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23 October 2020

Like a classroom, but better: how to master VILT

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Women on laptop

With employees increasingly scattered, and many company meeting rooms suddenly looking hazardously unsuitable for group sessions, we’re not surprised to see organisations turning to online channels for the delivery of taught corporate training.

So how do you succeed with virtual instructor-led training (VILT)? If the plan is to try and clone what happens in a traditional training room - and nothing more - you could be missing out. Done in the right way, VILT lets you take the ‘best bits’ of the classroom, but makes them better, while adding new elements to enhance the learning experience even further. 

Here’s how learning management technology stops VILT from being just a temporary workaround, transforming it into something much more valuable for the long-term.

Virtual Instructor-led Training: what are we talking about? 

VILT basically refers to any instructor-led training, delivered through an online environment, where the teacher and the learner are in separate locations. 

Especially in the current climate, the benefits of this approach are obvious. It’s a way of bringing instructors and course participants together wherever they happen to be based. It’s convenient for everyone involved, and it’s cost-effective too (especially if you want to rein in items like venue fees and instructor travel expenses).  

The Zoom model is probably the most simple VILT variant. Typically, the instructor will digitally distribute materials in advance and then deliver the class in real-time via a standard video conferencing app. 

Does this basic approach work? For many organisations, yes. But not always. In fact, after the initial Covid-induced ‘Zoom boom’ when lots of companies hurriedly shifted online for instructor training, VILT actually decreased by 31% over the subsequent few months. 

So what are the potential pitfalls? If all you are doing is lifting and shifting what you used to do in the classroom to live video, you may find that you are losing something along the way. VILT should never be second best. And in fact, your aim should be to make it better than the traditional classroom alternative. 

The starting point involves going back to the traditional classroom environment, deciding what you want to keep, improve or discard - and identifying the tools and processes you’ll need to make all of this happen.    

What are you looking for? Classroom training elements you’ll want to keep 

What you want to achieve from your face-to-face training will depend to a large extent on the subject matter, along with your wider training objectives. That said, you’ll almost certainly want to cover the following fundamentals: 

  • Enrollment. The ability to identify those employees who ought to participate in the session(s), along with an invite/sign-up procedure. 
  • Supporting materials. Distributed pre-event, these will normally introduce and prep participants on the topics to be covered. Instructors will almost certainly have their own presentation displays to refer to as the session progresses. There may also be an additional batch of takeaway materials to be digested after the session. 
  • Session delivery. You will probably want it to take place live, with everyone able to participate at the same time. 
  • Appraisal. There are two parts to this. Many companies will want a system for finding out if the training has been successfully absorbed, whether through a set test or something more informal. You will also want to invite participants to rate the session (e.g. for usefulness/clarity/level of complexity). This is important so you can continue to optimise course content and delivery. 

Here’s how the right learning management technology can help you cover these fundamentals… 

Enrollment 

Who gets to attend a particular face-to-face training seminar? Invites and responses can easily get lost in the general email noise. Prime candidates for the course may be missed off, while others are enrolled despite the course only being of vague relevance to them. 

If it comes with an auto-enrollment feature, a learning management system (LMS) can help get your VILT project off to the right start by solving your sign-up issues. 

For any trainer-led activity, you can define your enrollment criteria (e.g. based on job title, compulsory training requirements, level of seniority or employee training objectives) and the system does the rest. The right participants for the course are identified automatically. The system can then be configured to invite or auto-enroll those participants, depending on the rules set by you. 

Supporting materials 

An LMS provides a central repository for creating, editing and storing all your training materials. This comes in especially useful for quickly putting together supporting materials for your instructor-led sessions. 

Most of us are guilty of attending a workshop and being handed a folder full of supporting materials - only never to open it again. An LMS provides scope for replacing those off-putting handouts in favour of something much more engaging. 

With an organisation-wide training portal at your disposal, you can really add value to your VILT programme. Drag & drop creation and template editing means you can produce a series of webpages specifically for each session. You can even add video, imagery and other items from within the LMS, with no coding skills needed. 

In-session teaching aids can also be hugely enhanced. Let’s say the instructor is attempting to teach a particular process relating to one of your company’s software systems. Instead of relying on a rather dry Powerpoint display, you could record the process in question and use this recording to create an explanatory simulation. 

Session delivery 

For VILT to really succeed, there are two things to focus on when it comes to how the actual sessions are delivered: interaction and integration. 

Interaction-wise, effective corporate training usually takes the form of a workshop rather than a lecture. Discussion is an important part of it, and questions are raised and answered in real time. For your VILT live webinars therefore, it’s sensible to choose a delivery channel that enables this interactive approach, and, ideally, a channel that your employees are already comfortable with. 

This is why, if you are already invested in a particular videoconferencing platform (e.g. Microsoft Teams or Zoom), it makes sense to use this for course delivery. 

This brings us to the need for integration. Ideally, participants should be able to confirm their attendance, access supporting materials and take part in the session all in one place, without having to chop and change between your LMS learning platform and the videoconferencing software. 

If the course instructor has created teaching aids using an LMS (e.g. software simulations), this also needs to be compatible with your videoconferencing solution.   

In addition, even though a VILT webinar is meant to be primarily a live event, it’s useful to be able to record it. For instance, you might want to edit key parts of the session for use elsewhere in your training programme. This is why it’s useful to have the ability not just to capture webinars but also to seamlessly include them in your repository of learning assets. 

For all these reasons, you should ensure that your LMS and videoconferencing software are mutually compatible. 

Appraisal 

What have your employees learned from the VILT programme? An LMS can provide a platform for producing a range of resources for testing learner knowledge. It could be a formal test. But equally, it could be something like a mobile-friendly series of challenges. These assessments can be completed by employees in their own time, and the results are automatically fed back to you via the online learning platform. 

The same goes for assessing the quality of the session from the employee's perspective. Instead of a paper-chase involving feedback forms, you can use mobile to nudge participants to rate the course.  

iTrent Learning Suite: delivering VILT with added value 

iTrent’s new Learning Suite is designed to help you realise the maximum benefits of virtual instructor-led training. 

Integrating seamlessly with your existing webinar and videoconferencing technologies, features include auto-enrollment, a scalable repository for all your supporting material (including webinar recordings) and an intuitive online learning platform. 

Also, if you’ve already invested in a webinar/conferencing technology such as Teams, Zoom, WebEx (etc etc) then the platform will support it. Essentially, when creating a webinar session, it needs to be configured with a join URL and this can be generated by your existing communications platform.

What’s more, with our optional iTrent Authoring & eLearning Tool, it has never been easier to produce the type of simulations and other teaching aids that can really take interaction and engagement to the next level. 

For transforming your instructor-led training programmes, explore the iTrent Learning Suite today.

MHR

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