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Virtual Training: Top 10 Questions From Program Managers and Directors

The way we think of learning has changed forever. Workshops, presentations, and courses have been through a major shift in the last year. Now almost everyone is involved in some kind of virtual training. That trend is likely to continue.

This trend has caused many managers to reach out for advice. Most often, they start asking how to best deliver training to their healthcare teams who are learning from home—or at least not in a conference room anymore.

Below is a list of answers to the top 10 most common questions we’ve gotten from program managers, directors, HR representatives, and other administrators in the past year.

If you’re one of the many who looks at delivering online training materials successfully as an essential skill, this list is for you. You might also like to read about some common acronyms connected with online learning in this article. Read on for tools and resources to keep your team engaged. You’ll also learn how to plan and run a successful virtual training program.

10 of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Virtual Training

  1. What is virtual training?
  2. How do you keep people engaged during online learning?
  3. What equipment do I need for virtual training?
  4. What are the most common ways to access virtual training content?
  5. Who can facilitate virtual training?
  6. Is virtual training effective for professionals?
  7. What are the benefits of virtual training?
  8. How do you organize a virtual training program?
  9. How do you guarantee success in a virtual training program?
  10. Where to start when planning a virtual training program?

1. What is virtual training?

Simply put, it is training conducted online when the instructor and the learners are in two different places. It’s also known as remote learning, e-learning, computer-based training, or instructor-led training.

There are two modalities:

Asynchronous learning: In this style, instructors and learners aren’t online at the same time. The instructor shares a resource and the student uses it at their own pace. This style works best for its flexibility and the fact that anyone can access the resources as needed.

Examples of asynchronous learning:

  • College courses
  • Self-paced courses
  • Instructor-led classrooms
  • Bulletin boards or discussion forums
  • Communities of practice

Synchronous learning: The students and instructor connect live on their preferred platform (which can be as simple as a video call service) and interact in real time. This style is best for collaboration and engagement as it allows real-time feedback and conversation.

Examples of synchronous learning:

  • Webinar
  • Live discussions or chats
  • Live online classrooms
  • Meetings
  • Presentations

Many virtual training programs include a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning. They use set “live” hours every week with extra materials for students to review in their own time. This makes the live sessions more effective. Everyone understands the topics that will be covered ahead of time.

2. How do you keep people engaged during online learning?

Keeping a virtual team engaged is important so they maximize the skill-building you’re giving them. You can read a list of proven ways to motivate distance learners in professional development. Start by practicing these tips to connect with your team remotely:

  • Nurture communication: One challenge of online learning is the lack of interaction. Create a sense of connection by encouraging your team to communicate and share thoughts about their training and other aspects of their lives. Here are some ways to improve communication.
  • Encourage a team effort: The physical distance in your team also makes it hard for impromptu collaboration to happen. Not everything needs to be a group project, but you can increase collaboration with encouraging exchanges, questions, and even brainstorming sessions. This helps your team work together.
  • Create ways to connect: Thanks to tools like Slack and other instant messaging platforms, it’s easier than ever to remain connected virtually. Many teams use these channels to imitate casual in-person exchanges. For example, a “Water cooler chat” room is an easy way to open space for casual conversation online.

3. What equipment is needed for remote learning?

Anyone with access to technology can attend virtual training. Most people also have in their pockets or on their desk the right kind of equipment to do an online course. Most courses require:

  • A computer or laptop, or even a mobile phone if that’s what you’ve got
  • An internet connection
  • Audio equipment, such as speakers or earbuds
  • A way of viewing documents, such as PDFs or other documents

4. What are the most common ways of accessing virtual training content?

There are multiple ways to access virtual training content:

  • Self-guided training: A lesson that each learner goes through independently.
  • Instructor-led online training: A semi-self-directed course but with a facilitator or instructor.
  • Recorded lessons: The instructor records a video to share with students.
  • Live streaming lessons: Using conference or video call tools (Skype, Zoom, Join.me, and many more), the instructor and learners meet to discuss a topic live.
  • Downloads: The instructor prepares PDFs, documents, and other files to easily share content for students to work.

Read about creating an annual training plan for your program.

Who can facilitate virtual training?

Often professors, professional instructors, peers, and subject matter experts facilitate virtual training.

But also people who are good at communicating with teams and guiding conversations can be good facilitators. They should know the material well, however.

Just like for in-person training, you should always look for a qualified individual, a strongly developed curriculum, and the legal credentials to back up the program. Read more about hiring skilled facilitators vs. training existing staff.

