7 Ways to Build Participation in Remote Training

Everyone is better at delivering training online than a year ago. But given the amount of instructor-led training (ILT) that’s moved to virtual training, many learners aren’t as engaged as they should be. Add to that disruptions while working from home, and it can be a good time investment to think about ways to keep participants engaged in remote learning.

Engagement varies widely, depending on the course and who’s taking it. And there’s no one way to make sure that your participants are actively involved. However, there are a few guidelines and communication strategies you can follow that will help make your training stick.

1. Ask early and often for feedback in multiple ways.

Asking for feedback is a proven strategy for increasing engagement. The best part is that you can ask for feedback no matter what format your training is in: if you have virtual instructor-led training (VILT) with a facilitator or if you have purely self-paced lessons. It’s simply a matter of checking in.

You can use many different methods—simple or complex–to get feedback from participants, including:

  • A forum designed for general thoughts
  • A survey at the end of the course
  • Polls throughout the training. For example, ask how relevant they think information is or how long it took them to complete a module.
  • Asking for thumbs-up or thumbs-down emojis on your team chat channel
  • Direct questions about how the material relates to their work
what did you like best about this course

2. Make sure supervisors participate too.

Participants’ supervisors are critically important to the success of any learner’s training. Supervisors need to be included from the beginning. At the very least, supervisors set expectations for training, answer questions and make sure employees participate. This goes for stakeholders too, who want to make sure their training investment pays off.

They can also take a more hands-on approach to training by answering specific questions that arise in the course. They can make time in the employee’s schedule for learning. With many healthcare professions, supervisors also need to demonstrate procedures or supplement training with information about internal policies.

Consider enlisting superiors as coaches for the best results. Create a related course that supervisors are also required to follow.

3. Enlist peers for training.

Peer training is one of the best ways to drive home skill building. Top-down instruction is fine, but sometimes employees listen to their coworkers more closely.

This is partly because coworkers can relate to each other in a unique way. They have a good idea of how their job works within the organization, what their clients or patients might need, and other critical knowledge that might not be included in the core content. And peers can be less intimidating than bosses.

Peer-to-peer training is especially helpful in new hire situations or when you’re trying to build rapport among team members.

4. Set training and development benchmarks.

If your course is skills-based, first take measurements of where staff skills are. Tell your employees why their skills are being measured. Then upon completion, measure progress against your benchmark.

One idea is to assess ability with one task during performance appraisals. Employees will also equate the course with an overall job requirement. These benchmarks can be coupled with performance reviews and job goals. They may also be part of larger initiatives, such as quality improvement projects.

5. Offer rewards.

There’s a reason so many coffee shops offer punch cards: rewards work. Think about what incentives for completing training will motivate your participants to finish. Make sure to focus on rewards rather than penalties.

Successful rewards we’ve seen are completion certificates or industry certification. Even simple public commendations for completion, such as on the company Slack channel, are surprisingly motivating.

Some other ideas are:

  • Friendly competition, including badges and leaderboards
  • Promising new equipment for use on the job
  • Additional training opportunities
  • End-of-course lunches for successful participants
offer rewards

6. Make it relevant.

Participation will drop like a stone if a course doesn’t make sense to the people taking it. Unfortunately, many courses are too general or not addressed to the right group. Make sure training initiatives are aligned with organizational goals and mission first of all.

If you can, develop courses from scratch and after carefully surveying your audience. This will give you the best chance of creating something that is truly tied to your agency’s needs. Staff members also usually appreciate being asked for their feedback and seeing the results being spread to the company. Off-the-shelf courses can also be customized on screen, or they can also be complimented by instruction in the field.

7. Give help and support to those who need it.

Technology scares some people. Be prepared to make it easy to succeed in an online course.

Set up a demonstration before the course begins. Appoint coaches in the workplace who can offer assistance. Give a computer-literacy assessment before the course begins so you have a better idea of who will need additional help.

Originally published October 16, 2014, updated March 15, 2021.

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