Webinar-Based Training And Helpful Strategies
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Learn Helpful Strategies For Webinar-Based Training

Like many L&D professionals, I enjoy nothing better than presenting in front of a live training group. There’s just no substitute for the connection you and the learners experience within a live Instructor-Led session. The handshakes, the one on one conversations and the non-verbal feedback. It’s what gets any trainer excited to deliver an amazing session. Of course, there is another side of Instructor-Led Training that may not get trainers as excited and that is remote Instructor-Led Training. Better known simply as webinars. Webinars have been around since meeting sharing platforms were first developed. Unlike its engaging counterpart, the webinar platform presents itself with built-in engagement challenges that will demand trainers to be more creative and tolerant of the technology. After fifteen plus years of webinar-based training, the following are my suggestions to ensure your webinar-based training sessions are efficient and engaging.

Begin With Learning Objectives

To most of us, this is a no brainer. We would never initiate a training session without learning goals. However, the importance of learning goals is substantially magnified when you’re teaching via a webinar. Unlike the live environment where you can read body language and your learners can easily engage with you, the remote environment removes most nonverbal comprehension cues that you would normally see within the classroom setting. In addition, learning goals allow your learners to cognitively be aware of where they’re concerning their own mastery of the material. To write effective learning goals, I like to follow the ABCD model.

(A)ctor

Every learning objective should state something that the learner should be able to do by the time the session has come to a close. Sometimes your learning objective may refer to the “actor” in general terms such as “the learner” or “you.” Other times, you may identify the actor by their job role, such as “sales executive” or “customer service rep.” It’s important that each learning objective states something that the actor must be able to do after the training. This is the “who” of your learning objective.

(B)ehavior

A learning objective should always state something that the learner should be able to do; a behavior if you will. These behaviors should also resemble something that is applicable to what they will need to do on the job. For example, if your training is designed to help customer service reps de-escalate angry clients, your behavior would be to “de-escalate angry” clients and not something like “explain the steps in de-escalating a client.”

 (C)onditions

Most often, your learners will have to perform the learning objectives within a set of given conditions. For example, you might say “given a set of de-escalation strategies, you will be able to calm down an angry client” or “given a bicycle, you will be able to change a flat tire.” You can consider this the “how” of your learning objectives.

(D)egree

The degree is the measurable outcome of how well the learning behavior has been performed. For instance, you could state, “given a bicycle tire, you will be able to change the tire in under five minutes.” The five minutes is the measurable outcome and the “degree” that the learner must perform the activity within.

4 Principles Aligned With Webinar-Based Training

As you move beyond your learning objectives and begin to focus on your presentation modality, you should be mindful of the 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning. These 12 principles were developed by Richard Mayer from UC Santa Barbara and are the cornerstones for the good delivery of both synchronous and asynchronous multimedia presentations.

Multimedia learning can be defined as a form of computer-aided instruction that uses two modalities concurrently. This means learning through the combined use of visuals (through pictures, animations, text, and videos) and audio (through narrated voice over). For the purposes of this article, I am going to focus on 4 of the principles I think are most aligned with webinar-based instruction. They are the pre-training, redundancy, image, and signaling principles.

1. Pre-Training Principle

This principle states that students will have a deeper learning of the material if they already know the basic terms and definitions before engaging with the training material. One way to do this is to include a section within your presentation to introduce your learners to necessary background information. Another way to support this principle is to supply your learners with a job aid or help document before they proceed through the instructional content.

2. Redundancy Principle

According to this principle, we get deeper learning when words are presented as audio narration rather than both audio narration and on-screen text. You can think of this as the “don’t read your slides” principle. Your learners have limited processing capacity within their auditory and visual channels. By placing text on the slide that already has audio narration, we’re placing an extraneous cognitive load on the learners by asking them to process two things at the same time. This split attention causes suppression in learning. Your slides should contain relevant images, but you should explain them with spoken words, rather than relying on text.

3. Image Principle

This is the one where instructors have nothing but good intentions but consistently break. The "image principle" states that learners don’t necessarily learn better when your image is on the screen. “Talking head” videos as they’re commonly referred to are a consistent part of many webinars, but provide zero value. In fact, your image can potentially depress the learning process altogether. If you’re presenting something on the screen for your learners to attend to, but yet show your image, you’re breaking something called the dual code principle.

Basically, as humans, we can only attend to one thing at a time within our visual and auditory channels. By asking learners to attend to information on the screen as well as look at your image, you’re in essence overloading the visual channel. This causes split attention and will ultimately suppress the amount of learning possible. In place of having your image on the screen, use relevant animations and visuals that help reinforce the audio voice over.

4. Signaling Principle

Within a live Instructor-Led classroom you have the luxury of being able to direct learners' attention to exactly what needs to be attended to. This personal communication and learner direction are often missing within a webinar environment. The signaling principle states that learners need to be directed to what they should be paying attention to on the screen. This can be done with callouts, bold text, or even just using the cursor to point your learners' attention to the appropriate place on the screen. This principle also helps us remember the importance of keeping slides simple and void of unnecessary and extraneous information.

Using A Flipped Classroom

When possible, we should strive to keep the live classroom (webinar) open for learner collaboration and to access misunderstandings of the content. The term flipped classroom can sometimes be a polarizing term due to its fragmented application. Basically, instructors apply the foundations of a flipped classroom in a different manner which makes setting foundational steps challenging. For the past decade, I’ve been applying the following tenants of teaching asynchronous and collaborating synchronously to be most effective.

I have found using micro videos of no more than 15 minutes centered around individual topics to be most effective. The benefit of using micro videos is that they support one of the core elements of adult learning theory which is learners like to have a sense of self-concept with their learning. Essentially, learners are in control of the pace and timing of their learning. By utilizing micro videos centered on precise topics, you support another multimedia principle, which is the segmentation principle. This principle states that like concepts and topics should be delivered together in short, user-paced chunks.

The live aspect is then best used not to review the material that was consumed asynchronously, but instead to be utilized for clearing up any misconceptions and having the learners self-reference the material back to their job role. Self-referencing is relating newly learned information to the “self.” Essentially, how the information is personally important to you as the learner. To facilitate self-referencing, we can ask questions to our learners such as: “How will you apply what you have learned in future situations?” and “What did you learn that may have changed the way you previously thought about the topic?”

In addition to self-referencing questions, you can engage learners within the live environment by asking students to teach the class certain sections of the material. Again, we don’t want a regurgitation of the material from the micro videos, so I ask groups to reteach a section in a way that utilizes self-referencing. Some of my requirements are that all students within the group “own” sections of the curriculum and that the activities must “actively” engage their fellow classmates in some manner. This technique is especially useful in non-procedural training courses, such as leadership and employee development.

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