I was speaking with a client recently who said, “We’ve made the decision to convert all our face-to-face sales courses into virtual classes.” When I asked him why, he responded, “We’re facing budget cuts and more remote locations to train. It will be cheaper and faster to develop and deploy.”
Over the last five years, that’s a common goal for many organizations. Sounds great, but what are the risks? I spend 80% of my time either instructing in or designing virtual training workshops. We all know, telling ain’t training. One of the big mistakes I see regularly is thinking lots of PowerPoint, lecture, demos, and meaningless software driven interactivity is virtual training. Link that with too much information for a two-hour session, and your chances of achieving your goal plummets. The result? Participants get disillusioned with virtual learning and disengage. Sound familiar?
So what’s the cure?
One of the most important things I’ve learned in over 10 years of designing both in person and virtual programs is that one size doesn’t fit all. You have to go back to basics to determine if and how to convert each course to a virtual environment. Three steps that can help you succeed in this transition:
Ask some basic questions:
What’s the context for the training?
What should participants be able to do when finished?
What are the time investment participants will need to make?
Does everyone have the same technical resources? What are they?
One of the most important elements of this phase is identifying the core learning objectives and ruthlessly editing content to meet the time constraints of the virtual classroom. Make sure you have a plan. This is where you need to get creative. Don’t just throw it to the instructional designer. You need all your resources, subject matter experts, target participants, and business owners involved.
Once you have a design, test it, test it, and test it. Dry run and modify, Alpha and modify, and so on. Sometimes you get it right the first time. In my experience, the real learning happens when an instructional designer sees what happens when participants take a test drive. You don’t always know how it plays out until you are in the classroom.
The virtual classroom is here to stay. Embrace the differences and build on the basics. The result will be a more successful transition to training your organization in the virtual classroom.