One of the challenges many organisations are facing, especially those with a mobile workforce or with employees who increasingly work from home, is how to deliver training in an effective manner. Keeping learners engaged and on a continuing learning journey is key to ensuring the organisation develops and retains the skills necessary to service customers and innovate. Plus, with the recent coronavirus pandemic, working from home may well become more common in the future requiring organisations to rethink how training is delivered.
Traditional face-to-face instructor-led training may no longer be the most appropriate approach in every case and an alternative is needed that enables learners to attend training from their remote location. Virtual instructor-led training offers an approach to help address this challenge but to get it working at its best needs some thought and planning.
What is virtual instructor-led training?
Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) is essentially training that’s facilitated and delivered through an online platform rather traditional instructor-led training (ILT) that is delivered in a physical classroom. There are many different platforms available to support VILT with popular ones including GoToTraining, Adobe Connect and Zoom.
The online platform is used to help simulate features of a traditional classroom by offering audio and video facilities that allow:
Presentation of content such as a slide deck or documentation
Video broadcast for live demonstrations
Screen-sharing to enable, for example, IT application demonstrations
Interactivity between the instructor and the learner, and (where appropriate) between learners
Remote workstation control to allow the instructor to take over the learner’s mouse and keyboard
Completion of simulated tasks or activities
Online quizzes and assessments
Some platforms are now also beginning to support the use of virtual or augmented reality technology that enables the learner to be fully immersed in the experience and conduct tasks in a realistic simulation of the real-world environment.
Some key factors and tips when looking to adopt VILT
Adopting a learning strategy that incorporates VILT is something that needs planning and careful consideration. It is not simply a case of running an existing instructor-led training course via the online platform – the design of the training course itself and the way it is delivered may need to be adapted for it to be successful in a virtual approach.
Firstly, the learners need to have access to the required technology and know how to use it. Whilst it is becoming more common for organisations to provide employees with laptops to enable remote or home working, this is not universal and needs to be considered. Organisations involved in providing field service will typically issue the field technicians with tablets and/or laptops, but these need to be suitable for use with the chosen online platform.
It is also very important to accept that not all training will be suited to a VILT approach and may still need to be done face-to-face. Identifying what training is appropriate is a key factor. It might be surprising however, to find just how much training can be supported in a virtual fashion – even where the use of physical objects is necessary. It really does help to have an open mind and be imaginative.
The process of transitioning from classroom-based ILT to VILT tends to be a gradual one and will require a mixture of approaches to create immersive virtual learning experiences. Initially, it is important to understand how the learning approaches differ when moving from ILT to VILT, which will involve:
Mapping how the interaction and participation techniques used in the ILT setting will be achieved in the VILT setting – very often, this is somewhat dependent on the capabilities of the delivery platform being used so it is important to understand what capabilities the platform offers, e.g. can learners ask questions? can it support quizzes?
Identifying any new interactions that might be possible that were not available in the ILT setting, such as learners being able to ask the instructor a question privately or the instructor being able to annotate on-screen content as it is being presented
The next important consideration is understanding how the content of the training may need to be enhanced, enriched, or repurposed to create an immersive virtual learning experience that takes advantage of what the delivery platform can do, which will involve:
Identifying how content should be built and delivered for a virtual training experience, which may include combining different methods such as video and simulations alongside live demonstrations and presented content
Understanding how new technologies such as virtual or augmented reality could be adopted to further enrich the learning experience and drive improved outcomes
Defining approaches to help with reinforcement, practice, proficiency gain, and so on, which may include group quizzes, games, and interactive assessments
The potential benefits of VILT
Well-designed and immersive virtual learning can offer many of the benefits that traditional face-to-face learning delivers with some advantages, including:
Interactive and repetitive “do and learn”: interactivity is proven to result in more effective knowledge transfer and improved retention
Realistic learning through simulations: the use of realistic simulations helps to ensure learners are better equipped to take on real-world challenges
Truly immersive learning: the use of technologies such as virtual or augmented reality can deliver an extremely realistic learning experience and help improve the outcomes for learners
Openness: the ability for learners to ask the instructor a question privately can help to promote openness and eliminate the tendency for learners to avoid asking questions due to fear of being embarrassed
Reduced risk: the use of a virtual environment can address the need to perform high-risk training in a face-to-face setting (e.g. where it involves dealing with toxic or flammable substances)
Improved intervention: the adoption of simulations and online assessments enables better collection of data on learner interactions that supports earlier intervention from the instructor and more focused remedial action
Automated recording of learner attendance and achievement: it is possible to automate the process of recording learner attendance and the outcomes of assessments via the online platform, especially where a learning management system is used to drive the training event
More cost-effective training: training can be delivered without the need for people to travel to a physical training location which saves on the cost of facilities, travel and non-operational time, typically delivering positive impacts on ROI
Adopting VILT as a component of the overall training strategy can deliver excellent results when used appropriately and with well-designed training content. However, it’s important to develop a strategy for how VILT will be adopted before embarking on the journey and understand how it will impact on the roles of content developers, instructors and learners. Finally, it is crucial that front-line staff, in particular instructors, are given sufficient training in the tools they will be using.
DNASTREAM is focused on delivering sustainable business benefit from IT projects through a key focus on ensuring end users embrace the process of change and are fully equipped and motivated to adopt new technology. Through the design and implementation of comprehensive end user training programmes, supported by appropriate approaches and technologies, DNASTREAM helps its clients to address the challenges associated with achieving transformational change, rolling out enterprise application and establishing new ways of working.