain that topic further.
Multiple-choice polls can be built into the platform to test knowledge or start a conversation on a topic. (NOTE: Results are anonymous.)
The breakout room replaces a small group/table discussion. Participants can be divided into small groups to have a conversation or create content that can then be reported in the main room discussion later. For example, in product training each group could be given one competitive brand and assigned to create a whiteboard or slide with the discussed challenges and opportunities. Each group would then present findings back in the main room.
The facilitator can engage learners verbally as well. Using the raised hand to respond to a question (or ask a question) encourages participant input, ideas, and engagement.
The platform allows for other feedback tools like a green check or red X for informal voting or responding to questions.
When enabled, the room host can see if participants have the classroom as their active screen. This is only an indicator of engagement, as a participant could be taking notes or looking at documents for the program on another screen. Between the attention-tracking and seeing who is using the various tools to participate in the activities, the producer can get a picture of attendees who are actively participating in the webinar.
External programs such as these can be used in the F2F program and could carry over to the virtual classroom as well.
Knowledge-based content can be converted into short Rise (WBT) modules. These would be used with independent work time to mimic the self-exploration activity.
Pre-Recorded Video Segments
Pre-recorded segments allow participants to watch, comment and chat live with all the others involved. While a bit more complex, video can be recorded in front of a live audience to increase the “you are there” feel.
- Virtual Training
Other Considerations for Course Conversion/Development
Below are a number of key considerations to take into account when planning, budgeting, scheduling, and executing course conversion from ILT to Virtual Classroom.
Program Length/Class Size. It is recommended to keep each virtual class to no more than 2 hours, and each class size to not more than 30 participants. While that may be infeasible in some cases (e.g., where very large numbers of people must be trained) the point is to keep class size small to increase active engagement—just like in instructor-led training.
Session Prep. The Facilitator and Producer should be in the virtual classroom 15-30 minutes early so that they can discuss any personalization needed and handle any technical issues. The participants should join 5-10 minutes early to allow them to handle any technical issues. A “soft start” (video, quiz, reading activity, etc.) is often used at the opening to facilitate this.
Facilitator Training. Classroom trainers may need to learn how to deliver and facilitate in the virtual classroom. The skills are similar but have enough differences that completing a T3/program (virtually) will give the required skills as well as allows them to experience what it feels like to be a virtual student.
Scheduling and Facilitator Time. This decision impacts how quickly participants move through a program. Time and/or cost efficiencies can be gained by raising per session participant count, deploying multiple facilitators (i.e., parallel classes) and/or combining shorter modules into single sessions.
Virtual Producers. A virtual producer allows facilitators to focus on the content and the participants in the program and not the technology. With a well-designed facilitation guide, the producer will be able to support the facilitator’s content as well as manage the technology for the participants. This person does not need to be an expert in the material. Their focus is purely to manage the technology and be the eyes of the facilitator. The producer can also take attendance, watch for activity/participation, and address any participant questions/concerns.
Content Conversion. Typically, it can take 10-20 hours of development time to convert one hour of face to face content to virtual. For parts of an ILT class requiring only minimal content changes (such as activity changes and the addition of more virtual engagement), this estimate would reduce to the lower end of the scale.
Virtual Platform. Pro-Active has experience working with WebEx, GoToTraining, and AdobeConnect for virtual classroom programs. Zoom offers the tools mentioned earlier to create the engagement and has proven to be the most stable and intuitive platform we have used. That said, Pro-Active is “platform-agnostic” and can use any platform requested by a client’s IT department, provided it includes the virtual classroom features/tools outlined above.
Train-the-Trainer. All facilitators should go through a T3 for each training module, to understand the format and tools as well as learn how they will work with the producers.
Missed Session Management. There needs to be the ability to manage for when a participant misses a live module session. Our recommendation is to record the actual sessions, and any participants who miss the live session can watch the archived recording within a limited time period. Once they have watched the recording, a quiz or makeup work can solidify that they have completed the task to a level equivalent to having attended the live virtual session.
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