I was talking with a client about virtual training options and designing virtual training workshops. We were discussing how to take the existing in-person new hire orientation and lower costs by making it a virtual program. As I continued to expand on the various choices – blended asynchronous, synchronous, mobile options – I could see his eyes glaze over. He finally stopped and asked, “Is all of that Web-training?” His simple question made me realize that I assumed there is a common language around virtual training. There is not.
There are lots of shades of gray, but I’m going to make it simple. It’s all virtual training. Anytime a participant is engaged in learning that is remote from the central training location or not conducted by an in-person instructor, it's virtual. Now I want to dive in and try to share what we think virtual training means at evoke.
The key question isn’t, “What’s the definition of virtual training?” The real question is, “What are you trying to accomplish and how will you ensure learning transfer and achieve your organization’s goals?” Let’s look at 5 questions that need to be answered. Do you want to:
1. Engage more employees at the same or lower cost?
“Going virtual” certainly can provide significant cost savings when you look at a per employee engagement cost. While your telecommunications costs will increase, the overall savings in travel expenses, facilities overhead, and other brick and mortar costs will eventually exceed that increase. Finally, learning staff can be selected based on knowledge, skills, or cultural acumen without the need to focus on location. In addition, it provides the option to centralize learning staff in a region with lower employment costs.
2. Offer on demand training at a time convenient for the learner?
Asynchronous training is a good option. These are typically on demand courses that learners can access through a learning portal or Web-browser. If the learner needs to demonstrate a skill, get help or feedback during the program, this may not be the best option. A course example could be basic product knowledge for sales. Mobile training is often asynchronous. You also need to ask, “Are the learners self-motivated enough to complete the course?” This also allows you to train lots of people, thousands, quickly using this approach.
3. Transfer or develop a skill or process and have learners demonstrate some level of competency?
Synchronous is probably the way to go. In a virtual classroom environment, a live instructor can not only teach the skill, they can engage in discussion to determine understanding, and then conduct exercises to allow practice and demonstration of competency. This has to be more than slide ware. It’s about designing engaging activities that allow the learners to practice the skill. Some course examples at evoke include our Virtual Instructor Certification program and Meetings that Sell. I’ve helped clients design and deliver Sales messaging courses and Sales management programs that allowed remotely dispersed teams to simultaneously work together in a training program. The challenge: it takes longer to train large groups of people. To fully demonstrate and practice, you should limit your program size to fewer than 20 depending on the skills and time commitment for the program.
4. Establish baseline knowledge and have learners with coaching use that knowledge to demonstrate competency?
You probably wanted a blended solution. You can establish the baseline knowledge with an on demand course, tracked in your LMS for compliance if needed, and follow-up with an instructor led virtual program to provide practice opportunities and coaching for performance. The great news is you can rapidly establish the baseline knowledge. You will need to plan the time for skills training. The same need to limit the numbers to fewer than 20 for the skills development phase still apply.
5. Transfer information to a large number of learners or company wide quickly?
You know where this is going. Do a Webinar! We’re not too crazy about the word Webinar at evoke . This is, again, another way to deliver virtual training and the opportunity to communicate to potentially hundreds of people at a time. If you are launching a program, defining a training process, rolling out a new strategic plan, giving an overview, this might be just the ticket. If you are looking for compliance and understanding, see the options defined above. One client successfully uses large-scale virtual events we’ve designed to launch larger training initiatives that will be conducted with smaller groups over the course of a quarter.
I may not be breaking new ground here, but I started with the goal of being clearer when I talk about virtual training. This shouldn’t be viewed as a comprehensive review of virtual training and choices to be made. We haven’t even discussed the virtual platform. What’s the most critical step? Do your analysis. Ask, what do the learners require and the organization need to see happen after this training?
As one of our clients said recently, “I don’t talk about Webinar this, eLearning that…it’s all virtual training. I want to reframe the discussion in our organization. How we get the results we need, manage costs, and design the delivery of training should be driven by the needs of the organization.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.