5 questions you definitely need to ask when you are setting up a virtual training program

More and more of our clients are embracing delivering training virtually. Many are striving towards a global training solution where everyone has access to the same high quality of training no matter where they are based. Others are need to cut travel costs. Some are moving towards bite-sized learning and providing training in smaller chunks. This growth in interest has meant that at Target Training, we’re finding ourselves frequently taking on a consulting role with those clients who have little or no experience in virtual training. Below are some of the key questions we’ve been encouraging our clients to ask themselves.

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Q1. How much experience do your participants have working with virtual platforms?

It’s important to match the virtual platform you use for delivering training with your staff’s experience and comfort zones. How familiar are the participants joining the virtual training with virtual communication in general?  What can they already do? And which systems do they regularly use for e.g. virtual meetings? Some participants using video conference tools every day for their regular check-ins with their virtual colleagues. In this kind of environment, you would want to take advantage of their skills and deliver training using a rich virtual platform with diverse and useful functionalities. Webex Training Center and Adobe Connect are great examples.

However if your staff are completely new to this kind of work and new to these platforms then don’t worry. Don’t spend a lot of money on a top-end virtual training platform when people can’t use the tools.  There are a lot of simple yet effective platforms that could work for your people, and their simplicity means that they will probably have an easier time working with it and therefore use it more often. Consider Skype for Business, Polycom or BlueJeans.

Target tip – Choose a virtual training platform which matches your staff’s experience and comfort zone.

Q2. What is the lowest common denominator when it comes to your technical infrastructure?

Many of our clients are looking for pan-global training solutions for their staff around the world – everybody should be able to benefit from the same training.  However, if in certain parts of the world the bandwidth available is very slow, cameras are disabled, sound cards aren’t standard etc this will inevitably cause problems and negatively impact the training. Either that person is going to have real difficulty fully participating in the training and/or  it will also cause delays for everyone else.

You have 2 choices – either work with the lowest common denominators when it comes to your technical infrastructure and then adapt the training to this level OR choose to split the training group based on technical capabilities.  

Target tip – Respect and adapt to the lowest common denominators when it comes to your technical infrastructure.

Q3. How much experience do your staff have in being trained virtually?

Connected to the first two questions, if you are going to set up virtual training approach for people who have had little or no experience of receiving virtual training before then you need to plan in time to teach them how to make the most of the virtual training environment.  Your training provider should be able to do this for you. Part of this time will be spent training the participants on how to use the technology AND you also need to help your participants learn more about how virtual training can look and feel different.  Comparing it to a classic face-to-face seminar won’t help.

If you are looking at virtual training for your virtual teams then you can kill 2 birds with one stone here – they will develop their virtual communication skills and strengthen their team at the same time!

Target tip – Invest a little time training people to learn and develop in a virtual training environment. This could be part of the very first session or a separate event.

Q4. How many people are you planning to invite to each virtual training session?

When it comes to classic face-to-face seminars most people are aware that if you want to keep the training interactive and relevant to each individual you need to limit the group size.  Groups of 10- 14 are standard practice.

When it comes to virtual training many clients assume much larger groups are possible.  Most of the time this is due to confusing e-learning and webinars with virtual training.  The maximum number of people we would suggest inviting to a virtual training session is impacted by two factors.

  1. The number of people is limited in some cases by the bandwidth that you and the participants have. (see Q2)
  2. Secondly, it depends on how easily you can manage the group and keep it interactive and relevant to the individual participants. We strongly recommend smaller groups – six is the magic number.  Larger groups of up to 16 can work when you choose to use a “producer” to support the trainer. The producer helps the trainer to manage the functionalities and tools within the platform, and to keep an eye on interaction and questions.  They’ll also step in when the technology causes problems.

Target tip  – Keep training groups smaller than you normally would for face-to-face training.  Invest in a producer when you want larger groups as it will be better value than running sessions twice. 

Q5. What are we doing before or after the virtual training session to boost the learning and drive transfer to our workplace?

Think about how you can make this a more enriched learning environment, and how you can help your staff apply what they learn to their workplace.  An example of pre- and/or post-training could be using your in-house learning management system. Maybe a “flipped classroom” work where a lot of the learning is inputted before the virtual training itself (meaning the virtual training session focuses on application)?  How about individual accountability calls with the trainer after the training? Or on-the-job coaching delivered virtually as in our Presenting in a virtual environment training?

Target tip – Position the virtual training as part of a learning journey. Support managers and employees in understanding the role they play in maximizing the return on the training investment. This eBook can help you.
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If you are interested in learning more about virtual training please reach out to us. We would love to help you.