Technology has made it possible to continue learning at a distance. Virtual training classes are an asset during a pandemic. However, this format comes with some drawbacks.
This is something that’s become obvious among school-aged children. While technical difficulties can pose problems for learners of any age, the issues referenced here have more to do with how classes are taught. Parents have found that younger students have a harder time remaining focused. This is especially true when learning at home, so close to their toys and other distractions.
While it’s not impossible to recreate the in-person classroom experience or to supplement online education with hands-on assignments, some curriculum take a text book approach. The student reads or listens to a lesson then does an assignment. The process repeats through each lesson.
Adults may be able to handle less exciting content better than a child, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to teach them. Older learners also need to be engaged.
Learning and working remotely isn’t going away anytime soon. The global pandemic has only solidified the internet’s role as a key part of the workplace.
A study published by Global Workplace Analytics found that 73% of employees working remotely felt that they were successful while 86% stated they were fully productive in a home office. A total of 3,000 workers responded, with 76% expressing a desire to work from home at least 2.5 days a week moving forward.
Many companies are already onboard with virtual work and training, including:
- Capital One
- Infosys, Gartner
- Nationwide Insurance
- Raytheon BBN Technologies
Each of the organizations listed above have implemented long-term work from home plans.
The need for a solid virtual training program is essential. It was important before, but now, it may be the only reliable way to educate your team. Even if your organization isn’t 100% remote right now, you should have a plan in place in case there is a need to allow employees to work and train from home.
You need virtual classes that are engaging. They need to build interest in the material and be memorable. You need learners who actively participate.
What can you do to encourage participation in your virtual training classes?
Keep Classes Short and Concise
It may make sense to require trainees to be in class for a half or full day to help them get through the material sooner. This can be detrimental to the learning experience. Lengthy sessions can be overwhelming or can cause the learner to feel bored. When this happens, they can lose focus and are less likely to participate.
Take the microlearning approach when it comes to your virtual sessions, even if it is a live online classroom. Focus on a smaller bite-sized piece of information in a shorter timeframe. This allows learners to digest the information more effectively. They are more likely to pay attention, remember what was taught, and participate in activities.
Use a Virtual Whiteboard
Seeing information in different formats is valuable when training. Make sure your virtual classroom is equipped with a whiteboard. Many LMS platforms have them. It works just like a real-life whiteboard but can be displayed online.
Use this to illustrate concepts, draw diagrams, or otherwise present the material in a different format. Whiteboards increase engagement, which keeps learners interested and more likely to respond during the session.
Encourage Peer-to-Peer Interaction
Peer to peer interactions can be very valuable in training classes. They can learn from each other while becoming familiar with people they may encounter on the job.
You can host group projects and activities in a virtual environment. Divide classes into groups, which can be assigned individual chats or forums. They can get the group work experience without being in the same room. Check your LMS to see which group-friendly features are included.
Use Surveys and Polls
Surveys and polls are another way to get trainees to participate. Pose a question then share the results. Learners are more likely to join into a discussion when they were able to share their opinions, thoughts, ideas, or knowledge.
Surveys and polls also have the added benefit of being a source for feedback. Good teachers want to know how they are doing. Your trainers can use surveys to find out if there is anything that could be done better during virtual classes. Insight from the trainee’s perspective can reveal new ways to engage and inspire participation.
Have a Reward System in Place
Most people love playing games. While training isn’t always fun, you can add a gaming element through gamification. This helps create clear goals and measures progress in a way that’s not intimidating. Reward hard work and participation through a points system. Many LMS platforms include gamification with virtual badges that recognize achievement.
The reward system can be anything that works for your business. You can issue real rewards in the form of gift certificates or perks or keep it virtual with certificates and badges that are displayed on employee profiles. Participation can be included as an objective to earn points or rewards.
Inject Visual Aids Whenever Possible
Plain text can convey information, but it isn’t always the most engaging way to do it. Many learners find that excessive text can feel monotonous. They lose focus, which will reduce their overall participation in class.
Inject visual aids whenever possible. This can be done on a whiteboard or displayed in videos or as slides. Graphics and images can renew interest and help give the brain a jumpstart. When learners are paying attention, they are more likely to ask or answer questions and join in when doing activities.
Try an LMS with Simulation Capability
Another way to increase participation is through virtual simulations. These are used to recreate real-life experiences. The level of detail and realism will depend on the technology you use and the demands of the job role.
Some LMS platforms are equipped with basic simulations that can recreate the experience of speaking with a customer or coworker. Others are more advanced and incorporate virtual reality.
Simulations are more exciting than text and will help spark conversations about the material.
Let Learners Interrupt Training
Yes, you should encourage interruptions – as long as they are polite and constructive. In a real classroom, learners can raise their hands to ask questions. It’s easier to make eye contact and you feel like you are a part of the class.
Virtual classes can lose that in-person element. Trainees may feel disconnected because they are not in the same room as the trainer and their fellow employees. One way to help overcome that disconnect is by encouraging interruptions.
LMSs often include a “raise hand” tool that lets learners react the way they would if they had a question in a traditional class. You can also use text or voice chat to give trainees a place to ask questions or make comments during each session. These kinds of tools are a must if you want trainees to actively participate.
Make Every Training Session Interactive
Make every training session interactive to keep learners engaged and focused. Discussion can nurture new ideas and help trainees gain a better understanding of the material.
Also remember to provide adequate instruction on how to use the available tools at the beginning of the training class. Your learners need to know that these tools exist and how to access them if they are going to get the most out of class discussions, polls, and activities.
Check out LMS.org to see which learning management systems offer the best features for virtual training.