Classroom Training To Remote Training
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How To Convert Classroom Training To Remote Training

Major changes to our day-to-day have been brought on by the current global health crisis, the COVID-19 outbreak. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen industries across the globe make rapid changes and take the necessary precautions to manage the pandemic. The L&D industry has not been spared in any way and we, personally, have also been converting classroom training to online. Many companies have been heavily reliant on in-person training but now, in response to the workplace restrictions, travel bans, and work-from-home directives, we’re seeing the rapid migration of classroom content online. Social distancing need not be the downfall of learning. This disruption, on the contrary, highlights the need for a flexible training strategy and presents L&D with the opportunity to expand its online learning approach of virtual classroom (VC) and eLearning.

If your company was not previously operating on a blended learning strategy, now is the time to transition to remote learning. Here are some guidelines to help you do so quickly and effectively:

1. Adapt Existing Learning Objectives And Content For Virtual Learning

It’s apparent that a lot of organizations are feeling the pressure to move classroom presentations online rapidly. The problem with this, however, is that it cannot be one and done. Simply converting to digital content is not going to cut it. At times, the learning objectives must be modified to suit the digital format and a two-day classroom course simply being put into a two-day VC won’t work. It’s important to retain and adapt existing learning objectives to fit virtual learning and repurpose learning content for the right blend of digital learning delivery.

Face-to-face learning and virtual learning are not inherently the same and merely leaning on new technology will be a misstep. As important as it is to consider the technical capabilities of your VC or eLearning development software, it is equally as important to get innovative with Instructional Design and transform the learning content itself. Practically speaking, this means looking at the content itself and determining which learning objectives aren’t critical and which critical learning objectives could be learned in a better approach.

This new task of transformation is about taking presentation-style content and tailoring it to fit this new delivery platform. It could mean downsizing content and training time by way of microlearning. It could also mean incorporating teaching styles and learning activities that inspire constant participation in a VC. For example, interactive whiteboard lessons, quizzes, and online games can skyrocket engagement.

2. Outline The Learning Path To Keep Your Learners Motivated And On Track

With virtual learning, it’s important to keep your learners informed about what to expect from their courses and what they need before they embark on it. Outlining the learning path not only sets the scene for the future, but it also motivates your learners to stay on track with pre-work and other self-paced learning tasks. Instructors and course designers can also rely on it to ensure the course progresses as desired.

It’s important to be transparent with your learner about the learning path. That way, it’s not your job to keep them on track and instead, they can assume responsibility. So when outlining the learning path, don’t skip out on important components like learning objectives, assessments, deadlines, and deliverables.

3. Prioritize Choosing The Right Modality To Suit Your Learning Objective

Rolling out your digital courses should be a task done thoughtfully. After considering the learning objectives and pathway, the next reasonable step would be choosing the right modality to suit your learning objective. Decide how much of the remote learning will take place online and how much will be informal or self-paced activities. There are a plethora of online learning tools available for each case.

Optimizing user-friendly design, interactivity, and engagement when choosing the right modality for each module or topic should be the priority.

  • Interactive PDF or online guides can be used to deliver reference material for self-paced learning modules.
  • A live virtual classroom should be used for discussions and application sessions.
  • eLearning courses or response learning websites would be a great delivery method for terms, concepts, and policies.
  • Factoring in the technological capabilities/limitations of your learners’ remote locations is advised. For example, screenshots or an animated PDF would be more effective in delivering a demonstration to your learners with lower internet bandwidth instead of making them stream a video.

What’s critical with your blended learning approach is intentionally choosing the right modality for each topic, rather than forcing the modality first. I’m seeing this misstep in a course I’m currently taking. The course designer has simply uploaded past recordings of their three-hour classroom session as “pre-work” before our one-hour virtual meeting/class. Yet I’m missing the templates and workbook material the participants in the classroom recording are enjoying, and I have to watch hours of video content only to discover that there’s a lot of ancillary information leftover from their live classroom session left in the video.

