3 Steps To Maximize F2F Training Time

3 Steps To Maximize F2F Training Time
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Summary: As an Instructional Designer, have you ever been asked “Is there any way you can shrink the time and duration needed for training, reduce training-related expenses, and increase learner engagement?”? If so, read on to gain strategies to maximize F2F training time, and also to learn how to address questions often asked by corporate leaders.

How To Maximize F2F Training Time

If you're involved in corporate training, then most likely you have been a training stakeholder (Instructional Designer, trainer, business leader, or subject matter expert) involved in a conversation that goes something like this: “Is there any way you can shrink the time and duration needed for training, reduce training-related expenses, and increase learner engagement?”

While this can be exceptionally frustrating to those involved in the Instructional Design, development, and delivery of corporate training, the desired business results are very real. As Learning and Development specialists, we must agilely respond with creative solutions that yield desired business results. Here are 3 steps to maximize F2F (Face-To-Face) learning and F2F training time, and also to address the questions often asked by corporate leaders.

1) Use The Eyeball-To-Eyeball Filter. 

Research shows that even in our K–12 school systems teachers believe there are benefits to leveraging technology to motivate students and expand and reinforce learning content (Fulton, 2014, p. 113). While our workforce is becoming increasingly more filled with digital natives, we must remain mindful of the fact that this will only increase with each passing year. The “use of technology is not just cool, it's expected” (p. 86). The notion of active learning or what is becoming commonly known as “flipping the classroom”, adheres to the premise that F2F instructional time must be reserved for rich dialogue and the application of learning – and traditional “teaching” occurs out of the classroom, often delivered via video.

In my corporate training strategies, I’ve found that this proves highly effective to reduce the cost of training with out-of-office time, and increase learner engagement and motivation with immediate application of learning. I call it results of using the Eyeball-to-Eyeball Filter. In essence, nothing gets through the filter that doesn't necessitate F2F, or eyeball-to-eyeball learning time. This includes the dialogue between colleagues as well as conversations with an instructor or facilitator of learning and individual learners, or small groups of participants. It also includes activity-based problem solving where the application of learning is required.

The flipped classroom approach necessitates that we deliver nuggets of essential learning content virtually if it does not require real-time conversation. When our learners show up for synchronous, instructor led training, their already-gained knowledge is ready to be put to the test through active learning and experimentation together. If we can deliver content and address training objectives virtually, then we do just that. What remains becomes the content to hang on an interactive, person-to-person learning activity in the corporate classroom or even on-the-job training environment. Very quickly word spreads and employees know that the online, initial learning activities that precede F2F training are essential to their success in the active learning environment in which learners are at the center.

2) Sell The Value Of F2F Training Time. 

To increase the likelihood that adults will engage in learning and developing, one of the first principles of adult learning is to respect the learners. What do we highly value? Our time and our money usually top the list. If we waste either one, we risk adult learners entirely shutting off the learning process. So effectively communicating that we understand the importance and value of learners’ time is a critical fact to convey. However, if all we do is say that, we really have accomplished little. But when we SHOW this belief through designing and building engaging, short-sized (and when appropriate even humorous), interactive, virtual learning modules -instead of gathering them face-to-face to convey factual knowledge or give them a talking head video online that requires zero interaction-, we immediately gain a little buy-in.

When we design virtual learning modules aimed at the heart of developing necessary skills to be successful in the learners’ work roles, we are speaking their language. People want that. They want to be successful in their work! So we must deliver tasty and digestible nuggets of learning to be consumed 24x7 when their appetite strikes. And when people are primed to show up for an instructor-led workshop or training session, they arrive prepared to build upon what they have learned online. Our respect for adult learners must span the gap between virtual and F2F training. “Digital content is only useful when it is accessible, relevant and timely” (Daniels, 2013, p. 307).

We purposefully sell the value of F2F training time when learners come to understand that what is presented to them online prior to it are the building blocks for dialogue, collaboration, and active learning when we are together. Changing this mindset and culture takes time; it requires strategic planning and messaging.

