Organizations are rethinking their approach to training during the coronavirus pandemic. With social distancing guidelines and mandatory telework policies making it impractical to conduct training face-to-face, many organizations are adopting virtual training methods. In a previous blog post, our colleague Shareen introduced virtual instructor-led training (vILT) as one of the fastest growing methods for online-based instruction and it would seem the pandemic has only added to its momentum. Like traditional instructor-led training (ILT), vILT refers to training in which an instructor teaches a group of learners about a topic or skill using presentations, activities, and discussions. The primary difference is that vILT is delivered in a virtual or simulated environment.
The virtual component adds a layer of complexity to training, which is why courses designed for classroom facilitation are not 100% transferrable to the virtual environment. Most courses must go through a conversion process to ensure that they will be just as effective when delivered virtually. Over the last few months, we have helped several clients convert their ILTs into vILTs while leveraging industry best practices. Our research and lessons learned led us to developing the following framework, which provides a list of considerations and best practices for virtual conversion at each stage of the training process (e.g., before, during, and after training). This framework is designed to be a resource to aid you during the conversion process. We encourage you to take and implement what works best for you and your organization when converting in-person training to virtual training.
|Purpose & Objectives||• What are the goals of the existing training? Can they be achieved in the virtual environment?||• Review the key learning objectives and adapt for virtual delivery (as necessary).|
|Structure & Timing||• How long is the existing training? Should it be broken into multiple sessions/days?|
• What time(s) will the training take place?
• How often are breaks needed?
• How many facilitators are participating?
|• Break longer trainings into multiple virtual sessions (e.g., convert one full day training into two 2-hour sessions).|
• Create a learning map to serve as a visual indicator of participant progress (if breaking longer training into multiple virtual sessions).
• If participants are geographically dispersed, work to accommodate multiple time zones when scheduling the training (e.g., 11 am start time rather than 9 am).
• Include 10-15-minute breaks between longer sections of content and encourage participants to stretch or grab coffee.
• Determine and practice transitions (i.e., handoffs) between facilitators in advance of delivery.
|Training Content||• What are the most important pieces of information participants need to know?|
• Does the content need to be restructured, expanded, or condensed?
• Can some of the content be provided to participants ahead of time?
|• Chunk content so it is more digestible; organize information starting at the highest level and break into topics and subtopics.|
• Avoid a lot of on-screen text; use dynamic/compelling images and graphics.
• Provide participants pre-work materials (e.g., self-study workbook, homework) before and between sessions, if multi-day.
|Training Activities||• How can existing in-person activities be accommodated virtually?|
• Do the activity instructions need to be modified for the virtual environment?
• What interactivity feature(s) would help to best facilitate the virtual activities (e.g., chat, poll, breakout room)?
|• Outline how each in-person activity will be led and facilitated in the virtual environment.|
• Evaluate activity purpose, desired outcome, and content to determine the appropriate interactive feature (e.g., ensure discussion questions are complex enough to generate meaningful breakout room conversations).
• Create a Participant Guide with detailed activity instructions, discussions prompts, and key takeaways.
|Virtual Platform||• What virtual platform will be used (e.g., Adobe Connect, Zoom, WebEx)?|
• Does the platform have the features/functionality needed to support the activities?
• Do participants have experience using the platform?
• What if the platform is not functioning properly during the training?
|• Identify the pros, cons, and capabilities of each available virtual platform.|
• Distribute instructions to the participants indicating how to join the session and tips for using the virtual platform (e.g., connect audio and turn on camera).
• Host a “tech check” session in advance to preview the virtual platform and teach participants how to use its key features.
• Provide a point of contact (e.g., technical support team member, internal IT) to assist participants with technical issues during the session.
• Anticipate potential technical challenges and create a contingency plan for how to overcome them if they happen (e.g., reserve a “room” on another virtual platform as back-up).
|Set-Up||• What can be done ahead of time to prep the virtual platform?|
• Is a facilitator and producer needed to successfully deliver the training? What are the specific roles of these individuals?
• Do the materials (e.g., agenda, Participant Guide, pre-work) need to be provided to participants in advance of the session? If so, how?
|• Set-up interactive features (e.g., polls, breakout rooms) prior to delivery.|
• Create a job aid for the facilitator(s)/producer(s) on how to use the virtual platform.
• Create a detailed “Run of Show” outlining all aspects of course delivery (e.g., producer responsibilities, handoffs, timing per slide/section).
• Conduct a dry run with the facilitator(s) and producer(s) and review handoffs and key features that will be utilized during the session.