4. Incorporate Social Collaboration Activities Virtually

Social learning and collaboration should not go out of the window just because learners cannot convene in groups anymore. Peer interactions are important for fostering collaborative skills and further sharing of knowledge and expanding on skillsets. Luckily, online collaboration tools and platforms, such as Microsoft Teams and other chat-based workspaces, are increasingly available.

Within a structured virtual class in Adobe Connect or Zoom, you can have paired-off discussion activities and group brainstorming sessions between learners in separate chat rooms. You can even make these sessions more fun and impactful by having healthy competitions between individual groups. Through these activities, your learners will be able to benefit from the skillsets and perspectives of their peers. There’s a wide variety of effective facilitation strategies to help guide and tailor the social learning experiences.

5. Create Feedback And Communication Channels With Guidelines

The importance of feedback when rolling out your virtual learning path cannot be emphasized enough. If this is a new experience for your learners, you’ll want to make sure you don’t lose any of them along the way. Ideally, you would have a facilitator or coach on hand that your learners have access to via email or chat. This helps make your learners feel they have a solid support system in place should they have any questions or concerns to voice. Additionally, ensure you have guidelines when it comes to time commitments, so the coach is not tied to the virtual training round the clock.

When it comes to feedback from learners, determine the appropriate feedback collection strategy. For example, should it be in the form of surveys throughout and at the end of the courses or in the form of live community chats conducted periodically? Ensure that the feedback is considered and employed by Instructional Designers when revising the courses for optimal learning experiences.

6. Upskill In-Person Instructors To Virtual Training

Just as long presentations uploaded online are not necessarily effective for virtual learning, your face-to-face instructors may also be ill-equipped for training in the virtual space. Teaching in a VC differs greatly from standing in a classroom, making eye contact and interacting with participants and following their silent cues. For one thing, not being in the presence of an instructor physically allows room for all kinds of distractions and multitasking. How many educators can comfortably say they can command the attention of learners separated from them by screens?

The new skillsets your instructors need to learn now involve new methods of engaging the learner among other things. On the part of Instructional Designers, there needs to be extensive training in solid virtual class design skills as there is now a call for a complete redesign of the learning material. Consider time and resources when deciding to upskill your trainers. Sometimes hiring new instructors and designers skilled in Virtual Instructor-Led Training may be the better call.

7. Create An Asset Library For Reference Materials

Since a large part of your training strategy is executed online, it will be relatively easy for you to encourage learning outside of the provided content by sharing invaluable resources. Create a reference library with need-to-know and nice-to-know information that tie into the learning path you created. These could include assets that you created or articles from other Subject Matter Experts that bring a timely relevance to your topics and learning path. You can help your learners cut down on time spent on personal research.

Alternatively, tapping into your workplace content repository platforms (e.g., Degreed, Udemy) could be of benefit. Highlighting the paths related to the learning path topics can be an easy way to provide quality reference materials.

8. Integrate An Effective Assessment Plan In Your Strategy

Every learning strategy needs some form of assessment to ensure learning goals are being achieved. One of the advantages of a virtual learning strategy is that it offers up a variety of interesting and engaging assessment formats like quizzes, polls, and games to utilize. How will you check the progress of your learners? Will it be a quiz at the end of each module or peer-discussions on online forums?

These assessments not only help with knowledge retention, but they also give the learners a chance to pinpoint personal areas of improvement. They also are important sources of feedback for instructors to see what parts of the course material may need improvement.

The current global health crisis has opened the eyes of the Learning and Development industry to the importance of creating flexible and adaptable learning strategies. This disruption is forcing us to look at training from a different perspective and is calling for agility, resilience, and innovation to stay afloat. This is the time for a thoughtful re-evaluation of our learning approach and maybe by the time the dust settles, we will have come up with an infallible learning plan.

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