With less time needed in an actual classroom, the urgency to learn what is before us focuses learning. Flipping the classroom and leveraging technology to shrink learning time is more than snippet-sized videos! It changes what occurs during F2F training. A wide variety of virtual training content and modules should equip learners to arrive in a classroom environment ready to use higher level thinking skills (Bloom's Taxonomy). Rather than just simply needing to recall, describe, or regurgitate information, learners are prepared to create, analyze, compare, etc.

As adult learners consume corporate training designed in this manner, their expectations of instructor-led class time change as we demonstrate the value of F2F training time. Gone are the days where employees anticipated snoozing in a classroom while away from their regular responsibilities. It is easy for learners to buy what we are selling when the value of F2F instructor-led training gives them the results they are after.

3) Deliver Engaging, Bite-Sized Learning Chunks Through a Simple Learning Management System (LMS) And Tracking System. 

Continually increasing the skill set of Instructional Designers to craft engaging, interesting, and interactive virtual modules is important. However, without a Learning Management System to deliver these courses in a simplistic and easy to grasp process, all bets are off that the virtual learning will stick! A straightforward and fail proof process must be presented to learners. A Learning management System that is not agile or intuitive enough to support the learning process in a natural flow and sequence for learners will thwart progress. In fact, it may even prove to be a detriment to the learning culture of the organization.

Beyond the technology and learning platform, a testing team to ensure all functionality works properly from the learners’ perspective must be actively in place. If the perception exists that we didn't care enough to ensure everything functions smoothly, then the perception that we will also waste their time in the F2F learning environment is not far behind.

By far the best Learning Management System solution I have found is Velop. Myriad design preferences and very easy to use controls exist for Instructional Designers who don’t need to know coding. The look and feel of courses are easily redesigned as desired. Any type of registration (pay or not) process is easy and user-friendly. What I appreciate most is that the technology is simply a vehicle to deliver virtual training and easily get us to our desired destinations. Velop in no way becomes types of barriers, hurdles, or challenges to learners.

Facilitators for instructor-led training have quick and simple access to track not just completion rates of their learners, but also detailed information about the learning paths selected by various learner groups and by role. Velop allows us to dissect information about our learners’ preferences, styles, and personal processes and learning habits. This type of data helps the continued refinement of virtual training content. Velop includes not only competitive pricing structures, but the best customer support I have ever experienced with any product.

Moving your corporate training towards a learner-centered environment that helps people use higher order thinking skills more rapidly still requires highly effective classroom trainers. I remember one of my trainers expressing grave concern over the use of online virtual training modules for new hires to complete prior to arriving at new hire orientation. “But I am a storyteller! That is my style of training, and that’s what makes me effective”, said this trainer with concern etched on his face.

Flipping the classroom did indeed require a revised training process when facilitating instructor-led training. But this certainly does not negate the need for a highly skilled training facilitator. “Flipped learning will never replace the teacher [trainer], because the most important part of a flipped class is the face-to-face time where the teacher [trainer] can differentiate and build relationships with students” (Morris and Thomasson, 2013, p. 72). I believe that the role of the trainer becomes paramount in reaching training goals and objectives when leveraging technology.

These 3 steps will help you shrink the time and duration needed for training, reduce training-related expenses (like travel and people being out of their offices), and increase learner engagement. Since these are the typical demands we are faced with from key business leaders, we must be prepared to respond with strategic action.

As a learning leader, which of these steps seems most important for you to take at this time? Who will you choose to discuss this with as you consider how to maximize F2F training?

Works Cited

  • Daniels, K. (2013). Professional development. In J. Bretzmann (Ed.), Flipping 2.0 – Practical strategies for flipping your class, (pp. 291-311). The Bretzmann Group.
  • Fulton, K. (2014). Time for learning: Top 10 reasons why flipping the classroom can change education. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • https://www.velop.org
  • Morris, C. and Thomasson, A. (2013). English. In J. Bretzmann (Ed.), Flipping 2.0 – Practical strategies for flipping your class, (pp. 37-73). The Bretzmann Group.