23rd Jun, 2020
Marcom, , Designation
Without a doubt, the year 2020 has seen its fair share of major historic events in just over a few months. With employees working from home, the impact on businesses is evident and they are, therefore left with no choice but to ‘go virtual’. Ever since the world came to a halt and told to stay put and stick to the norms of social distancing, a lot of business organizations are coming together and innovating to host their operations in the virtual space.
According to the American Society for Training and Development, organizations that offer training options to their employees experience a 24% higher profit margin than companies who spend less on training. But to keep training initiatives alive in the current era of social distancing, organizations are gearing up for the new-age training i.e. ‘Virtual Training Sessions/Programs’. The shifting paradigm of virtual training delivery is, perhaps, the most consequential change in the training industry, which was reinforced in just a matter of months.
Virtual Training: Data and Tools to Fuel Realistic Training in the Virtual World
What is virtual training?
Virtual training is defined as a highly interactive synchronous online trainer-led informative class, with well-defined pedagogical objectives, with trainees who are individually connected from different locations, using a web-based virtual training classroom platform.
Today, virtual training is gaining the clout, and the corporate world is adjusting to the new normal of conducting the training virtually with no associated costs.
The Decline of Traditional Classroom Training
Although face-to-face training comes with unprecedented interactivity in the learning experience, it has two big downsides i.e., time involved, and the cost associated. For a global organization with operations spread across several cities or countries, traveling to the training venue can pose a significant expense. Therefore, to mitigate these costs, organizations consider the virtual training platform to train their globally dispersed workforce. As a result, cutting back on travel and accommodation costs can result in huge savings in your training budget.
But Real Learning in a Virtual Classroom is not that Easy
Preparing for a virtual audience and training in-person or face-to-face participants are two sides of the same coin. Greater engagement and interaction is required for virtual training events to be effective. What’s the point of virtual training programs/sessions if it doesn’t propel realism? And it’s not an easy task though, because the biggest challenge lies in providing an immersive, engaging, and realistic virtual training experience.
So, if your organization is ready to embrace the norm of virtual training amid travel bans and social distancing, then you must ensure that your trainees are not only listening to the trainer (and not just checking their Facebook or Snapchat), but understanding the objective, learning and most significantly, retaining the content. Hence, it is essential to know that you cannot bring off the migration from merely moving classroom content online. So, let’s not think that a good face-to-face trainer is also a good virtual trainer. There are some basic differences that make virtual training different from traditional training, especially when it boils down to the technology front, the strategy for engaging trainees, and multitasking.
Trainers need to Upskill to Navigate the New Normal of Virtual Training
With virtual training gaining traction, trainers face the challenge of adapting on the fly to remote training sessions and providing an immersive experience to the learners differently from how they used to do in the classroom. While the professional training skills of the trainers will now be leveraged on a virtual platform, delivering an engaging virtual training session definitely requires a measure of upskilling and preparedness. Let’s take a roundup of the areas where trainers need to refine themselves to explore the new territory of virtual training:
Boost Multitasking Skills
A skilled trainer is just like a duck swimming in a pond. When observing the duck from outside, it seems like a smooth sail on the water surface, yet beneath, the bird is continuously paddling to move itself forward. And this is how a master virtual trainer has to make a balance and juggle many tasks with ease.
Virtual training much more than presenting the training material on a virtual platform. Trainers will have to simultaneously present, administer the tech platform, engage the participants, and possibly ask questions and conduct polls. Enacting all these tasks requires speed, requisite knowledge, and appropriate preparation.
The trainer needs to focus on different parts of the screen, watching the chat, looking for people raising their hand in case of any doubt, and facilitating an activity. So, combining all these requires skill and its necessary to train the trainer before the virtual training session. Hence, trainers should understand that multitasking is a skill that they need to polish to bring reality to virtual training programs.
Master the Technology Front
The biggest failure of virtual trainers is not having adequate knowledge about tools. When hosting a virtual training session, the trainer needs to be familiar and comfortable with the virtual technology platform. This means that they must know the nitty-gritty of the software and also its features in-depth. They must be well-apprised of how the program works from the trainer view, and how exactly to navigate from the participant view.
It is essential that the trainers are able to use all the tools available and help participants explore all the options available at their end. Therefore, mastering the technology front is critical so that the trainers don’t stumble upon figuring out a command, but instead conduct the training with ease. Here are few steps to master the virtual platform:
- Practice, by clicking on every button and using each feature
- Set up virtual sessions with multiple computers and practice using different tools
- Attend the webinars offered by the vendor which teaches you about the tool
- Apart from the software, also focus on how to prepare the hardware
The trainers must also have a backup plan in place to manage the technical issues that might erupt at their end.
Engage an Unseen Audience and Create a Learning Environment
Virtual training might turn out to be a new concept for many participants, so trainers should make them feel at ease and engage with them as quickly as possible. Participants will take time to adjust to the new platform as they cannot see one another. There is no doubt that conducting a training session can be more challenging without having a physical presence but yes, it’s not impossible.
A personal greeting or welcome to participants as they join the virtual training session will not only save time for individual introductions but also can go a long way in putting learners at ease. So rather than just presenting the information, trainers should:
- Take trainee’s names when referencing questions
- Ask poll questions or ask them to share their response in chat
- Share the whiteboard with trainees so that they can be a part of healthy discussion
- Always-on webcams can be a useful addition when there are multiple trainers
- Frequently interact with the trainees, at least every 5 minutes, so that they are more focused and attentive
Remember, the two-way conversation is key, so don’t keep the question-answer part for the end of the session. Create a learning environment that doesn’t hinder knowledge acquisition for the trainees.
Expect the Unexpected
Unforeseen challenges might occur during virtual training sessions like:
- A trainee may disconnect
- A slide or ppt might not open as per the plan
- Low internet connectivity at the trainee side
Virtual trainers expect one or more of these challenges to erupt during an ongoing session; it is the part of the virtual training platform. But trainers need to address these challenges sportingly by doing the following:
- Stay calm and take a deep breath
- If required, let trainees know what’s going on
- Spare a moment troubleshooting
- Or take a short break to fix the situation
This is where a backup plan also comes into play. Hence, trainers must have a backup plan for situations like:
- Loosing internet connectivity
- Disconnection from the audio to quickly reconnect
- If an activity doesn’t work as planned, switch to some other option
A backup plan always pays off in such situations.
Virtual training program/session is the new normal in today’s unprecedented time and business organizations must embrace it to inspire a culture of learning that goes beyond your usual classroom. Now is the perfect time to put all the above virtual training tips into practice and get the frontline people, i.e. trainers, all propped up for the new battleground.