What is virtual training (VILT)? Virtual Instructor-led Training is different to a webinar or e-learning approach as training is delivered online via a tech platform such as WebEx or Zoom. The workshops are run by a skilled online coach who facilitates interactive learning, enabled by the platform. Learners experience talking with the coach and each other, working in teams, being able to contribute, share and challenge. In fact, pretty much all the ‘functionality’ available in a face-to-face (F2F) classroom is found in a VILT classroom.
Having supported a number of organisations to move to VILT we recommend the following ‘lessons learned’ to help you successfully introduce virtual training into your organisation:
- Get the Exec on board
- Use your network
- Choose the right platform
- Get support
- Upskill your trainers
- Create proof of concept
- Find early adopters
- Communicate to the workforce
1. Get the Exec on Board
There are two main reasons to get your Exec on side with VILT:
- The first is to get their buy in. There may be some decisions and investment that require Exec approval, so it is helpful to get them onside as soon as possible. Demonstrate to them how incorporating VILT aligns with your organisations strategic intent and priorities – particularly if that includes a more digital future.
- The second is to get them ‘on message’. If the Exec are excited about what VILT can do for your organisation then they will talk about it in positive terms, further influencing the rest of the workforce. Maybe you will find an early adopter within the Exec who will ‘open doors’ for you.
Read our guide on 9 Tips to Convince the Exec of Virtual Training (VILT).
We have also found that a live demonstration (just 30 mins) to an Exec group has a profound effect in terms of them understanding the quality and potential that skillfully run VILT has.
2. Use Your Network
64% of organisations are already using VILT, according to ATD. This means there are likely to be people in your network that have already moved from F2F to VILT. Get in touch with contacts, ex-colleagues etc. to learn more about their experience. Ask for their lessons learned and any tips and ideas. Tap in to LinkedIn groups and industry forums to see what you can find out. Most people are super generous in sharing their insights if only we choose to ask. Please be encouraged to connect with us at The Virtual Training Team too.
3. Choose the Right Platform
To run VILT workshops you will need to use a tech platform to run workshops from. It may be that your organisation already has a platform which you will need to adopt.
So, which is the best virtual training (VILT) platform?
Well it depends on your organisation, your people and how you intend to use VILT. It is worth doing your research.
You may be using some of these platforms in your organisation already. We recommend getting your IT department involved as soon as possible and talk to platform providers. Together they will consider your current firewalls, security systems and user accessibility to help determine which platform is best.
4. Get Support
There are training companies who can help you move to a VILT environment. Having expertise in VILT design and delivery, Train the Trainer etc., they should be willing to give lots of advice and resource to help you create success.
As more training companies are incorporating VILT approaches into their offering, be sure to ask about their experience – this is an emerging area of the training world.
The Virtual Training Team took its first VILT steps in 2010 and have learned much along the way. We now are pleased to help/coach organisations in transferring some of their F2F training delivery to successful VILT.
5. Upskill Your Trainers
According to the Towards Maturity study, 'L&D: Where Are We Now?' 65% of organisations want their trainers to improve their virtual delivery skills.
Further to this, ATD’s research report 'Virtual Classrooms Now: Using Technology to Reach Today's Workforces' found that trainers’ and designers' lack critical skills in virtual workshop delivery and that this is a major barrier to learning effectiveness. They report the top three training areas that L&D professionals need to become more skillful at with VILT are:
- Engaging online audiences.
- Using technologies that enable virtual classrooms.
- Using software or design tools that adapt content for virtual classrooms.
It is vital to have trainers and designers, who will be involved in VILT, upskilled to be confident in constructing and delivering quality VILT workshops.
There are two important reasons – firstly, the initial VILT roll-out needs to make the right impact, and secondly that ongoing programmes need to maintain top level results.
Some organisations have gone for a ‘just get started’ approach with their existing trainers meaning ‘sink or swim’. Our experience is that they mostly sink and quickly. If the first experience for both learner and trainer is poor, then the transition may falter or will be much more challenging to achieve. We recommend real investment in your trainers, affording them professional coaching and significant live practice time.
Alternatively, you can use the services of a professional VILT based company to design or deliver your workshops and programmes for you in part or in full. They will also be able to help you convert current F2F programmes to a blended or fully VILT approach.
The investment in upskilling your trainers may be the critical step in the successful introduction of VILT and all the benefits it can provide.
6. Create Proof of Concept
We recommend starting selectively with VILT. Choose a small project to begin with to build your approach to getting it right. You may choose to run a pilot or take one module from a larger programme to convert - this gives you the opportunity to consider a like for like comparison. For example, a client asked us to take a F2F Time Management bite-size workshop and convert it to VILT. They were able to compare both short and long-term feedback along with learning application. The results demonstrated to the business that the VILT approach was just as effective as the F2F and also included a number of additional benefits such as cost saving.
Starting carefully allows you the opportunity to make tweaks in how you design and deliver VILT workshops, how you engage and invite learners and how you use your tech platform. You can then set yourself up for success when rolling out larger VILT programmes.
7. Find Early Adopters
Your early adopters will be positive, open-minded colleagues in your organisation who are likely to influence the broader workforce by embracing VILT quickly. These learners are those who will spread the word about how great VILT workshops are. Get them involved early and they will help VILT be a success.
The experience your early adopters have on the initial workshops will set the tone for how others view their learning journey with VILT. Consider using:
- An open-minded team, keen to try new ways of learning.
- Senior managers who have bought in to the idea of VILT.
- A project team who are disparate and rarely have chance to come together.
- New hires who are not tied to existing training approaches.
- Tech savvy teams who are ready to embrace the technology.
Ensure you capture the outcomes from early adopters. Seek out the benefits they find and build these into your comms strategy for next roll-outs.
8. Communicate to the Workforce
Getting your workforce VILT-ready is important so that they approach participating in VILT workshops and programmes with a positive mindset.
Read our guide for further ideas on how to convince your learners to learn using virtual training (VILT).
You may also want to consider how you communicate the following:
- What is virtual training (VILT)?
- Why are you making the move?
- How does it align to the organisational priorities and strategies?
- What are the benefits of virtual training (VILT) to both the organisation and the individuals?
- Expectations of learners participating in VILT.
- Feedback from early adopters and pilots.
Approaches may include:
- Message from the Exec.
- Demo videos.
- Live demos.
- FAQs and where to go for help.
- Information on ‘how to learn virtually’.
- Case studies from other organisations or your own pilot workshops.
Our experiences in VILT inform us that learners need plenty of advice and guidance in order for them to be comfortable and confident joining a workshop. Once they have experienced a VILT environment they will be more likely to love the process and enjoy the benefits. Your job is to encourage and enthuse your learners to get on board.