• Upload course materials to an accessible location (e.g., SharePoint, LMS, Outlook invitation) prior to delivery.
|Participant Engagement||• What are some ways to keep participants engaged throughout the training?||• Engage participants early using icebreaker questions. |
• Involve participants every 4-5 minutes using the platform’s features (e.g., polls, raise hand, chat) or external tools (e.g., Kahoot!, Poll Everywhere, Padlet).
• Encourage participants to ask questions and share their input, ideas, and experiences throughout the training.
|Course Materials||• Do participants have easy access to the course materials/ resources?||• Remind participants to download the materials they were sent prior to the course. As a back-up, have course materials easily accessible within the platform:|
— Zoom: upload or send a link to the materials via chat.
— Adobe Connect: include a file download pod with the Participant Guide and other relevant materials.
|Ground Rules||• What is expected of participants during the virtual session?|
• How will you manage the virtual classroom?
|• Before jumping into the content, take a few minutes to set clear ground rules and expectations.|
— Communicate how participants should ask questions (e.g., raise hand, unmute, chat).
— Have participants assign a representative to speak for the group during debriefs.
— Ask participants to minimize distractions and signal if they need to step away.
— Let participants know if there will be knowledge checks or group activities during the session so they can be prepared to participate.
|Technical Tips & Assistance||• How can you help participants troubleshoot technical issues?|
• Do participants need a refresher on the platform’s features?
|• Include a welcome slide with housekeeping items, troubleshooting tips (e.g., if sound is not working, try XYZ), and name and contact information for technical support.|
• Spend a few minutes at the beginning of the session familiarizing participants with the layout of the platform and the features that will be utilized during the session.
|Breaks||• How will you effectively transition to and from breaks in the virtual environment?||• When transitioning to breaks, make sure to 1) set a time to return, 2) encourage participants to step away from their computers, 3) mute your microphone, and 4) pause the recording.|
• During the break, display a slide that indicates when the course will resume.
• After the break, make sure to unmute your microphone and restart the recording. Resume the session with an activity (e.g., poll, raise hand) to confirm that participants have returned and are ready to continue.
|Participant Feedback||• How will you gauge participant reactions to the content, platform, and activities?||• Solicit feedback regularly using pulse checks. Below are a few example questions:|
— How are things going so far?
— What questions do you have?
— How’s the pace? Too fast? Too slow?
— What can I do to improve your experience?
|Content & Knowledge Management||• How can the content be made accessible after the training as a refresher or just-in-time training?|
• How can participants stay connected and share knowledge after the training?
|• Share recorded training with participants afterwards.|
• Design and distribute one-pagers with key take-aways to serve as quick references back on the job.
• Upload training materials along with additional resources augmenting virtual content to an easily accessible location.
• Create an online discussion board or hub where participants can ask questions, problem solve together, and share resources/information.
|Learning Continuation & Job Application||• How can learning continue beyond the training?|
• How can learning be applied back on the job?
|• Ask participants to work with their managers to incorporate new skills into their performance plans. |
• Encourage participants to develop an action plan to apply what they learned to a client/customer or specific problem/project/situation/team on the job.
|Evaluation & Feedback||• How can the training be evaluated?||• Determine a process (e.g., short discussion at the end of the session or post-training survey) for collecting feedback.|
• Ask participants what worked well and what could be improved in the future.
• Facilitate a debrief with the facilitator(s) and the content developer(s) to discuss and brainstorm modifications to the virtual training.
 Molinsky, A. (2020, March 19). Virtual Meetings Don’t Have to Be a Bore. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/03/virtual-meetings-dont-have-to-be-a-bore.
 Page, J. (2020, May 20). Lessons Learned When Converting In-Person Training to Virtual Training at USAID. Retrieved from https://usaidlearninglab.org/lab-notes/9-lessons-learned-when-converting-person-training-virtual-training-usaid.
 Tomarchio, J. (2014, August 5). Ten Tips for Effective Virtual Delivery. Retrieved from https://www.td.org/insights/ten-tips-for-effective-virtual-delivery.
 Ratcliffe, M. (2020, July 1). 7 Tips for Virtual Training Success. Retrieved from https://www.td.org/newsletters/atd-links/7-tips-for-virtual-training-success.
Christina Ashby-King is a Human Capital Consultant in the Learning and Development Center of Excellence at FMP. Christina is from Akron, Ohio and enjoys traveling, baking, and spending time with family and friends.
Beth Chidester is a Human Capital Consultant in the Learning and Development Center of Excellence at FMP. Beth is from Wexford, Pennsylvania and enjoys hiking, working out, and spending time with friends and family.
Jessica McCrerey is an Engagement Manager in the Learning and Development Center of Excellence at FMP. Jessica is from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania and enjoys working out, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.