Simply put, online training makes sense. It gives students the freedom to learn where it’s convenient for them, and it makes learning accessible to all customers, employees and partners. When compared to in-person training, virtual instructor-led training (VILT) provides the same content, instructors, learning experience, learning results and productivity gains. In fact, a U.S. Department of Education study of online learning found that learning outcomes for students who engaged in online learning exceeded those of students receiving in-person instruction.
Additionally, because virtual training software lowers the cost to attend courses, it makes training more accessible. And, unlike brick-and-mortar training facilities that have physical space limitations, online platforms can always add student seats and have no limitation in the number of courses that can organizations can offer at any given time.
Making the switch to online training requires effort and buy-in. Educating key stakeholders on how a virtual training environment works, demonstrating the cost savings and value, and choosing vendors are critical steps. And don’t forget managing the actual class delivery, from the technical aspects of virtual training to instructor preparation, support, material distribution and contingency plans.
Before making the switch, evaluate these four key areas:
1. Stakeholder Education
Ensure that stakeholders understand the difference between webinars and virtual training, as this confusion is quite common. The main difference between the two platforms is that webinars typically share ideas and experiences or promote a speaker, while virtual training environment software facilitates learning and offers the option for hands-on exercises (known as virtual training labs).
In virtual training labs, students learn how to use software in a real-life environment, which drastically improves results. And, because VILT software allow instructors to see all learners’ remote desktop screens, they are able to provide step-by-step guidance. Virtual training software is also built specifically for training delivery, so companies that offer it understand the needs of training departments.
2. Return on Investment
When you compare in-person training and online training, online training is more cost-effective. Virtual training platforms increase the reach of training departments and allow learners from all over the world to attend the same course. Furthermore, VILT increases reach by lowering the cost to attend training, as there is no need to travel to a physical training facility.
The cost savings of moving to VILT are significant. In fact, according to a Citrix GoToTraining report, “Companies can save between $9,550 and $15,870 by moving one course from a traditional classroom to VILT.” Savings include reduced technology spending, travel and transportation costs, and productivity loss experienced by learners’ taking time away from work. In addition, training departments don’t need to invest in training classrooms, computer equipment and IT staff to set up a virtual training lab (sometimes referred to as a lab environment).
3. Transitioning to Online Training
When making the transition to virtual training, it is vital to select the right virtual training software and virtual training lab solution. It’s also important to train instructors on the use of the virtual classroom software and run a pilot class with the vendors on your shortlist to ensure a thorough evaluation and selection process. Let’s take a closer look:
Selecting Effective and Experienced Instructors
While transitioning to a hosted training solution, you will likely meet some resistance from your instructor team. Start with instructors who are open for change, know the course content well and have an aptitude for technology. After all, virtual training will require more interaction with technology then in-person training. Instructors should:
- Embrace change.
- Be technologically savvy.
- Be able to effectively communicate and establish an online presence.
- Understand how to use collaboration and web conferencing tools.
Evaluating Virtual Training Software Vendors
Because there are many virtual training software platforms, it is critical to define what you will use the software for, who will use it and under what conditions. Here are some questions to help you determine which virtual training platform will best suit your organization’s needs:
- What are the must-have and nice-to-have features?
- Do students need access to a hands-on lab environment?
- How many concurrent classes will you offer, how many students will be in each class and where are the students located?
- How consistent is your training demand?
- Do you need a multi-language virtual training platform?
- Do students need to be able to access the virtual training platform outside the office?
After you answer these questions, start your search for vendors that can meet your requirements, and evaluate them to make sure they actually can meet them through proofs of concept and free trials.
Training Instructors for the Virtual Training Environment
Because teaching in a virtual training environment requires specific skills, it is critical to train instructors. A successful training plan includes:
- Having the vendor train your instructors on how to use the VILT software and ensuring they have a deep understanding of the environment and all tools.
- Helping instructors develop their online presentation skills.
- Encouraging instructors to be energetic, since they are not in the same classroom as students, and good intonation is, therefore, even more important.
- Guiding instructors on how to change activities every seven to 10 minutes, moving between lectures, demonstrations, IT training labs, and Q&A to keep class engagement up.
Running a Pilot Class
Before going live with an online course, instructors should perform a pilot class with colleagues or friends. The purpose of this class is to do a test run, giving the training department an opportunity to work out any technical kinks, receive feedback and identify issues with the curriculum. It also gives instructors the chance to check for inaccurate visuals or trim down lectures that are too long. After the pilot class, work with your virtual training software vendor, your IT staff and your curriculum developers to update the class as needed.
4. Class Delivery
When delivering an actual class, it is helpful for an assistant instructor to manage the technical aspects of training, especially if your instructors are teaching a course for the first time or are new to virtual training, if the lab exercises are not spelled out (which increases the amount of help students will need), or if the course has a large number of attendees (more than 15).
In addition, it’s important to consider material distribution. Because training materials are often proprietary intellectual property, it is critical to find a secure way to transfer and control materials and to ensure that materials are difficult to copy and paste.
Contingency plans also are necessary for the virtual environment. Any number of technical issues (e.g., poor internet connection) can put an end to a class for an entire day. A lost day negatively affects learners who are forced to reschedule classes, as well as the lost revenue for training departments. As a result, immediate technical support is essential for every virtual environment. In the case of virtual training, internet connection is critical. Make sure you have at least one backup internet connection source, such as a WiFi hotspot.