Today’s virtual training software provides a nearly identical teaching experience for instructors — and, arguably, a better learning experience for all learners. The innovative virtual training tools that make up training delivery software have taken instructor-learner interactions to a whole new level. When you combine these tools with virtual training labs (also known as a lab environment), you create an effective combination, especially for IT and technology training.

Because engaged learners are better learners, several software vendors have developed virtual training tools — such as chat, help queues, screen-sharing, whiteboards and breakout rooms — to promote interactivity with and between learners. These valuable features help instructors achieve the best possible visibility, monitoring and control of learners’ systems within instructor-led online training.

Making the shift from face-to-face teaching to virtual training can sometimes feel challenging. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the transition from face-to-face classrooms to virtual training. Use these handy features to replicate in-person interactions in an online training environment.

1. Lab overview is the most popular virtual training tool, especially in virtual instructor-led training (VILT). It’s a feature that enables instructors to see all of the learners’ desktops simultaneously. This way, they know where each learner is in the course, see what each learner is doing and offer assistance to learners who are falling behind.

2. Virtual training labs: To prepare learners for real-life scenarios and reinforce the material, it is important for them to learn via hands-on, practical experiences. Cloud lab environments emulate the way humans are meant to learn — by doing. These virtual labs provide a safe and secure replica of software for learners to practice on. By incorporating virtual training labs (sometimes referred to as IT training labs) into a course, instructors can help learners become high performers in a short period of time. Without virtual machine training, learners end up learning the theory but gain zero experience actually using the software.

3. Public and private chat enables conversations between and among instructors and learners. With the public chat tool, learners and instructors can access the public chat area for class-wide updates or issues. Public chat is useful for announcing the start of class and breaks or for providing information that the entire class might need. Meanwhile, the private chat feature gives instructors and learners the ability to have one-on-one conversations with each other. Offering both public and private chat options is important, because some learners prefer to ask questions in private.

4. Messaging enables instructors to send an automatic pop-up message to all learners — or to selected learners — within the VILT software. It is an easy tool to let learners know when there is a break or to provide quick “FYIs.” For example, instructors can use pop-up messages to notify learners when a break is coming to an end so that the learners all return to class at the same time, and the course can continue on schedule.

5. Whiteboards provide a drawing/writing tool and an image library. Instructors can use the whiteboard feature to show flowcharts and process maps and draw network configurations or other technology architectures. They can also use them to point to specific sections of the course material or highlight which section of the syllabus the course is currently covering. For example, instructors sometimes use the whiteboard feature to highlight a specific portion of a PowerPoint slide, graph or table.

6. A help queue enables instructors to prioritize learners who need assistance, to track the learners who requested help and how long each learner has been waiting for help, and to assign a help request to an assistant instructor if one is available. Requests for help are a vital part of traditional and virtual training, and virtual training companies created this feature to enable learners to ask for help anytime.

7. Follow-up list: Similar to an agenda, the follow-up list keeps instructors organized while giving online instructor-led training. Follow-up lists allow instructors to create tasks, lists and reminders. They typically use this feature to track learner questions that require after-class research.

8. Screen-sharing: With in-person training, instructors often use a projector to share their screen with the class. In virtual training, the projector is replaced with the screen-sharing feature. Within the training delivery platform, instructors can share their desktop with learners or share a learner’s screen with the entire class.

9. Breakout groups: Similar to traditional classroom training, VILT software enables instructors to divide a classroom into smaller groups. While learners are in groups, they can collaborate on case studies and lab exercises or resolve a challenge — and then present their findings to the entire class.

10. Audio requires little bandwidth and is specifically developed for training. When platforms offer multiple audio modes, instructors have full control of how they want to handle audio content in the class.

Effectively using these virtual training tools will allow instructors to engage all of the learners in their classes. When learners begin “raising their hands,” participating in discussions and sending chat messages, requesting help, and responding to assessments on time, instructors will know that their learners are engaged and invested in the learning experience.

Switching from in-person to virtual training can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. This article is a starting point to help instructors understand the features that are available to make switching to virtual training easier.

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