6. Is virtual training effective for professionals?

Yes, it is effective—if it’s done right. Some agencies define “virtual training” as emailing a PDF document to participants. That doesn’t have the same instructional value as an online course built with learning objectives, interactive elements, and assessments.

Many people earn full university degrees—from associates’ to doctorates purely online. They’re well-educated people who have the same dedication and knowledge as their counterparts who sat through classroom lectures.

Remote learning is especially important in some circumstances, such as in rural areas or during global pandemics.

7. What are the benefits of virtual training?

One of the main benefits of virtual training is the flexibility it offers to participants. Online learning programs make it easy for anyone to attend and complete their education. They can do it around their other responsibilities, including jobs and family life.

Another benefit of remote training programs is that costs are often lower than in-person training, especially in the long run. Factor in reduced commute times, books, out-of-home meals, and changes in your work schedule, and it’s easy to see why virtual training is successful.

Virtual training programs have become a go-to for professionals and are here to stay.

8. Where do I start when planning a virtual training program?

The first step in creating an online training initiative is performing a training needs assessment of your public health workforce. This is essential for creating professional development opportunities that will improve the knowledge, competence, and effectiveness of your staff.

Before you do anything to train your staff, find out what your stakeholders need from a program and what your employees need to learn. This will help you create a program that has a greater chance of success.

Then you can begin looking at curriculum, vendors, and the best technology for your needs.

9. How long should a virtual training session last?

The average person can stay focused and engaged for 45 to 60 minutes before they need a break. Think about the meetings you’ve attended, and how long you’ve been able to sit in your seat without your mind wandering or needing to stretch your legs. 

The most effective online lessons are broken into chunks to make it easy to work through them. Building modules of 30 minutes to 45 minutes are a good guideline.

10. How do you guarantee success in a virtual training program?

The key to a successful virtual training program is keeping your learners engaged. Without that engagement, they won’t learn. Plus the return on investment won’t be good.

Some ways to boost engagement in remote learning are:

  1. Create check-ins to get participant feedback.
  2. Partner new learners with more experienced workers.
  3. Include stakeholders in planning and goal-setting.
  4. Create a team for your program, so you’re not the only one responsible.

Curious about remote learning?

Submit a question to a learning professional now. You can also ask questions on the Talance page on LinkedIn.

How to Create an Annual Training Plan for Your Program

Every year brings a new cycle of best practices, guidelines, mandatory education, and professional learning goals. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of requirements and aspirations and either over-train your staff for tasks they’ll never do, or skip over essential skills that would help them do their job better.

The answer is to create an annual training plan. This should be a document will be your navigation system for organizing, delivering, and repeating employee instruction whenever you need it.

If you create an annual training plan, then you can include requirements that come up year after year (e.g., HIPAA compliance) and also have a pathway for introducing new topics to keep building the skills of your team.

Follow these five steps, and you’ll be on your way to an effective learning program that becomes easier to achieve with each passing year.

COVID-19 & Women's Health: What You Need To Know

1. Consult Your Training Needs Assessment

The first step in starting an annual training plan for your program is to look at the training needs assessment to see what your team needs to know.

Finding out what your stakeholders need from a program and what your employees need to learn will make sure that everything fits together and supports your ultimate goals.

For example, imagine you run an HIV/AIDS program and the main goal of your program is to reduce the number of new HIV infections annually. Work backwards from there to come up with skills your team needs to know so you can deliver that to your trainees. This kind of team probably need to know the basics of what HIV/AIDS is, how it affects your community, prevention and treatment, and outreach and communication skills.

You might also want to include additional factors such as:

  • Overall agency goals or vision statement
  • The skills included in job descriptions
  • Compliance requirements, such as those for sexual harassment, HIPAA or patient rights

2. Decide Who Needs Training

Assume you’ve identified what your audience needs to learn. Next, figure out who needs to learn these skills.

Some people will be obvious, such as the people directly working on your program. And others are less obvious, such as other support staff or community partners.

Think about the HIV program example above. If you ran this program, you might need to include in your plan:

  • Yourself, as well as other managers and coordinators from partner programs
  • Case managers
  • Patient navigators
  • Outreach workers
  • Nurses
  • Nonprofit community partners
  • Members of a multidisciplinary team

You can group stakeholders with your infrastructure, because they will also have requirements you’ll need to address, such as the ability to become self-supporting with your new courses.

3. Optimize for Training Your Adult Learners

Keep adult learners engaged and help them retain what they learn by exposing them to the right kind of training materials. Some people define the word “training” very broadly, from a semester of college classes to a single PDF.

Keep adult learning principles in mind, and your staff will perform much better. Adult learning is relevant to the job, career and personal goals, task-oriented, interactive and usually self-directed.

