3 Virtual Training Issues and How to Overcome Them
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It’s not only schoolteachers who are struggling to teach and engage during a time when virtual learning has become standard. Trainers who teach skills like leadership, conflict resolution, management, or a host of other business topics are running into problems when they’re forced to move from the classroom to a virtual model.
Virtual training is challenging, but you can learn how to overcome these common issues.
1. Not All Topics Can Be Easily Taught Virtually
Virtual training may include both synchronous and asynchronous learning methods:
- Synchronous training – a group of trainees are all taught at the same time via a webinar or a virtual classroom. Video conferencing software like Zoom has recently seen a surge in users.
- Asynchronous training – this type of training is self-paced, and participants work through course material on their own. Asynchronous training may be delivered on the web, through mobile apps, or with a learning management system.
Although effective training can be conducted using both synchronous and asynchronous methods (often called blended learning), it’s crucial that the instructor realizes that it’s her input that solidifies the material and helps trainees to fully understand and incorporate it into their daily practices.
Instructors are responsible for engaging their students and to help them understand difficult topics through anecdotes and relatable experiences. It’s not enough just to present the material, but to cultivate the type of in-depth understanding that’s possible only by answering questions and reinforcing the most essential take-aways of the lessons.
Here’s how an instructor may overcome learning challenges using both synchronous and asynchronous methods:
- Deliver asynchronous pre-training quizzes to understand how much trainees already know and determine the gaps that must be filled in or the inaccuracies that will need to be corrected.
- Follow-up with a synchronous session to go over the participants’ responses and provide examples to reinforce the material.
- Another asynchronous session would come next and would allow trainees to apply what they’ve learned using a virtual web-based exercise.
The key takeaway is that knowledge is better ingrained when there’s meaningful interaction between instructor and participants.
2. Motivation and Attention May be in Short Supply During Virtual Training
There’s something about coming together in an in-person classroom or training facility that inspires (or at least motivates) participants to pay attention and become engaged. That’s considerably more difficult when the learners are at home and are behind their computer screens. How can instructors keep their trainees motivated and engaged absent the energy of an in-person session? The group dynamic that appears when people gather in the same room does suffer when participants log in remotely.
Instructors have access to a variety of tools that can make learning more interactive and engaging.
When the session is synchronous:
- Stay away from PowerPoint. The mere sight of one of those slides may turn-off participants.
- Almost immediately, set the expectation that face-to-face interaction will constitute a good portion of the instruction.
- Schedule frequent – but shorter – sessions so as not to “lose” participants when a session goes on for too long.
- Use a variety of instructional tools that help break down the lessons, keep the sessions flowing, and help ward off fatigue.
- Use video-conferencing platform functions like polling or chat to get feedback from participants in real time.
- Encourage collaboration using break-out sessions where smaller groups of participants can discuss a topic or brainstorm a challenge before returning to the main screen.
When the session is asynchronous:
- State the learning objectives upfront to more clearly communicate how the learner will benefit at the end of the training.
- Learning modules should be short and not heavy on text. Break up the mundane with videos, animations, and images.
- Use games and assessments lets the trainee know how well he understood a topic or where he may need more support.
- Set up a group on Facebook where participants can ask questions and get help from peers. Not only does this reinforce concepts taught during the session but it encourages collaboration, which is an asset for any business.
3. It’s Difficult to Set Up Training Across Different Time Zones
Instructors already face the challenge of developing instruction that translates well to different cultural and geographical regions. But content aside, how can an instructor deliver a synchronous session when it’s morning in one time zone and bedtime in another?
- Set up two different sessions that participants can join when it’s most convenient. In this scenario, it’s helpful to have two different instructors – one who can facilitate each session.
- In addition to live sessions, set up a space on the web, a learning management system, or a mobile app that includes resources like videos, lectures, slides, white papers, or any other supportive material that will make learning easier and that can exist as a reference tool once the training ends.
Virtual Training May Stay with Us for the Long Term
Businesses are discovering that by using more virtual training, they’re able to save money that would typically be allocated to transportation and lodging. Also, keeping your employees in town may reduce the productivity fall-off that often occurs when your team is out of the office for a few days of training. Virtual training can take place either at an employee’s home or in one of your conference rooms.
Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, we can resume in-person training, but it’s encouraging to learn that remote training is a good substitute during this interim period and may even help as an add-on to in-person training in years to come.