Where it Started – Traditional Classroom Training
When I began my career in 1999, most technical education services and training occurred in a classroom. For example, participants were often invited to the vendor’s training center or the customer requested that the instructor come on-site to deliver a private training session.
Managers and leaders have long realized the critical role training plays in maintaining quality performance levels by enhancing the skills of their staff. Since the dotcom bubble, companies have investigated new methods for education delivery to minimize operational expenditure across their business units.
Virtual and Hybrid Classroom Delivery at Dell Technologies
At Dell Technologies, we help organizations and individuals build their digital future and transform the ways they work, live and play. In March 2020, Dell committed to transitioning 100% of our traditional classroom events for our employees, service partners and end-customers around the world to virtual classroom sessions in response to the pandemic. Dell’s Classroom of the Future initiative allowed the company to accelerate the adoption of integrated technology to meet learning needs in fast-changing conditions.
The Shift to the Virtual Classroom
Today, companies have more powerful and stable information technology (IT) infrastructures, capable of providing better and more interactive learning experiences. The use of video and interactive tools in virtual meetings improves learner engagement and provides an online experience that resembles the traditional classroom.
Virtual classroom software has also become more intuitive, offering an enhanced learner experience while adjusting the bandwidth requirements based on users’ environments. Such functionality, for example, enabled Dell to offer a hybrid classroom delivery concept, where learners are able to attend training in a local classroom or join the event virtually. To ensure success, instructors are trained to enhance their teaching skills in virtual worlds. These new tools and strategies have helped push increased adoption for virtual training.
Infrastructure Is King
Dell Technologies Education Services has invested heavily in virtual classroom delivery infrastructure by installing hybrid classrooms in its major training centers around the globe and equipping all instructors with mobile virtual classroom delivery kits. This kit includes a conference tracking camera with microphone and a pro tablet with a stylus. Training delivery can also be converted into a hybrid format by sending a hybrid classroom infrastructure kit to customers and internal sites that don’t have an official technical classroom setup.
Overcoming Challenges with Virtual Training
To conduct virtual training effectively, instructors need to overcome challenges associated with communication. Unlike traditional classrooms, it’s more challenging for instructors to engage in and understand non-verbal communication with their students in the virtual environment, such as establishing eye contact or picking up body language cues. To overcome this, Dell offered train-the-trainer workshops for instructors to learn new tools and techniques to better support virtual delivery and ensure that the audience stays engaged.
Here are some best practices used to enhance learner engagement:
- Interaction with learner
- Offer check-in sessions prior to class for students to become familiar with the virtual classroom.
- Engage learners every four to six minutes to keep their attention throughout the lesson.
- Teaching techniques
- Provide clear and concise instructions.
- Apply a variety of question techniques – i.e., closed, open-ended, probing or leading questions.
- Leverage mixed media, such as slides, video, audio and other digital tools, to creatively explain complex concept using visual examples.
- Teaching tools
- Utilize the functionality of virtual classroom software actions and surveys, such as polling and raise hand features.
- Leverage breakout rooms.
It’s important to make these necessary adjustments to style and delivery when teaching in a virtual classroom. If instructors simply recycle traditional content in virtual training without making these changes, the content may not be well received or comprehended. When teaching in virtual classrooms, it is important to create an environment where learners are engaged, collaboration is embraced, and constant feedback is welcomed and required.
Another challenge facing virtual classrooms includes the varying degrees of adoption across regions. For example, North America has adopted virtual modalities of training more rapidly than the rest of the world. One of the reasons for slower adoption in other regions may include language constraints, as most content is typically developed and delivered in English – especially in the IT training world.
It’s also critical to monitor virtual classroom infrastructure for both instructors and learners to ensure stable connectivity. We have found that unstable networks continue to be one of the biggest struggles for students. To help mitigate future issues with internet connectivity and stability, best practices and procedures for potential issues must be outlined in advance. Furthermore, many students struggle with device limitations, such as a lack of available memory and storage, slow processors, and missing headsets.
Debunking Virtual Classroom Myths
The biggest myths of virtual classroom training focus on the idea that learners will miss out on experiences they would normally have in a traditional classroom. For example, some assert that virtual classrooms lack the ability for users to network during breaks, or virtual trainings will not deliver the same learning results. However, these assumptions are false.
For over 10 years, Dell Technologies Education Services’ customer satisfaction and net promotor scores (CSAT/NPS) for virtual learning have been higher compared to traditional classroom equivalents. We have found that the right combination of professional infrastructure and appropriate content and capabilities for the mobile world result in successful virtual training.
In particular, Dell’s transition to 100% virtual delivery during the pandemic was a big success, garnering positive feedback from our audience. There was a lot of appreciation for continuing learning offerings during tough times and supporting the digital transformation initiatives of many of our customers. For some, virtual training attendance was a new experience that exceeded their expectations.
When it is safe to gather together, Dell will offer traditional classroom instruction to our employees and customers again – allowing them a choice of the most suitable modality for them. With growing workforce transformations, we believe the need for virtual deliveries will remain in high demand.