Look at your training plan as a way to capture what works and repeat it in future offerings. It’s a great idea store the training materials in various formats to appeal to people who learn best in different ways. Some examples:

  • Written process documents especially used exactly when needed. An example would be a protocol for intakes on the phone, which is kept by the phone.
  • Screen shorts of video captures of process, live presentations, or demonstrations by in-house or outsourced experts.
  • Hosted elearning that’s available on demand. A learning management system (LMS) makes it easy to standardize training for everyone and is at hand whenever new hires need it or when veterans need an update. An LMS is a platform that you can use to deliver, track, and report on your training efforts.
  • Hands-on experience to bring the theory of training into practice. Give your staff the opportunity and chance to work on their new skills, and assign mentors and coaches to answer questions and provide guidance.

4. Connect All Parts of the Process

The point of creating an annual training plan is to work it into a repeatable cycle that supports overall goals. Here’s a structure that fits many agencies:

connect all parts of the process

Start with the needs assessment or competency assessment to identify gaps to be filled with training.

Then find the areas for improvement and build those onto the employee’s individual training plan for their job.

That will go into an employee’s overall professional development plan, which is a chart for that person’s career at your agency.

Every year, check progress against these plans in an annual performance review, identifying areas to focus on for the coming year.

By building structure into your training plan for the year, you’ll get results and be ready for many years to come.

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17 Questions to Ask in a Training Needs Assessment

Performing a training needs assessment of your public health workforce is an important first step in creating an online training initiative. It’s essential for creating the kinds of professional development opportunities that will improve the knowledge, competence, and effectiveness of your staff.

Before you do anything to train your staff, find out what your stakeholders need from a program and what your employees need to learn. This will help you create a program that has a greater chance of success.

Training Needs Assessment Tips

Too many programs either skip the step of performing a needs assessment (read more on the important step of performing a needs analysis), or they make mistakes when doing one. Such messiness could set the tone for your entire program. It will leave you with participants who spend more time looking at their phones than engaging with learning content. Even worse than unsatisfied students is wasted funds.

One common mistake is looking too narrowly at your organization when documenting needs. For example, some administrators know they need to address a knowledge gap because of compliance requirements or industry guidelines. But they forget to consider if they have enough qualified trainers to handle a new online program. They assume that uploading a PDF to the website will be enough to train all their staff. Looking at only one piece of the puzzle will solve exactly one piece.

When employers start planning for an online training program, they should minimally start by looking at what their students need, what their organization needs, and what kind of technology needs. Likely, your organization will have more factors you’ll need to assess.

Your Capacity for Needs Assessments

Training a public health workforce is complex. Needs and wants of the entire agency is confusing. But you might already know how to do this.

Many programs have internal capacity for needs assessments that they forget they already know. Many public health programs, for example, are required to perform community needs assessments. If this is you, you’re already used to finding out what kinds of strategies can make positive health improvement in a community.

You can think about the skills you already have and instead of focusing them on external community members, turn them around to your own staff.

To provide some value to your initiative, we’re suggesting some questions you can ask to get the most from your new training program.

Questions to Ask in a Training Needs Assessment

Find out what your employees need to learn new skills.

Assess what your learners need to know. You might have internal requirements, such as yearly sexual harassment training, or a need for continuing education credits to keep certifications up to date. Or you may have results-based needs, such as finding a way for employees to serve more clients in a shorter amount of time. Looking at gaps in learning will help you identify how to address them.

You can ask your students what they want to learn, but proceed down this road with caution. Sometimes, they don’t know what they need and lack the terminology to tell you, or have very little experience with (or love of) online learning.

Your job is to discover their core needs quickly and succinctly. Here are a few questions to begin with:

  1. On a scale of one to 10, how do you feel about your skill level related to your job?
  2. Why did you give yourself that score?
  3. Do you feel that you can handle your current scope of work?

Determine gaps in your infrastructure.

Assume you’ve identified what your audience needs to learn, and then back up and see what weaknesses you see in your infrastructure to make that happen. For example, you might need to hire a new fleet of trainers with skills in online teaching strategies. Or, your grant has reporting requirements, and you’ll need evaluation tools to address them. You can group stakeholders with your infrastructure, because they will also have requirements you’ll need to address, such as the ability to become self-supporting with your new courses.

Try questions like these:

  1. What are the skills necessary for this program to succeed?
  2. How many staff members have the skills necessary for this program to succeed?
  3. What hiring needs does our program have now?
  4. What hiring needs will out program need in the next month/quarter/year?
  5. Is there a process for identifying future training and professional development of the workforce?
  6. What could prevent the project team from learning these skills?
  7. What barriers could prevent this program from succeeding, past, present, and future?

