Virtual training has experienced a growing demand as the business world experiences the after-effects of a global pandemic and realizes the benefits of offering training virtually. Resurgences of the pandemic have caused businesses around the world to transition back to a work-from-home structure. Even in countries where the workforce has returned to normalcy, organizations learned the hard way that they must remain vigilant moving forward.
Virtual training used to be a niche option but today it has become a necessary tool. However, the problem we’re seeing from L&D teams is that they are simply transitioning a clone of their in-person training to a virtual environment. Both are different platforms with different requirements. Simply copying in-person training programs and putting them online won’t work well.
One of the key differences is the skills of the facilitator. Just because they excel with in-person teaching doesn’t mean they will be a great virtual trainer. They must develop entirely new skills to meet the demands of virtual training. Here are five areas that in-person trainers must develop in order to excel in a virtual environment.
#1: Flexibility for Virtual Training
Virtual instructors are met with many varying roles at once so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. They have to maneuver the classroom, field questions, and navigate polls while continuing to engage learners. This requires a highly flexible approach. Compare this to in-person trainers who are able to simply focus on following a syllabus.
Being able to navigate this requires skill and planning in order to keep from getting distracted from the overall lesson. Practice and technique win the day here. In order for new virtual instructors to get a feeling for navigating a virtual environment, they need to take part in a few pilot classes. It’s equally as important to lay out an efficient plan, as well as have a producer on-hand.
#2: Technological Prowess
Instructors must be familiar with the technology used to power the virtual classroom. When choosing the right learning platform, be sure to find something that falls within an instructor’s technical skill range. Of course, that isn’t always possible so it’s necessary for the instructor to learn the technology.
Learn how to present the content you’ll be teaching in a virtual environment. One example is the use of interactive tools. It’s also important to learn how to work with a producer. They will help you switch tabs and go through various activities seamlessly. Another is the use of language interpretation and live transcribing. If you are going to use this feature, ensure you’re comfortable in advance.
A lack of technological prowess intimidates a lot of in-person instructors who are transitioning to digital. They end up using a webinar-like approach because it simulates an in-person classroom. But this isn’t the best way to present digital content.
#3: Teaching Style for Virtual Training
Teaching into a camera is a tough transition. Facilitators can’t determine the level of engagement the way they can in a physical classroom. Instructors who are transitioning from the classroom to virtual training tend to rely on old habits to offset this discomfort. They read, present, and lecture when they should use a more adaptive approach.
In order to teach in a virtual environment, one must adapt their teaching style. Learners will not be engaged with emotionless presentation and do not have the physical environment to keep them motivated.
Top virtual trainers are masters at creating interactive and engaging lessons. They breathe life into their lessons by matching an energetic teaching style with an excitable personality. They are able to connect with users on the other end of the webcam. Adding just a small amount of emotion will carry the course further than you might imagine.
Some instructors need to visualize with their learners so give them the option to turn on their cameras. This helps on both sides since learners tend to be more focused when an instructor can see them. However, only allow microphones for specific moments like asking questions or providing feedback.
In the beginning, it’s advisable for instructors to record a few teaching sessions and replay them. Take notes as to what you can improve and move forward from there. Like with all skills, practice makes perfect.
#4: Creating a Virtual Learning Environment
For starters, it’s up to virtual instructors to ensure that their learners fully understand the platform. It’s not like a physical classroom, so they need to understand the differences. Developing this approach will also help instructors get acquainted with their new teaching platform.
This works in much the same way as orientation for a classroom with slightly more responsibility. Give learners a brief lesson on the tools they will be using to interact with such as polls and chats. Then give them the time they need to adjust.
It’s also important to keep learners engaged in social interactions using the built-in chat feature. Encourage its use and make sure you’re allowing for two-way communication.
#5: Understand Learner Engagement
Everything boils down to understanding how to keep learners engaged in the content. This is much more difficult in a virtual environment. Users on the other end will have other factors all vying for their attention. Their email, social media, and mobile devices can take their attention away if you don’t take steps to prevent it.
Since you won’t know when or if learners are distancing themselves from these distractions, you have to create a learning environment that keeps them interested. Set up several points throughout the lesson where learners will be forced to engage with the content. Always maintain an upbeat tone to keep them motivated. Set up Q&A segments that involve everyone. Scenario-based interactive tasks and concept demonstrations are also great methods of holding their attention.
In-person instructors are able to make the transition to virtual training by following these five essential principles. It takes time, patience, and the right kind of training though. You probably already possess the basic skills required to make the transition. It just takes a few add-ons and a different mindset to bridge the gap.
L&D must be able to transition in an ever-changing business landscape. This is just one example of how virtual training continues to evolve the workplace.