The global pandemic has changed how organizations conduct business, including learning. In-person instructor-led bootcamps — a longtime staple of information technology (IT) training — have come to a complete stop. Fortunately, converting them to a virtual format is proving to be a viable alternative.

As the name implies, virtual instructor-led bootcamps attempt to bring all the benefits of their in-person, instructor-led training (ILT) to the web. They are structured like the in-person events, in that they are scheduled, are live and enable learners to interact with the instructor or instructors. Already, organizations are finding that these virtual sessions tend to be more cost-effective than in-person ILT bootcamps.

5 Key Considerations for Converting In-person Bootcamps to a Virtual Experience

Circumstances have inspired many organizations to experiment with new ways to deliver training. There have been many poor or “just OK” executions, but a few organizations have produced shining examples of how to deliver an effective virtual bootcamp. Here are five lessons you can take away from those examples to help you convert your in-person instructor-led bootcamps to a remarkable virtual experience.

1. What You Deliver and How You Deliver It May Have to Change

Effective virtual training isn’t putting an instructor in front of a camera to deliver the same instruction he or she would in a classroom. The dynamics are different, requiring changes to both content and delivery.

For instance, think about the before, during and after training experiences. Sometimes trainers only focus on the “during” piece. Remember to ask yourself the following questions:

    • What do learners need to do before the live virtual bootcamp?
    • Are there tools they need to load or any prerequisite levels of experience?
    • What can learners do after the live event to make sure they retain the knowledge they gained? Do they have access to books, online courses, mentors and other resources to extend their learning after the event?

Avoid integrating media such as videos. While they work in a self-paced class or in-person session, they are not a great tool for webinar platforms due to differences in participants’ broadband speed and the possibility of delays. Instead, think about curating resources beforehand for learners to consume before the bootcamp.

2. Not Everyone Is a Natural Online Instructor

Many organizations experimenting with virtual bootcamps for the first time make the mistake of assuming that someone who is great teaching a room full of learners will shine in front of a camera. Although there are naturals who perform well both in person and in front of a camera, for many instructors, becoming an effective virtual bootcamp instructor involves learning a new set of skills. Give instructors plenty of time in front of the camera before they go live with learners.

3. The Tools You Use Are Important

Organizations use a variety of tools to provide virtual bootcamps, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. There is no hard and fast rule for which tool an organization should use, but make sure you take the time to evaluate and try out tools internally. Talk with the vendors and some of their other customers to learn about their experience, and make sure the vendor has the capacity and support in place to address your training needs. (Don’t forget to look into how secure the tools are!)

4. Facilitating Interaction With Learners Is Vital

When teaching face to face, it is easy to see someone waving his or her hand with a question and to quickly read facial expressions and body language to determine whether learners are responding to and absorbing the content. Duplicating this experience virtually can be a challenge. Instructors will find it difficult to teach and monitor a chat line simultaneously, so have a second instructor or subject matter expert (SME) on hand to monitor the chat, respond to questions in real time and make the call regarding when it makes sense to interrupt the instructor to provide additional clarification.

5. Provide Continuous Improvement Through Learner Feedback

As you learn the ropes of virtual bootcamps, it’s important to continuously survey learners to see what they think and solicit suggestions for improvements. By recording each session, not only will you have a resource for anyone who missed it or wants to watch it again, but instructors and mangers will be able to review the recordings to identify areas for improvement.

3 Questions to Ask Vendors

The best practices listed here should help your organization improve the quality of its virtual bootcamps. However, if you decide to outsource the delivery of virtual bootcamps instead, here are some questions to ask potential partners:

1. How Long Have You Been Conducting Live Virtual Bootcamps?

If they are honest, many vendors’ answer to this question will be, “Since the pandemic started.” That response probably means they are still in the learning phase of how to conduct these events.

Some vendors have been offering live virtual bootcamps for over a decade, and they are more likely to have a fine-tuned process. Using a vendor that’s new to virtual bootcamp delivery could result in a poor experience for your learners and wasted time and money. If you have a choice, select a vendor with a lot of experience and good customer reviews.

2. Which Tool or Tools Are You Using to Deliver Virtual Bootcamps?

Vendors use a variety of tools to deliver their bootcamps, many of which have come to market in response to the pandemic. Make sure your vendor is using an established tool and that it is using the “professional” version. Before making a choice, check in with your IT department to ensure your company’s network will allow the use of the tool (some may be blocked because of security concerns.)

3. How Many Instructors Are Involved in Each Bootcamp?

Having just one instructor teach and monitor the chat can be challenging and disruptive. Ask how the vendor handles this issue, and consider how the response to this question could impact your audience’s learning experience.

As we move forward in a digital-first world, the value of continuous learning and training is growing. In-person training is no longer the default for most enterprises. By investing in virtual bootcamps, you can uphold your dedication to supporting employee growth and save your organization money at the same time.