Transitioning from classroom training to virtual, or remote training, can be an overwhelming task for many. It’s not just a matter of “dumping” your content online and hoping for a good outcome. It requires thought, planning, and strategy. So, how do we avoid a traumatic experience when converting face-to-face training to remote training?
Let’s start by exploring the strategic rules that drive our decisions and thereby the results of our efforts. The application may vary on a case-to-case basis, however, a persistent use of these strategies will strengthen the journey to a successful remote training transformation.
Strategy #1: Avoid “Blanket Transfers”
Avoid the temptation to directly transfer hour for hour from classroom to virtual. For example, an eight-hour classroom course does not necessarily transfer to an eight-hour virtual course.
The biggest risk with this “blanket transfer” method is that you are assuming the virtual training modalities are an exact replica of the classroom. This is not so. Virtual training offers a different opportunity and has its own unique peculiarities in what it can and cannot deliver effectively.
What are real risks with hour for hour transfer? Overloading the learners’ mind. Creating exhaustion. Ultimately, a loss in engagement and retention of content.
Strategy #2: Differentiate Self-Learning from Remote Training Delivery
In transforming your face-to-face sessions to remote training, take a step back and answer these questions regarding your overall content:
Answering these questions effectively separates self-learning content from virtual training delivery. This focuses the facilitation time on dialogue, conversations, Q&A, and a variety of interactive activities for the learners.
It also leads the learner to where the learning is taking place, across the self-study, self-reflection and into the facilitated conversations.
Strategy #3: Allow for the Spacing Effect
In a typical classroom setting, we are often constrained within the physical structure of a classroom. For example, if you have an eight-hour program, you need to finish it in eight hours – starting at eight o’clock in the morning and wrapping up at five o’clock in the afternoon. Everything happens during those eight hours. All the learning activities need to be crammed into that timeframe. There is little or no time for self-reflection. The spacing effect is all but eliminated.
With remote training, spacing is an essential component of the entire learning journey. Spacing allows you to spread out the learning over time and gives your learners time for self-reflection. Spacing also leads to long-term retention and application.
Spacing allows you the flexibility of extending the delivery of the course over time. For example, instead of doing an eight-hour course all at one time, you can divide it into four smaller sessions, with a blend of self-learning and facilitated virtual training.
The biggest value of spacing is that it allows the learners time to reflect and apply. As a trainer, you also get more opportunities to bring real-life experiences into the learning journey by creating exercises that they can readily apply on the job. Learners make the leap from content to application and its direct impact on the job.
Strategy #4: “Must Learn” Content is Key
In transforming your face-to-face classroom to remote training, you must differentiate “must learn” content – the most important content. Often, this is done through digging deeper to what is critical, which may uncover areas such as critical incidents, possible errors, causes of slowdown, loss in business in revenues, or risks with compliance.
“Must learn” content focuses on high-impact areas and areas raises the return on your training investment because it addresses what is critical to the organization. Focused content saves time and lets everyone enjoy a productive, virtual session.
Content outside of “must learn” include resources that learners can refer to easily such as learning guides converted into PDF, HTML, Word documents and PowerPoint slide sets. Make these additional learning resources easily downloadable so the learners can review and study them as needed on the job.
Strategy #5: Incorporate Conversations to Foster Personal Connection
Most of the initial approaches of virtual training is a transfer of one-way presentation material from a classroom training. Directly transferring a lecture presentation in a virtual setting downplays the value of human interactions and socialization.
When training is done into a virtual setting, there is a need to compensate for a higher-level of human interaction. At first brush, virtual training may seem to inhibit conversation because learners are not in the same physical location. However, there are ample ways to translate classroom interactions into virtual interactions and foster personal connections between everyone in the session.
To implement classroom conversation transformation, think of your presentations and convert them into informal conversations. You can do this through chat, or by video, or some form of exercise sharing. The inherent design you are seeking is a personal conversation, which allows learners to verbalize their thoughts, to socialize with others, and personalize a relationship with the facilitator and other participants in the session.
Strategy #6: Frequent Feedback, Instant Feedback
It is highly valuable for every designer, trainer, or leader to ask for immediate feedback. Asking for feedback is appropriate since both the trainer and the learners spent time together. Soliciting and receiving feedback strengthens the interaction between all participants in remote training.
In a typical classroom training, there are opportunities for you to ask for an evaluation. This is usually done at the conclusion of the classroom session. With remote training, don’t wait for the end of a series of sessions to ask for it. Ask your learners to evaluate their experience at the beginning, middle, or the end of each session. Alternatively, ask them after a week, two weeks, or at the latest, one month after the session.
In addition, instant or on the spot feedback is helpful. Examples include:
Ask three or four questions for instant feedback. As a facilitator, this feedback gets to the pulse of what is going on with the learners at that moment. Frequent and rapid feedback is necessary because as trainers and designers, instant feedback allows us to adjust and to redirect our session as needed.
Feedback also lets you, the facilitator, have one-on-one conversations or follow-up with your participants. Ask questions regarding the progress of their learning and their personal experience because of their remote training sessions with you.
Strategy #7: Engage the Whole Person
Traditionally, in a classroom, there are several levels of engagement and interaction with participants. The first level of engagement is theoretical, presenting and discussion concepts. The second level of engagement leans towards the emotional, for example, sharing stories.
The third level of engagement is psychological and social. What this means is that as human beings in the session, you’re able to empathize with each other and build meaningful rapport. Another term for this level of engagement is the “socialization period.”
Now, there are lots of opportunities to humanize remote training at the second and third levels of engagement.
One example is offering a follow-up session with a smaller, more intimate group, if you’re coming out or a large group session with more than 20 participants. Smaller sessions help the learners bring specific questions and share their individual exercises/projects. As a trainer, you can interact with each participant in a close-knit “one to many” session. The interaction becomes meaningful, engaging, and valuable because the learners are able to direct their own specific areas of interest. Trainers are also able to sense whether the participants are able to apply the ideas gained from the sessions.
Another example is to humanize your session by adding some form of activity. Allow participants to have peer conversations so that they can share exercises/projects and talk to each other. They can have chats with others about their projects, have a phone call with each other regarding the project, or you can permit them to do a Zoom or Adobe Connect interaction such as breakout rooms.
Look for ways to humanize your virtual training sessions by creating opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction, as well as more intimate interaction with the trainer and the learner.
Applying the 7 Strategies will guide you in transforming your classroom training into effective remote training. As with any approach, trial and error will be your best teacher. Apply a strategy, test it, and adjust it. This way you’ll quickly find out what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to be modified. Remember, your learners are counting on you!
Ray Jimenez, PhD
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”
Toppino, Thomas and Gerbier, Emilie (2014), Spacing Effect