Author: Denise Meyerson
CEO of The Focus Learning Group / a Multi-Award Winning Training Company / Telstra Business Women’s Awards Finalist
Virtual classrooms have truly taken their rightful place in the ever-evolving learning and development landscape. Here are some practical guidelines to get you started so that you are able to include this impactful way of delivering training in to your overall strategy!
- Virtual classes are not webinars. They are facilitated sessions that are not to be confused with presentations – they require participation as would happen in a face to face session.
- Virtual classes are not equivalent to face to face training. Where in person delivery is possible because budget allows for it and where participants are all located in one site, that is the preferred way to go. Where teams are spread across sites and dispersed across different states, I would definitely consider virtual classes as an option. Who wants their whole L&D budget spent on travel and accommodation flying participants around the country so that they are exhausted before they even begin the workshop…
- Virtual classes are a great way to ensure that key leadership and management frameworks are readily understood and applied in real working contexts. They aren’t intended as a way of squishing 7 hours of content in to a 1.5 hour session. They do distill a couple of main ideas in to the session and ensure that the learning is practical and immediately applicable.
- It is so frustrating when teams and leaders have so much to learn in order to make a significant difference to business goals – and yet, the budget only stretches so far. In order for change to occur, we need learning ‘en masse’. A few select individuals who are chosen to attend face to face training will have little effect on shifting skills and behaviours to levels of high performance. Virtual classes allow more people to participate and learn more. And isn’t that after all what we want – cheaper, better, faster and with a wider reach.
- We know how low the uptake is on solo elearning. It’s a tough ask when we are generally social learners to push anything more than compliance training as people click, click their way along, alone. Virtual classes provide interaction with a facilitator and with colleagues as they learn and debate and discuss challenges together.
- Virtual classes reach out and engage teams so that they all begin to speak a common language and apply skills together. Teams can in fact participate in sessions together – provided they appoint a scribe to provide the responses to questions from the facilitator.
- Virtual classes fit really well in to the flow of work. When participants do not have the time to step out of the office for a full day, virtual classes fill the gap of providing skills and knowledge and allowing participants to continue with their normal routine.
- Strong broadband is helpful but not a total necessity. As long as videos aren’t shown, there should only be small time lags.
- Ensure that participants know why they are attending and if possible make the linkages for them to your capability frameworks. Set rhythm to the learning schedule and ensure teams take responsibility for showing up and participating fully.
- Virtual classes fulfill a particular role in the overall learning offer for your organisation. They get a huge tick insofar as they are short bite sessions that can be strung together to form a solid learning continuum for team leaders and managers. Participants benefit from the engagement of the session and relate their learning to what they do in their roles.
- The embedding factor is also critical. How much do we really recall of a full day of training? Many stats around about how little we remember – and how much we in fact implement. Embedding skills and changes in behaviour happen over time and virtual classes play a major role in enabling this.
- I don’t want to say that virtual class is a compromise. It is however a midway point between face to face, which is not always possible, and the loneliness of an elearner clickety clicking their way along or sitting back to view some videos.
- Induction is critical. Most people won’t have participated in a true virtual classroom and need to learn the ground rules of how the session operates. A well structured session includes many activities and moves along a fairly rapid pace to ensure that there as few distractions as possible. Participants are busy taking notes in a learner guide, answering questions in chat, writing up on the whiteboard, responding to debates and polls and sometimes going in to break-out rooms or watching the facilitator demonstrate something.