What is Effective Virtual Training?

Six Ways to Ensure VILT Is More Effective Than In-Person Training

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, more and more companies are making the decision to transition their in-person classes to virtual delivery. A recent study from LinkedIn shows the scope of the change. LinkedIn surveyed 864 learning and development professionals in 21 countries1 and discovered that…

  • 55% plan to deliver significantly less in-person training
  • 78% plan to deliver significantly more virtual instructor-led training (VILT)
  • 74% plan to have significantly more online learning.

As workplace training moves to virtual, the big question is whether VILT can be as effective as in-person training. At Raytheon Professional Services (RPS), we have many years of experience delivering virtual training and we have learned how to design VILT that is not just equal in effectiveness, but can even exceed the effectiveness of in-person classes.2

The key to training effectiveness is learner engagement. With in-person training, the physical presence and attention of the instructor can create some level of learner accountability for engagement. With virtual training, that level of external accountability is significantly reduced. To be effective, virtual training needs to create opportunities and incentives for voluntary engagement. Here are some best practices to create learning that encourages such student engagement:

Space out the learning. Classroom training is often structured around full and ½ day increments and these can be seen as empty buckets to be filled with learning content. Virtual training in front of a computer can be more physically and cognitively taxing for students and learner-fatigue must be expected and managed. When converting in-person classes to VILT, a general rule is to reduce instruction to shorter increments spaced out over more days. A common example is converting an in-person class of three 8-hour days into a VILT of five 4-hour days. An additional benefit of this approach is those gaps between sessions actually help increase learning retention. 2

Streamline learning content. With in-person training there is a temptation to fill the class with as much content as possible. The reduced instructional timeframes of virtual training require a more focused approach. Identify the critical learning objectives and ensure that all learning content is laser-focused on those objectives.

Switch learning modalities often. Virtual learners have shorter attention spans, and the training needs to account for that. Switch between learning modalities often – as frequently as every 4-8 minutes. By designing frequent modality changes, you make it easier for learners to remain engaged, create a more interactive experience, and help to eliminate the potential for learner distraction.3

Plan for interaction. Learning is not based on a one-way transfer of knowledge from the subject matter expert to the waiting learner, but rather on cognitive engagement with the instructor, the learner, and the other participants. To increase learner engagement, your training needs to move people from being learning consumers to being learning participants. Design in frequent student interactions – including discussion, exercises, skill rehearsal, and feedback.

Break into smaller groups. To increase the level of participation, break students into smaller groups for discussion and activity. VILT platforms such as Zoom allow for breakout rooms where students in smaller groups can interact more directly. The transition of classroom participation between larger and smaller groups can create a particularly effective learning environment.

Use virtual tools. Take advantage of additional tools to support learning. Platforms like Zoom have whiteboards, chats, annotation and file sharing – leverage these tools for learner participation in the learning. Additional virtual tools for robust polling and quizzing can be very effective components of the virtual experience.

Effective virtual training that engages students does not happen by accident. Many companies are simply teaching the same in-person curriculum but in a virtual setting and they are disappointed with the results. According to Kevin Delany, VP of Learning and Development for LinkedIn, “An easily avoidable mistake is to just convert in-person training into a video conference environment and that is that.” 2 Effective virtual training occurs when the content is designed intentionally for student engagement and interaction with specific objectives for knowledge transfer.

Reach Out to RPS

Raytheon Professional Services has an experienced support team that can provide the resources you need – from instructors to technical support teams and administrative support, to help desk teams.

Don’t have the right equipment to create a session? Don’t worry, RPS can recommend or provide exactly what is needed to pull off a professional looking studio experience. RPS will help convert your classroom materials quickly into highly interactive virtual sessions!

To learn how our training experts can help you address your organization’s virtual training needs, please contact us, our visit our website at RPS.com.

What experiences do you have in virtual training? Do you have best practices you’d like to share? Start a conversation in the comments below or connect with us on LinkedIn, or at @RaytheonRPS using hashtags, #learning, #training, #virtuallearning, and #onlinelearning.


Footnote

1. LinkedIn Learning. (2020) Leading with Learning: Insights and Advice About the New State of L&D. Retrieved from https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/leading-with-learning.

2. eLearning Industry. (2016) Virtual vs. Classroom Training. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/length-of-a-training-course-5-things-consider.

3. eLearning Industry. (2017) 5 Things To Consider To Find The Optimal Length Of A Training Course. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/length-of-a-training-course-5-things-consider.