Combating Crisis With Remote Learning That Works: 5 Tips for Effective VILT

“US Employees’ Willingness To Go Above and Beyond At Work Hits Three-Year Low,” read a 2018 Gartner press release headline. It’s a common theme we’ve seen this year in the business media and in a webinar I recently attended: Employees are not very happy at work, they think work should offer a service to them and judge their employer the same way we typically judge customer service.

While this information is staggering by itself, consider that it was written before the COVID-19 quarantines that have sent people home to work remotely. For those of us who work in learning and development (L&D), we now have an opportunity to make a difference. We know how to engage people virtually … or do we?

Based on the vendors sending a barrage of emails to my inbox about their services to help engage remote workforces during the COVID-19 crisis, it appears that many of us have anxiety over whether we are doing it right.

The truth is that we cannot expect a designer who only creates in-person programs or a trainer who only leads instructor-led training (ILT) programs to be able to easily transfer his or her knowledge to the virtual world — but many of us are asking people to do so. Some of us are lucky enough to have blended experiences, but many others are struggling with the shift. We all know the basics:

Chunk information.Engage the learner.Keep the learning to one hour or less per segment.Be sure there is an interaction every three to five minutes.Know your material.Test your technology.

What are the “need-to-knows” that aren’t intuitive — the strategies that will help ensure we are equipping our remote learners for success? Here are five tips for successful virtual instructor-led training (VILT).

1. Don’t Forget the Learners Have Anxiety, Too

Whether the course you are creating or teaching is synchronous, is asynchronous or has components of both, the process may be new to your learners. Set clear expectations up front, and consider a daily check-in or icebreaker if the class won’t meet daily.

The instructor should turn on his or her video (if applicable), and consider having a theme each day: wear your favorite hat, show us your pet, etc. This approach will create an element of fun and camaraderie and will lighten the mood for a work day that may have periods of isolation in it.

2. Teach Learners How to Be a Good Online Student

Some of your learners may have technology challenges. Think about the different generations in a virtual classroom, and be sure that the instructor shows learners how to raise their hands, answer polls and write on whiteboards, and share anything else that will help them begin to adjust to this new normal. Give them a sense of control and create an element of reflection by asking them to provide feedback both on the learning experience, on what they have learned and how their behavior has changed as a result of training.

3. Tell Good Stories

The instructor should tell stories about the topic and his or her experiences with it. Setting the stage and creating an element of imagery will help learners relate to the topic. It doesn’t have to be verbal storytelling; curated (short) videos, TED Talks and case studies are effective. You may also consider inviting subject matter experts (SMEs) to join the class to discuss how they applied the skills you’re covering in real life.

4. Create Space for Collaboration

Opportunities to collaborate remind learners that they are in it together. Collaboration also helps make people accountable to and for each other. Creating a game with the opportunity to win a badge or prize will add a healthy sense of competition to drive both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

5. Consider Practicing With Interactive Video Role-plays

In a video role-play, the trainer creates an environment that puts learners into the right mindset for using a new skill. Then, he or she presents a challenging situation that requires learners to use their new skill to solve a problem. The role-play ends with learners reflecting on their performance and then providing feedback. There are special platforms for role-plays, but if money is tight, and your learners have mobile phones, you can do it simply and easily — after checking your company’s bring your own device (BYOD) policies.

What are your tips and tricks for remote learning? Share them on Twitter, and tag @TrainingIndustr and @Loren_Sanders!

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