How To Engage Remote Learners With Virtual Training
Triggered by the work-from-home mode on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, L&D teams are looking for ways to move their classroom or ILT sessions to virtual training programs. The high impact of the trainer-led classroom sessions is difficult to match when the entire audience is working remotely. However, by adopting the right tips and strategies that engage remote learners, this goal can be met successfully.
In this article, I share 15 tips and strategies that will help you improve learner engagement and enable you to deliver high-impact virtual training programs.
The Impact Of The COVID-19 Pandemic On The Workplace: The New Mandate For L&D Teams
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workplace dynamics, and we are now witnessing the “new normal” of remote operations. While the percentage of remote learners may change over time, it will clearly be an integral component of the workplace in the future.
By extension, it clearly heralds the need for L&D teams to have a clear strategy regarding their virtual training program transformation:
- Planning a progressive transition of classroom/ILT sessions to the online mode. This journey could feature:
- ILT to Virtual ILT (VILT). This would map to:
– Synchronous connections or live sessions.
– Asynchronous connections via online access to VILT recordings and supporting collateral (prep material and handouts).
- ILT to self-paced or fully online mode.
- ILT to an optimal blended mode that offers VILT with a self-paced or fully online mode. This would again leverage VILT sessions in synchronous/asynchronous modes.
- ILT to Virtual ILT (VILT). This would map to:
- Factoring for tips and strategies that will engage remote learner teams in each mode.
- Drawing up a long-term, sustainable action plan that not only covers the transition but also has crucial measures to ascertain:
- The effectiveness of the training in the new mode
- The training impact
- The demonstrable value for learners and businesses, matching or exceeding what was being met in the classroom/ILT mode
What Are The Key Challenges In Engaging Remote Learners Through Virtual Training Programs?
Before moving on to the tips and strategies, let’s look at the key challenges associated with training remote learners.
- Given the scale of the pandemic, with no predictions about when this will end, there is an underlying anxiety that each one of us, including remote learners, is going through. So, it is difficult to have them fully engaged in virtual training.
- Every day brings in new variables and the fact that businesses react and respond to them impacts remote learners. While they are aligning with the changing dynamics—with different degrees of success—it is difficult for them to retain the focus on virtual training.
- Several organizations made a quick transition from ILT sessions to a 100% VILT mode. This call was made to ensure a timely rollout of the planned, essential trainings. However, in the process, the adequate analysis of the new medium (VILT delivery platform) which could have helped achieve the required degree of learner participation and engagement was not done. What they are seeing is that long-drawn VILT sessions do not hold the attention of remote learners.
So, while offering virtual training for remote learners is the need of the hour , it will not be successful unless L&D teams adopt certain tips and strategies to engage them. In the process, they must map the current trainings to the appropriate virtual training mode (VILT/blended/fully online) that will provide the required impact and accomplish the learning objectives.
Here are 15 tips and strategies you can use to make your virtual training programs more engaging for remote learners.
What Tips And Strategies Can You Use To Engage Your Remote Learners As You Opt For Virtual Training Programs?
When You Move The Entire Classroom/ILT To A VILT-Based Program
- Create manageable milestones
As you look at this transformation, do remember that the 7-hour-long ILT session cannot be mapped to a 7-hour-long VILT session. The remote learners’ attention would be caught only when the VILT program is divided into shorter and manageable chunks. Look for the right option as you remap the ILT to VILT as:
a. A series of sessions with each session not exceeding 60-75 minutes.
b. A learning journey with live sessions, breakout sessions and activities, regrouping, and interactions with peers/facilitators. This would help you match the flow and create the impact of the ILT session. Also, evaluate when you should opt for live sessions—do watch out for the group size if you need highly interactive sessions.
- Highlight the value of virtual training
Prior to the virtual training rollout, invest in short nuggets (microlearning videos/infographics or even simple newsletters) that showcase the value of virtual training for remote learners. Once they are in sync, you will see a more engaged audience.
