Following the pandemic, many organizations didn't have the time to properly prepare for the rapid switch to a remote or hybrid work setting. But now is the perfect time to take stock of your virtual training approach and permanently make remote training strategies a part of your workforce growth plan.
Read on as we discuss the value of virtual training and how to kick off an effective virtual training program for your team.
What is virtual training?
Virtual training is a learning method that takes place online using various digital tools. It's a way in which employees can get internal and external training to grow in their skills and competencies.
This training method has become increasingly popular in organizations due to its flexibility, convenience and expanded global reach.
Types of virtual training
There are different types of virtual training, such as synchronous and asynchronous.
Synchronous training is delivered in real-time and requires participants to be present at a specific time, such as a live webinar or video conference.
On the other hand, asynchronous training does not require participants to be present at a specific time. It can be accessed at any time. Examples include online courses or e-learning modules.
Now, let's review some of them in brief detail:
- Web-based learning uses the internet and e-learning tools to deliver learning materials.
- Webinars and virtual classrooms are primarily one-time sessions that are not part of a more extensive training program.
- Video-based learning includes pre-recorded courses that are part of microlearning or more complex training programs. They're perfect for delivering off-the-shelf course content.
- Microlearning training sessions last for about 3-15 minutes. The goal is to deliver key concepts by focusing on one thing at a time.
- Collaborative online learning incorporates various collaborative learning practices into live training. This type of virtual training results in high engagement levels, better results and a high retention knowledge rate.
The value of virtual training vs. in-person training
Introducing remote learning during the pandemic has changed how organizations view virtual training. They've started to recognize that virtual training can accomplish just as much, if not more, than in-person. And according to research, over 90 percent of organizations now use virtual learning compared to only 4 percent in 1994.
Some of the key benefits of virtual training over in-person training are:
Virtual training allows for a wider reach for employees worldwide to connect and share information easily.
Employees far from the designated training area may find in-person training logistically challenging. With virtual training, however, they can easily participate with the rest of their coworkers.
Convenience & accessibility
Participants can equally access the training materials at their own pace and schedule. They can rewatch training sessions at their convenience and have time to go over unfinished work without wasting resources or traveling far to meet the instructor. In contrast, in-person has to be done at a specific time and venue.
In-person training usually includes costs from transportation, venue or housing, equipment and many more. Virtual training is more affordable in many cases. You can avoid paying for expensive training facilities to accommodate all the employees. Plus, employees can save costs by not traveling to training meetings. And many virtual platforms are free and inexpensive, making them less financially demanding for a company.
Virtual training platforms allow you to efficiently share your screen, distribute training materials or ask questions without disrupting the presentation. You can also complete advanced tasks and performance measures that may have been challenging in person.
Despite its great benefits, however, there are instances where you have to use in-person training over virtual training.
For example, suppose you need to conduct training for a job that requires physical skill. Or for situations where learners need information quickly. Or you need a more fluid exchange of ideas. In that case, in-person training may be preferable.
Virtual and in-person training have the same purpose but are different and suit different priorities. They also have pros and cons depending on your situation, budget and the course in training.
Challenges of virtual training
Virtual training gives opportunities for better employee growth and development—but it doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges.
Here are some of the challenging aspects of virtual training that organizations must overcome to deliver effective virtual training sessions:
1. Employee disconnect
Ensuring remote participants' interaction and participation is one of the main challenges of virtual training. It can be tasking to keep them engaged without a physical meeting. The content of a virtual training program may be strong, but if it's not interesting, interactive and engaging, the employees tend to disconnect and lose focus.
2. Different time zones
While employees can join virtual training from any part of the world, managing training programs with learners from different time zones can be challenging. Live training, for instance, may become nearly impossible for companies with workers in remote locations due to multiple time zones and scheduling conflicts.
3. Tech issues
Companies will always face tech problems when training employees virtually, like any other online platform. Whether it's a browser incompatibility, broken microphones or an unstable internet connection, tech errors always arise when training online.
Distractions are a huge problem, as learners can sometimes struggle with creating a suitable virtual environment. For instance, you may be having a virtual training session in your home and your kids or pets are running around your home working set up. This makes it easy to lose focus, unlike an office environment, which is usually very professional with minimal distractions.
5. Interpersonal interactions
People have different learning styles. Some learn independently, while others find it challenging to do well in training without a co-learner as an additional resource. Also, without the aid of in-person interaction, it becomes difficult for employees to develop relationships and create collaborative solutions or innovations.
How to achieve the benefits of in-person training in a virtual environment?
Virtual training challenges are not insurmountable. There are ways to overcome the obstacles and achieve the benefits of an in-person training environment:
- Make virtual training more interactive and fun. Offer your learners the best virtual training software that includes interactive and collaborative features. Engaging training materials, such as videos, quizzes and group discussions, are also beneficial.
- For employees in different time zones, focus on asynchronous training activities instead of live training so that the employees can train at their convenience. You can also record the training activities for employees not available during live sessions.
- Limit distractions by creating a dedicated workspace, like an at-home office. Or consider going to a quiet place like a library or coffee shop so you can focus on your training sessions.
