Making Virtual Training Engaging and Effective
Updated: Aug 5, 2020
I still remember the first virtual training session I ever attended. I put on my headset, logged on, and listened to someone read bullet points from slides—for hours. I’m quite sure I didn’t learn anything, and I definitely didn’t apply any new skills on the job.
Thankfully, virtual training doesn’t have to look like that at all. Whether you’re using virtual training to accommodate a distributed or remote workforce, to reduce training costs, or to take advantage of the benefits of technology, there are some simple things you can do to make the training engaging and effective.
Be clear about what’s in it for participants
Adult learners are quick to judge what’s a waste of time and what’s useful to them. Once they’ve determined something is irrelevant to them, no amount of bells and whistles will engage them in the rest of the session. The training design should clearly address “what’s in it for them”. Explain or demonstrate how the training content somehow makes their life or their work BETTER.
Help participants get comfortable with the technology
Virtual learning can be intimidating for participants, especially if they aren’t accustomed to it. Demonstrate how to use the various features and tools they'll need in the virtual classroom, such as chat boxes, polls, microphones, whiteboards, etc. Then give participants the opportunity to practice—before you start digging into the learning material. This will help them to focus on the content
of the training later, rather than the technicalities of the platform.
Maximize high-value interactivity
Most virtual meeting platforms offer many ways that participants can interact, including chat boxes, poll questions, whiteboards, microphones, status icons, and more. The training design should leverage these features so that participants don’t have the opportunity to sit passively and listen for very long. Interactive elements should be high-value, forcing participants to actively think about the new information and practice new skills or tasks as much as possible.
Humanize the facilitator
Connect with participants in an informal way. A facilitator who is too rigid can make participants feel like they are just interacting with a computer, rather than person-to-person. Participants will be much more engaged if they feel connected to the facilitator as a human being. Let your personality show, use your sense of humor, and don't be afraid to let learners see some of who you are outside of your instructor role.
Don’t let the learning experience end with the virtual event
It’s unfortunately common for participants to attend a standalone virtual training (even a good one) and never actually apply what they were taught. A high-quality training plan should include one or more components to help learners bridge the gap between the training environment and their “real” job—integrating their new skills into their flow of work after the training session. Follow-up components could be as simple as a self-assessment they complete after they’ve used their new knowledge for the first time, or it could be a more complex plan to provide continual support or assessment.
Would you like to discuss this topic further? Our principal consultant, Leah Yeatts, offers complimentary, one-hour, virtual consultations. Schedule by emailing her at Leah@Leverperformance.com.