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VILT For Continuous Improvement Is Not A Fad: A Case Study

In the eBook, Continuous Improvement for Virtual Training In Today’s Business Climate, four global L&D thought leaders share how the COVID-19 crisis has affected their training
Strategies in 2020 and what they predict for the future of education in 2021 and beyond. This is the second VILT case study in our series, provided by Melissa Gray Satterfield, Director / Master Trainer of Langevin Learning Services.

Like most American companies, our business has been affected by COVID-19. It wasn’t necessarily negatively influenced, it’s just different – the “new normal”. Langevin Learning Services has been a provider of prestigious workshops, professional certifications and products for trainers and business professionals for more than 35 years. We were one of the first large training providers to expand our train-the-trainer offering to include live, online and synchronous training courses – also known as VC training courses (Virtual Classroom). That expansion of our business in early 2014 allowed us to pivot quickly as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic hit.

eBook release

Continuous improvement for virtual training in today’s business climate

Learn how the COVID crisis affected training strategies and what you can do to prepare your L&D approach for the new normal.

Our silver lining

As with many companies, this unexpected turn made us apprehensive and concerned about what the future holds for our company. Thankfully, the business world’s need to focus on all things virtual turned out to be our silver lining. Our advice to organizations looking to introduce virtual classroom training has remained unchanged long before the pandemic began. If you want to avoid a lecture-heavy data dump that looks more like a webinar than real performance-based training, you need to change your thinking. Here are the top six things to keep in mind:

1. Know the difference between virtual classroom training and a webinar

The main purpose of a webinar is to present or share information. Communication takes place almost exclusively in one direction, from the moderator to the participants. There is very little (or no) interaction and there is limited use or feedback, if any. The virtual classroom training enables two-way communication and includes all three teaching phases: presentation, application and feedback. Its main purpose is to facilitate synchronous learning.

2. Keep your learners engaged and active

The best practice is to involve your learners every 3-5 minutes. This can be achieved by asking learners to take a survey, use the status icons, annotate the whiteboard, or share ideas in a group or private chat pod.

3. Use virtual classroom training to teach the right skills

Not all skills can realistically be practiced in a virtual environment. For example, technical skills (skills that take place between a person and an object) can be difficult to practice when machines, devices, or tools are involved. You may need to take a mixed approach. Interpersonal and conceptual skills work very well in the virtual classroom. Both skills can be easily practiced. For example, “dealing with a difficult customer” is an interpersonal skill that can be practiced via role play in the breakout rooms of your software.

4. Use all functions of your virtual platform

Take stock of what your platform has and what it doesn’t. This is a critical step. Not all VC platforms are created equal. Make the most of the functions available on your platform and make the most of your virtual classroom training.

5. Carefully plan your virtual classroom training

It is recommended to limit the session duration in the virtual classroom to 2 to 2.5 hours in order to avoid cognitive overload. Select methods and tools
Stick to the time constraints and spend more time practicing than presenting.

6. Reinvent your training materials

Adjust your lesson plans to accommodate a producer in case one is used. Customize participants’ materials so that they can be used electronically. Create slides that visually motivate learners and allow learners to interact with the content (i.e., comment on slides using the drawing tools to develop ideas, vote, etc.).

Download the eBook to access four job aids to aid this process: Course Review Worksheet, Critical Design Constraints Worksheet, Course Engagement Validation Checklist, and Delivery Schedule Worksheet.

VILT for Continuous Improvement: How we adapted our approach

In terms of the number of participants in a session, VC Best Practice indicates 12-15 participants. We quickly realized that we needed to increase our class size to 15, which was previously limited to 12, to meet customer demand for our workshops. We also realized that we needed to design and launch more virtual courses as the demand for new content was quite high. Our product development team has worked hard within a few months not only to create new virtual courses, but also to convert some of our sought-after instructor-led courses. We have also changed our validation and startup processes to ensure a faster turnaround time. Finally, we had to provide our clients with multiple virtual classroom options asap so they could master their new skills and get started right away.

We knew our customers were working to tight schedules and needed to master their skills as quickly as possible. Achieving a professional trainer certification was also a top priority for her. To help customers achieve certification faster, we have strategically re-planned some of our synchronous live online workshops so that our customers can complete their certification in less than two weeks.

The respondents prefer a virtual classroom

Due to the success of our virtual classroom offerings (supply and demand), I don’t really see that we are returning to a complete “prepandemic normal”. We let our customers drive their personal bus, so to speak. If you would like personal training, we can deliver. We conducted a survey on our website asking users to weigh their preference for ILT versus VC as all necessary COVID-19 safeguards are in place and government restrictions are in place. Based on current statistics, 56% of respondents said that they would prefer the virtual classroom to personal training. I’m pretty sure that number will continue to grow in favor of synchronous live online training.

From a purely financial perspective, it is quite profitable for our instructors to work from home 100% of the time. We do not pay for flights, hotel rooms, ground transportation, or meals. Added to this are the cost savings in hotel conference rooms and catering for public workshops, which can be quite expensive depending on the market. And let’s not forget our customers who keep an eye on their budgets. Virtual classroom training is also cost effective for our customers as it also saves travel and accommodation costs.

L&D in a post-pandemic world

At the beginning of the pandemic, I believe some organizations were reluctant to consider virtual classroom training, but when they found out how useful and efficient it was, they stopped by. I’ve heard from numerous customers that they expect a more passive experience, more like a webinar. Not all content can be effectively conveyed in a virtual environment. It gets more difficult when it comes to technical skills, for example, as you need a way to repeat realistic hands-on exercises. But, as I mentioned above, with a little planning and perhaps a blended approach to provide some hands-on experience in addition to the training and activities in the virtual classroom, most skills can be effectively taught.

I believe the trend towards live online training will continue. We assume that this will remain the largest part of our business in the near future.

From the learner’s point of view, the feedback was mostly positive. We conduct level 1 response surveys at the end of each virtual course. Our customers love that we practice what we preach and they tend to learn a lot from just watching us do things. One of the comments I see the most has to do with using a producer to support the presenter and attendees. It’s a game changer and makes the virtual classroom experience more meaningful and engaging.

Download the eBook “Continuous Improvement for Virtual Training in Today’s Business Climate” to discover Melissa’s best practices for continuously improving virtual training.

eBook version: Adobe Captivate Prime

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