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What to consider when designing virtual training sessions

It’s hard to believe that by now, whoever is reading this has not attended at least one virtual training, workshop, or even team-building attempt. It’s been a year since almost everything has become remote. Even though people managed to figure out the logistics (desks, chairs, lighting, good places to hide from kids or cats in important Zoom meetings), some online training delivery aspects could still use some improvements.

Read more: 4 Tips for holding live training sessions via Zoom

In the whirlwind of the global crisis, offering information and instructions to employees were given center stage. However, what about the delivery methods? Even if the physical circumstances have changed, the way adults learn hasn't, and those principles need to be the foundation of all L&D interventions.

Read more: Successful teaching and comprehension strategies for adult learners

Pre-training activities are highly recommended

The start of traditional classroom training was always some kind of icebreaker exercise that could take anywhere from twenty minutes to up to two hours. It was generally aimed at the participants’ getting to know each other and expressing their expectations for the session. It was the best time for the facilitator to address these and make sure everyone knows what to look forward to.

With virtual training, icebreakers can be made to work, but they might take too much time, and participants could quickly lose interest. That’s why it’s best to engage with the subject before the actual start of the session. The activities can be individual, or participants can be asked to work in pairs or teams, thus having much-needed interactions.

It’s also a good idea to have something prepared for those who log in early in the virtual training session. Polls, puzzles, games are all great for keeping people interested until the training actually starts.

Read more: Taking gamification in training to the next level

Instructional design has to be engaging

Of course, this was true for traditional training as well. Every L&D professional knows that if participants are not engaged, information retention plummets, and the intervention will be more or less pointless.

However, when we are talking about e-learning design, several aspects differ from traditional materials. First of all, when it comes to learning on screen, less is infinitely more. Crowding a lot of information on the screen and then adding colorful highlights or animation to draw attention can have the opposite effect.

Read more: How to drive up learner engagement in digital training

There is also the issue of how participants will access additional resources. Switching between screens while there’s an ongoing presentation is not the best way to go about it. It’s best to offer the essential information during the session and send an e-mail with links to everything else after it’s done – provided there is availability for further questions or advice.

It’s also mandatory to consider participants’ bandwidth and adjust, so rendering content does not become an issue.

Keep distractions away and participants involved

It’s not limiting personal freedom to ask participants to put their phones away and not open and read e-mails during the training session. Of course, this needs to be communicated positively, and the facilitator must abide by this rule to give their undivided focus.

It’s all right to set up lengthier breaks or specific times for people to catch up on their emails. However, if trainees are to focus on the session, engage and involve them as much as possible.

Instructors can use direct questions, breakrooms, quizzes, "show of hands," puzzles, polls, board sharing, text chats, video or photo sharing, or even stretch breaks since sitting in a chair most of the day is detrimental to physical and mental well-being.

Whatever the methods you choose, it’s essential to encourage constant participation and avoid lengthy lectures, whether on slides, in video format, or delivered by the facilitator.

Read more: The Micro-first Model for business training

Closing thoughts

Virtual training is no longer a trend but a necessity. Learning is a core function for any business in times of transformation, and it must be spot-on and effective. Following these tips ensures that instructional designers and facilitators create and deliver units tailored to the needs of the participants while also meeting the organization’s requirements.