As the number of in-person trainings diminishes—just 41% of trainings are now delivered in traditional classroom settings—facilitators face the challenge of converting in-person experiences to online environments.
This is actually good news, as many features found in virtual classrooms can be used to mirror and even improve the in-person experience in ways that are more accessible for learners.
But you have to get it right.
We spoke with Cindy Huggett, an industry veteran who’s been helping organizations maneuver virtual classrooms for more than 16 years. The following tips are based on her recommendations, along with several insights our team has gleaned through our work with thousands of learners and trainers.
- Understand the Difference. Recognize that online events are not the same as online training. “We use online collaboration platforms to meet, but meetings aren’t trainings—and neither are presentations or demos,” says Huggett. Distinguishing this difference from the outset makes it much easier to decide what you want to achieve with each training and how you’re going to reach those outcomes.
- Prepare. Delivering online instruction tends to require more preparation than in-person teaching since there’s less opportunity to “wing it.” The good news? Virtual environments offer opportunities to prepare in ways that aren’t possible with in-person training. Leverage them! Decide how you’re going to deliver and, if possible, stage your course content well in advance of the live session.“I might analyze that four-day in-person program and divide it into smaller components,” Huggett explains. “What do we really need to do as a group, and what can we do on our own? What do we need a facilitator for and what can we do in small groups? Is the design of the program a click-through slide deck that’s text-heavy, or is it designed to be interactive?”
- Encourage Collaboration. Ask participants to annotate a video or contribute to a whiteboard, use breakout rooms to facilitate small group discussions, or leverage any of the other tools that keep learners engaged. If you don’t already have a producer or second facilitator, consider finding someone to help with the technical aspects. The more relevant and engaging you make your online training, the better your chances of drawing in learners despite the distractions that surround them.
- Create the Right Environment. Do your learners work in quiet offices where it’s easy to put on headphones and join a training at any time? Or do they work in the field or on the floor, where they’ll need much more than noise-cancelling headphones to derive value from your trainings? Creating the right environment ensures participants have a real chance at being actively engaged. For example, a retail employee might need a series of short sessions that can be joined easily from the break room, while the equipment operator may need a quiet conference room for longer sessions.
- Analyze and Improve. Training analytics are the key to unlocking your full training potential, and they’re only available through online tools. Review metrics such as engagement scores, which highlight how actively involved each participant is, and emotion insights, which can help you understand when learners become excited or confused by your course content and delivery. Measuring when participants are engaged and how they’re responding to content makes it much easier to create the feedback loops that are vital to success.
AirClass is a virtual classroom platform designed to make it feel like learners are in the room with you—with features such as virtual white-boarding, interactive replays, and breakout rooms assembled using live engagement scores to keep all participants actively involved. Learn more at airclass.com.