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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

C-Suite Advisory

Will Virtual Training Sessions Become The New Norm?

While most industries have been significantly affected by coronavirus this year, there are sectors, such as tourism and travel, that have been deeply challenged. The Learning and Development sector is one of those areas at the pointy end of the disruption caused by COVID-19.

Where Learning and Development has previously rested upon face-to-face, classroom-based learning, it is evident that in order to continue to build capability and relevant skills, virtual training needs to be embraced long-term.

With the future of the industry resting on it, a big question remains…how can we create virtual training that can build confidence and capability in an uncertain time? There are five essential elements to consider.

The five Essential Elements of an Engaging Virtual Training Session:

  1. Quality, Adapted Content
    In order for virtual training sessions to be engaging, effective, and impactful, the content has to be adapted to suit the medium. Activities that may have worked in a face-to-face setting may need to be reworked, incorporating digital collaborative tools, or completely transformed. Most delivery platforms (Zoom, MS Teams, WebEx, etc) have differing levels of functionality that can be utilized in the learning design.
    In the same way that a facilitator would look at a room, tech, and group size to shape their learning experience, the same rules apply given the options presented through a virtual platform. But a word of warning: overuse on one particular method (such as breakout rooms) is the same as a lazy facilitator asking people incessantly to ‘turn to the person beside you and share….’. It quickly becomes predictable and boring.
    Timing will also be increasingly important; programs that may have been delivered throughout a full day of face-to-face learning can be broken down into shorter learning modules, ideally in 90-minute sessions, to maintain attention and engagement levels.
  2. An Energetic and Experienced Facilitator
    Once content quality has been established and adapted to the medium, next up you’ve got to consider the facilitator who’ll be delivering the content.
    In a virtual training setting there are potentially more distractions around the individual participants; maintaining attention and engagement will require a different approach to face-to-face facilitation. It’s critical that your facilitator has high levels of energy, enthusiasm and has the knowledge to ‘read’ a virtual training room and guide the conversation.
    Consider a live tour of the platform, ideally with the facilitator, so you get a sense of both their expertise on the topic, but crucially, their expertise with the delivery platform.
  3. Collaborative Learning Opportunities
    One of the missing pieces from face-to-face learning that people crave in a virtual training environment are opportunities for social and collaborative learning. To create an engaging virtual training session, incorporate group discussions as well as smaller, more intimate learning experiences.
    There are infinite approaches on how to incorporate this into the learning, limited only by creativity. The stock standard use of chat functions, breakout rooms and polling are foundational engagement techniques but extending from these requires learning design to be stretched beyond tech features.
    Scenario-based learning, in-time research challenges, alternative pathway progressions and consequence prediction are all extremely effective ways to engage the individual learner with their peers, strengthening the learning outcomes.
  4. Clear Audio
    This seems rudimentary, but has proven to be one of the most significant factors for training disengagement. For people to remain engaged throughout a virtual training session, it’s crucial that the facilitator’s audio is of a high quality. Crackling audio, audio that drops out, or audio that is too loud or too quiet are all factors that contribute to disengagement, not to mention frustration amongst participants.
    There’s been an array of research that suggests audio is one of our least preferred learning modalities, however this is no excuse for providers to not ensure the audio in virtual training isn’t anything other than perfect.
    When audio is clear, and allows for participants to hear subtle inflections and emphasis, the overall quality of the learning experience is greatly improved.
  5. Mixed Delivery Mediums
    Staring at the same screen for long periods of time is a challenge for many virtual training participants – the temptation to quickly check emails or disengage in other ways can take over if the learning experience falls flat.
    To keep things interesting, make use of mixed delivery mediums throughout the rollout of your programs. For example, in our professional virtual training sessions, delivered from our TV-production quality studio, facilitators make use of multiple cameras angles to support different messages.
    A close-up camera view might best suit questions or introspective thinking and wider shots may suit expressive storytelling. Having a multi-camera setup is a useful start, but the mastery comes from when you understand the need for certain angles.

With this knowledge in hand you’re more than ready to begin exploring the world of virtual training. As a long-term solution in the current environment, it’s worth taking the time to invest in a high-quality virtual learning experience for your people.


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Darren Hill
As a behavioural scientist and best-selling author of Dealing with the Tough Stuff, Darren Hill knows first hand what’s required to build high-performance workplace cultures. With a client book of Fortune 500 and ASX 200 companies, Darren is the co-founder of Australia’s premier Behaviour and Motivation Strategy company, Pragmatic Thinking — a company that has made the Australian Financial Review's Fast 100 list for the last 3 years running. Darren Hill is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on LinkedIn.