Even before the COVID-19 crisis, smart businesses sought effective approaches for training and developing their staff. Then came 2020 – and many organizations radically pivoted to adjust the way they trained their employees and their clients. Learning couldn’t stop just because many people were working from home. Successful companies still required trained employees to ensure new technology delivered on anticipated performance metrics. These businesses and their training partners had to adapt quickly.

Through focused work and a bit of trial and error, our learning solutions team quickly transformed our offerings and created success stories using a virtual training approach. Through that experience, we offer the following suggestions on how to deliver meaningful learning experiences in 2021:

1. Develop an Interactive Virtual Training Model

Companies in the process of converting to virtual training would benefit from creating a formal virtual training model that actively engages learners and is the standard for all training in the organization. Taking the time to identify best practices up front ensures consistency and success, with higher retention and engagement. This process is ever-evolving, but we’ve found a few tips that should be standard for your trainers:

    • Engage your audience every three to five minutes.
    • Encourage participants to use the features, like chat, available in your delivery tool.
    • Use your camera at least at the beginning, during introductions and to kick off activities.
    • Vary delivery method by incorporating videos or articles to read during the instructor-led session.
    • Use breakout rooms for role-playing activities.
    • Use online tools to create features like pop-up quizzes and idea clouds.

2. Ensure Trainers Have the Skills to Deliver Content Virtually

Your training staff must be acutely aware of both the obvious and subtle differences between live and virtual training. The trainers themselves need specific training on how to use the appropriate engagement methods in different virtual learning environments.

Once your trainers have developed the skills to conduct virtual training effectively, establish a standard for peer idea-sharing on virtual training best practices and “dos and don’ts.” Conducting training proficiency reviews on a regular basis with the virtual trainers can help them refine their techniques and address the feedback course attendees offer in post-learning surveys.

3. Grow Your Microlearning Library (or Use Someone Else’s)

Microlearning feeds information to learners through short modules instead of through a single long and laborious training. This approach is generally thought to be more effective in achieving knowledge transfer compared to traditional longform methods. It also offers the perfect complement to instructor-led training. For example, topic-focused microlearning library sessions can focus on the basic how-tos of using products so that the virtual training can focus on more complex topics, like problem-solving when things don’t go as planned.

Building your own microlearning library or finding content in an existing library to purchase has become table stakes in delivering a successful training program. Start small by selecting repetitive topics that apply to most of your organization or clients. Then, make a plan to convert them into microlearning modules that learners can access at their time of need or that you can build into a larger learning path when end-to-end training is appropriate. Make sure to create a plan for fine-tuning the instructor-led sessions as they roll out so you can focus on the topics that will bring learners to proficiency quickly.

4. Create a Social Learning Model to Encourage Collaborative and Just-in-time Learning

Social learning theory suggests that behavior change can happen through the observation and imitation of others. Social learning provides a way to formalize informal learning by rewarding knowledge-sharing among peers. In the age of social media, it’s often accomplished through online peer observation and forums. Within learning platforms or internal networks, chat boards and forums should be readily available for learners to interact with each other during virtual sessions. Many learning management systems (LMSs) offer chat boards that employees can use to continue social learning after a training event is over.

Experienced trainers can incorporate social learning into the classroom by using web breakout rooms to encourage learners to collaborate and problem-solve together. As an added benefit of this social learning, trainers can develop case studies and discussion points from the questions and actual issues that come up during conversations.

5. Drive Awareness and Adoption, and Then Measure the Results

Putting the word out on virtual learning availability is just as important as the quality of the courses. Work with your marketing team to launch learning awareness campaigns, and include learning updates in employee development reminders and internal communications. Your training isn’t doing anyone any good if no one knows it’s there.

Once employees are aware of and taking the available training, measuring its effectiveness is key. You can do so through simple surveys, readiness assessments or more complex certification programs. Measure training proficiency over time, and apply it to different segments of learners to refine your learning path content.

Virtual learning, properly deployed and leveraged, can be even more effective than traditional training. Let’s all continue to help our employees and clients advance efficiency with a motivated, well-trained and highly skilled workforce.

Want to learn more on this topic? Sign up for the virtual Training Industry Conference & Expo, and attend Shelley’s live session.