- Offer additional training sessions or resources to employees finding it difficult to learn virtually.
- Leverage technology to enhance your virtual training sessions. Scribe, for example, lets you make engaging, fulfilling and customizable training documents at the touch of a button.
Wondering how Scribe works? Simply put, Scribe writes your training material for you. It can turn any workflow into written instructions, complete with text and screenshots, within seconds that you can then share with team members.
Here's a Scribe in action.
5 Virtual training best practices & tips
The key to good virtual training is to guarantee that your audience is listening to the training and also having the opportunity to practice the skills they're learning.
Here are some tips and tools to help:
1. Be prepared for technology mishaps
One of the most important preparations you must make in advance is ensuring you have stable technology to host your virtual training. Leverage learning tools that maximize engagement and pair it with other software that allows easy and secure access for listening to audio and watching videos.
Keep track of all the equipment you'll need and ensure your employees have the right technology to support online learning. Also, check for a stable internet connection before live classes and make contingency plans. With technology, things can quickly go wrong. So it's best to be prepared ahead of time.
2. Set ground rules and expectations
Participants in a virtual training session may be tempted to work on other projects while the training is going on since you're not together in person. You can set standard rules and etiquette before the start of the training, such as
- Asking them to shut down all other programs.
- Putting away their devices.
- Keeping their cameras on or off.
- Putting their microphones on mute, etc.
Additionally, show the trainees how to ask questions, how long each training phase will take and when there will be breaks. It's also essential to inform them beforehand if there will be quizzes or assessments so they can prepare in advance.
3. Incorporate social learning
An effective way to replicate an in-person training environment in virtual training is by incorporating question-and-answer sessions, brainstorming conversations or even icebreakers.
Peer interaction is a form of informal learning that makes a critical aspect of effective virtual training. Make the training interactive by asking for input via text chat or asking an attendee to unmute and contribute to the discussion. The attendees get a cognitive boost from obtaining knowledge in a social learning environment.
4. Prioritize shorter sessions or modules
It's better to break the training into smaller sessions and incorporate activities that enable the trainees to participate actively. You can try using the following:
- Role-play activities.
- Break out sessions.
- Questions and answers.
- Virtual roundtable discussions.
In virtual training, you may not see signs of boredom or disengagement, so it's important to keep the trainees engaged throughout the exercise. Be sure to invite discussions or take questions before the end of the session.
A test drive also gives you a better idea of the duration of the training sessions. Your employees would appreciate knowing how much time they need to make out for each session.
6. Leverage microlearning
Microlearning is a powerful way to deliver virtual training in small bite sizes that are easily digestible. It's a series of brief and regularly spaced-out training activities that helps to introduce concepts for immediate application. Employees can undertake a microlearning training plan for as little as five minutes weekly.
Some examples of microlearning in action include:
- Google's whisper course.
- Bloomingdale's gamified safety training.
- Cisco's IT training video library.
Microlearning, when applied correctly, is great for the following reasons:
- Employees can easily find 5 minutes in a day for a brief training than one hour for a lecture or webinar
- In the event of technological issues, you can reschedule microlearning
- It's easy to personalize training to individual career goals with shorter, self-paced lessons
5. Use visuals and learning aids to supplement the training
Thoroughly test your training material and technology before launch. This will help you identify potential issues such as:
- Training sessions that run too long or too short.
- Technical glitches.
- Inadequate transitions between topics or activities.
Incorporating visuals such as images, GIFs and videos can break up the monotony of text and enhance the learning experience. Additionally, incorporating tables, graphs, virtual reality and augmented reality can create an immersive and interactive experience for learners.
The 4 virtual training tools you need
Apart from the virtual training tips above, you also need the right tools to facilitate engaging virtual training. Some popular ones include Zoom and Google Meet. But there are others with more features and functions. Let's explore some of them:
1. Learning Management System (LMS)
An LMS is a web-enabled platform that combines several functions you need to develop virtual training. It enables course creation, project development and scheduling to quickly build a flexible training course and instantly track employee learning progress.
2. Communication and collaboration platforms
Collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams help employees stay on top of their microlearning sessions. These tools also encourage social learning by assisting employees in sharing information or bringing new ideas right there on the platform.
3. Video recording software
When developing your training videos, video recording software comes incredibly handy. Scribe, for instance, is a beginner-friendly process documentation tool that allows you to demonstrate a new software or process through screen recording easily. You can later add annotations, text and blur where needed to provide users with detailed knowledge regarding the tool or task.
4. Online resource library
Online resource libraries like Udemy and Coursera offer many open online courses in business, technology, finance and much more. A resource like this can provide your organization with expert knowledge, so you don't always have to reinvent the wheel regarding employee development plans.
Scribe can also be handy here to create a knowledge base of sorts for your team members, filled with how-to guides to help them when performing a job or task.
All the Scribes you record are stored in a single, centralized place that approved team members can easily access.
Virtual = Better results
Virtual training is a valuable and effective method of delivering employee training content. While it presents some challenges, it offers many advantages over in-person training, including cost-effectiveness, accessibility and flexibility. Through interactive and engaging training materials, virtual training can be a valuable tool for employee skill and career development.