- Ensure learner interaction
If you opt for moving the entire classroom/ILT to a VILT mode, assess the features available in the delivery platform first. Remap the existing classroom interactions to the new medium. For instance:
a. Most of the platforms offer interactions like polling questions and chats.
b. You can provide breakout sessions, exercises, and regrouping with remote learners’ presentations.
c. You can create a learning journey by structuring multiple virtual sessions over a period of time and have interjections of supporting materials or exercises for remote learners.
d. If the VILT session delivery is integrated into your LMS, you can also add interactive quizzes to suitable junctures that can be tracked.
- Reward learners
Rewarding remote learners with a certification is a motive to complete a program. This incentive is a great motivator for remote learners to complete the current training and even look out for more virtual trainings in the future.
- Encourage social learning
Encourage your remote learners to collaborate through social learning by providing them the platform to discuss and collaborate. This can be done using chats, discussion boards, breakout rooms, and peer-to-peer feedback.
- Continue the connection with remote learners
Even after the successful completion of the VILT program, retain the connection with remote learners by facilitating sessions among other team members or with the facilitator/instructor.
- Take feedback for continuous improvement
Since virtual training is a moving target, upgrade your approach, delivery, and strategies regularly by asking learners to complete a review or survey to collect their feedback. Use this information to improve and hit the desired engagement quotient.
2. When You Move Classroom Training/ILT To A Blended Or A Fully Self-Paced, Online Virtual Training Program
The following tips and strategies are for self-paced, online training that can be part of the blended mode or offered as stand-alone training.
- Allow seamless movement across devices
Mobile-friendly or mobile-first designs provide multi-device support. Enable learners to move seamlessly across desktops/laptops to tablets/smartphones during the day.
- Offer personalized learning
A great way to engage remote learners is by offering relevant content that helps them meet their personal learning goals. You can offer microlearning-based learning paths with varied formats to suit different learning styles. Additionally, you can offer curation—both formal and informal training assets.
- Leverage microlearning and action-oriented learning
This is suitable for remote learners as it is easy to learn and apply. Furthermore, you can engage remote learners by offering spaced repetition for practice, proficiency gain, and meet the tougher goal of behavioral change.
- Use immersive strategies
Depending on the content and your budget, you have a wide spectrum of engaging and immersive approaches. You can invest in approaches like VR/AR, gamification, branching scenarios, scenario-based learning, interactive story-based learning, video, and interactive video-based learning. All these approaches guarantee an engaging learning experience for your remote learners.
- Use brief and relevant content
When it comes to self-paced virtual training, some remote learners take time to tune in. By keeping the journey intuitive, precise, and relevant, you will have their attention and higher engagement. Navigational aids like buttons, icons, and arrows must be well-designed, visible, and easy to navigate. An intuitive User Interface will motivate learners to explore more in the virtual training program.
- Have meaningful interactions
The days of mere “click to learn more” to engage learners are over. Learners demand interactions that make for a compelling read and offer value. So, add interesting questions that probe and push remote learners to pause and think.
- Integrate Just-In-Time learning aids
It is not enough to provide formal training assets. For example, what should the remote learner do when they encounter a problem late at night? Having a combination of Just-In-Time learning aids/job aids can help them. You can offer cheat sheets, ready reckoners, FAQs, tips, and so on. All these help remote learners apply their learning on the job. Additionally, they have easy access to learning aids/job aids that help them at the moment of need within their workflow.
- Retain the connection with remote learners
Even after the completion of a virtual training program, retain the connection with the remote learners. You can push curated information to support the initial program or keep them posted on what’s next. These simple approaches keep remote learners connected and engaged. Furthermore, you are nudging them toward self-directed and continuous learning.
I hope my article provides you with tips and strategies you can use as you transition from classroom/ILT to VILT/blended/online training for your remote learners. These will certainly help you improve learner engagement for your virtual training programs, irrespective of the mode. Download the eBook Virtual Training Guide: How To Future-Proof Your Virtual Training Transformation and discover all you need to know for your virtual training transformation endeavor—packed with tips, best practices, and ideas you can use! Join the webinar, too, and learn what is the ideal long-term approach for remote learners.
References: 5 Amazingly Effective Strategies to Convert Your ILT Program to High-impact Virtual Training