This year, I decided to become a Certified Professional in Training Management. While I’ve been working in the training industry (as the editor of online content at Training Industry) for almost two years, I wanted to understand the issues facing training management, both for my own professional development and to help me provide the best insights to our audience.

The last time I participated in e-learning was in 2003, so I enrolled in the virtual practicum option with a little trepidation. My prior distance education experience was short-lived and relied on what now looks like ancient technology. Still, I knew that learning technology had come a long way, and I was interested to see what this platform brought to the learning experience.

It couldn’t have been better.

Not only were the pre-practicum e-learning modules effective in grounding me in the CPTM body of knowledge, but the virtual practicum actually gave me the opportunity to discuss and apply that knowledge. While I was nervous about video-chatting with group members I had just met, by the midpoint of Day One, I was at ease with the entire cohort and felt ready to embark on a group project with the three other members of my breakout group, which included a university educator in Colorado, a staff development officer who works in health care in Missouri, and a sales training manager in Mexico. The diversity of my group meant that we also had a diversity of experiences and ideas that we were able to share despite being geographically dispersed.

The practicum gave me the opportunity to enhance my understanding of the training manager role and responsibilities. Through discussions with my fellow participants and group case study work, I learned how to strategically align a training program with business goals; plan training organization resources and technology based on that alignment; develop and deliver training solutions to meet business needs; and measure the success of training programs.

While today’s e-learning technology does a lot to bring students together, I also have to give credit to our practicum instructor, whose example taught me several valuable lessons about virtual training facilitation. The best way to learn these lessons is by experiencing them for yourself in an online class (or CPTM practicum!), but here they are, distilled for you.

In-person best practices still apply to online training.

Our instructor used many of the same techniques online that she would have in a classroom. She shared the objectives of the course at the beginning, used active listening, ensured that everyone had a chance to ask and answer questions, provided examples, and encouraged participation.

Understand the demands of online training.

At the beginning of Day One, our instructor told us that she knew virtual learning can be “intense.” Accordingly, she planned regular 10- to 15-minute breaks and paced the course so that it wasn’t draining. She also reviewed virtual training protocol at the beginning of the course to make sure we all had the same expectations of ourselves and each other.

Use a platform that imitates in-person learning.

The platform we used allowed the instructor (and the participants) to see everyone’s faces. That meant, for example, that when I was vigorously nodding my head at her advice to explore for helpful resources, she was able to see that and ask me for my input. It also allowed for breakout sessions; each group worked on our case study project in “rooms” that the instructor could pop into periodically to check on our progress and answer questions.

These breakout rooms were essential to the interactive nature of the CPTM practicum, and the platform as a whole ensured that participants didn’t miss out on the camaraderie and collaboration of the in-person practicums. The chat function was also beneficial. Just as in-person practicum participants can exchange business cards and have offline conversations during breaks, virtual practicum participants can share email addresses and resources using the online chat. Finally, the platform was user-friendly, so no time was wasted trying to help each participant figure it out.

There were so many lessons I learned in the CPTM practicum, from the importance of strategic alignment to being able to analyze a case study and recommend solutions. Those were the lessons I expected to learn in the CPTM program. Learning best practices for virtual instruction was an unexpected – and incredibly valuable – bonus.