Virtual Training Blind Spots And How To Avoid Them
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Virtual Training Stumbling Blocks And How To Avoid Them

Online learning isn’t a stopgap—it’s a method that’s certifiably here to stay. As an increasing number of colleges and universities announce plans to extend their fully-remote spring semesters into the fall, and companies project that employees may not be back in the office until September at the earliest, transitioning to virtual Learning and Development isn’t an option—it’s a necessity.

“We’re seeing employers accelerate the pace at which they’re moving every process to online platforms,” says Mark Zides, founder and CEO at CoreAxis Consulting. “The reality is that to keep productivity high and set yourself up for success five, 10, 20 years down the road, you need to invest in L&D now. And, also ensure you’re optimizing it for a virtual environment.”

With more than 25 years of experience, Zides has guided countless leaders in creating a virtual L&D strategy. Here are 4 virtual training blind spots you can avoid when transitioning your content online as quickly as possible.

1. Creation Can Be Fast, But Adoption Will Be Slow

Zides and his team have developed virtual learning content from scratch in as little as a week, thanks to rapid development technology methods. But it’s not the creation process that drags on the time to see results—it’s the users.

“There’s a learning curve to teleconferencing software,” says CoreAxis Learning Solutions Architect Melissa DeJesus. “It takes time and patience for people to really learn how to maximize software capabilities.”

While most people have attended a virtual conference call, the logistics of a full virtual training session can be much more technical, both for the facilitator and the participants. When something inevitably goes wrong, it’s far less simple to troubleshoot on the fly or sign off and rejoin without causing disruption. Moreover, while today’s advanced platforms provide ample tools to optimize the learning experience, unfamiliar users are unlikely to actually employ them without an opportunity to tinker with them first.

To mitigate this, DeJesus suggests incorporating fun ways to “play” with the technology’s capabilities in your first meeting or training session. This allows participants to become comfortable with the various tools in a low-stress environment, so they get up and running faster and are more engaged in the course.

2. It’s Not As Simple As Recycling

Recycling your trash is great for the physical environment. Recycling your Instructor-Led Training content is terrible for the online environment.

Employers are accelerating the speed of digitization, as remote work becomes more of a long-term reality. Many are directly repurposing content presented in a live setting with the expectation that it will work just as well online. But taking the drastic differences in the learning experiences into account, it’s easy to see why this is a Band-Aid solution—instructors can’t see their learners, learners can’t interact with one another, distractions are everywhere, and the list goes on.

“Instead of directly transitioning Instructor-Led training content online, companies should be honest with themselves about the work needed to fully transition courses to other learning mediums,” says DeJesus. “This includes thinking outside the box when it comes to the ways content can be delivered, practiced, and reinforced while considering new visuals that might need to be created.”

Zides adds that logistical details, such as compliance, measurement, testing, and gathering post-event data, all need to be considered and planned for in the content development process.

“Our custom eLearning courses are compatible with all Learning Management System platforms and technical standards, such as SCORM, AICC, and Tin Can, to name a few,” says Zides. “But even more importantly, our project managers help you collect that critical content feedback that you’d get organically in a live session, and work with you to further enhance your course based on that.”

3. Intense Focus On Engagement Is Critical

We’re all guilty of it—entering a virtual meeting room with 15 other tabs open, but also with good intentions to ignore all those tabs and stay focused and engaged on the meeting at hand. Five, maybe 10 minutes pass, and you find yourself “quickly” clicking to another tab. Another five minutes later, you snap back to reality, with the sinking admission that you have no idea what you missed. You return to your virtual meeting only to notice you’re not alone.

Distractions are the biggest enemy of virtual training and meetings. In a live session, facilitators can see participants’ faces and recognize when they have an “ah-ha” moment, or when their minds have started to drift elsewhere. Not so in a virtual environment. When you can’t necessarily see your audience, there’s less accountability to stay present. But today’s technology can also help you mitigate productivity-sapping distractions.

“When conducting training virtually, facilitators need to actively plan more engagement and check-in opportunities,” says DeJesus. “Check-ins should be varied and have a fun element, so people naturally stay engaged.”

Blended learning approaches that include pre- and post-work, coaching sessions, guided hands-on practice, video, and eLearning provide various avenues for presenting and reinforcing course content to ensure learners receive a high-touch, interactive experience. This method works particularly well for large programs, such as new hire onboarding.

“In our experience, the more immersive and varied the delivery, the more memorable and applicable the content is,” says Zides. “This means you’re maximizing ROI and your employees’ potential.”

4. Timing Is Everything

You may have the exact amount of time needed for your live training courses down to a science. But, as with course material, what works in person doesn’t necessarily apply in an online environment.

“Since engagement activities are a critical part of virtual training, it’s important to consider the amount of extra time needed to make those activities meaningful,” says Zides. “After all, if you rush through a business simulation or open discussion, learners won’t have the time to internalize and raise any questions about it to help ingrain their understanding.”

It’s also wise to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Particularly in your initial virtual sessions, anticipating technical glitches or difficulties means that your training won’t be derailed if something goes wrong.

Finally, DeJesus recommends capping virtual training sessions at 90 minutes. Anything longer should be broken up into several modules to keep people engaged and mitigate distractions. While this means more calendar invites, it also means more impactful learning and results.

Balancing speed, precision, and quality in transitioning your L&D content to a virtual environment may seem daunting and full of unknowns. By avoiding these 4 blind spots, your organization will get results faster than you thought possible.

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