Consider access requirements for training.

Knowing what your needs are for learning and for your infrastructure will help greatly when you analyze what kind of delivery mechanism will work best for your agency. Then you can begin to decide if you need self-paced learning, will offer courses with instruction, are looking to build a blended-learning program, what kind of data you need, etc. When you have a list of digital tools and features you need, you can measure them against providers and vendors that can help address those.

Here are some questions to help with access requirements:

  1. Does training need to be done in person?
  2. Can training be done remotely?
  3. How soon does training need to be completed?
  4. What internal training resources already exist?
  5. What content formats work best with employees?
  6. What about learner backgrounds needs to be taken into account, for example language requirements?
  7. Can employees move through the training at their own pace?

Remember that a needs assessment is just the beginning. Look at it as the launching point for a deep investigation into what it will take for your program to succeed. Jumping into something for the sake of it might seem like the fast solution, but you’ll be glad you took the time to look deeply into your requirements before you begin building.

This post was updated December 12, 2020. It originally appeared May 30. 2014

How to Write Survey Quiz Questions: A Guide

By Gabrielle Carrero
Feedback is one of the best ways you can enhance your program, whether it’s an assessment in a training program or a survey aimed at your community members as part of user research.

When you ask your learners to complete a survey or assessment, you can learn the opinions, perspectives, and judgements of your practices and programs directly from the people who use them.

You should have clear objectives of what you want to learn from participants before deciding what types of questions you want to use. When you can define those goals, you can begin to choose what types of questions will yield appropriate data.

This article will introduce you to the most common types of questions used in assessments and surveys and help you decide which will get you the feedback you want. We’ve included examples and suggestions to help you create your own.

Types of questions

In the question hierarchy, there are two types:

  1. Close-ended questions that produce quantitative data. These can be answered with a “yes” or “no” or have a limited set of answers, as in a multiple-choice quiz.
  2. Open-ended questions that produce qualitative data. These allow someone to give freeform responses, usually in a sentence, paragraph, or longer.

Open-ended questions are helpful when you don’t want to influence the kind of response you’re looking to collect. You might use these when doing research into a community’s needs or asking for suggestions.

When testing learners in assessments, prioritize close-ended survey questions. They produce the most manageable results. You will also learn where open-ended questions fit in the design of your survey.

Close-ended survey questions

Close-ended survey questions provide a fixed set of options. Data from close-ended questions is quantitative and can be calculated into figures like percentages, statistics, or scores.

Common close-ended questions include:

  • multiple-choice questions
  • rating scale questions
  • Likert scale questions
  • semantic differential questions
  • ranking questions
  • dichotomous questions

Read on for more information about each type of question and examples.

Multiple-choice questions

Multiple-choice questions are questions with a pool of answers. They produce clean data for you to analyze and are easiest for participants to complete. Here’s an example from a behavioral health course:

When creating multiple-choice questions, it is important to create a direct and simple question with a comprehensive set of answers. Do your best to create answers that cover all options but do not overlap with one another.

One way to avoid biased results and limitations in your answer set is to give the respondent an “Other” option. Although adding an option for “Other” may not allow the data to be as neat, participants can offer a perspective you have not considered.

Another consideration to make when developing multiple-choice questions is to decide whether you want a single answer or allow multiple answers.

Multiple choice = only one correct option

Multiple answer = more than one correct option

Use single-answer questions when you want the respondent to make one choice. You may only want a single-answer because you want the participant to make a decision or because there is only one answer to choose like age. In general, multiple-choice questions are effective for collecting demographic information.

Use multiple-answer questions when you want participants to select all answers that apply. For instance, participants can select more than one service or product they use.

The example above could be rephrased as a multiple-answer question this way:

Choose all of the examples of items that can make someone more at risk of a behavioral health disorder.

Rating scales

Rating scale questions allow participants to rate or assign weight to an answer choice. Use rating scale questions when you want to learn what a respondent thinks or feels across a scale.

An example of this is a confidence scale about health self-management:

Source: Howsyourhealth.org

When using a rating scale question, you are asking the respondent to measure where their response lies a scale like 0 to 10, 1 to 5, or 0 to 100. You might ask the participant to rate their happiness, satisfaction, likeliness to do something, and experience with your organization.

Rating scale questions can be an effective tool to evaluate change, growth, or progress over time.

For example, if you utilize them as an assessment tool at the beginning of a new program, you can use the same question later or at a final stage of a program to measure changes in sentiment among participants.

When designing the rating scale question, the scale must clearly label the difference in relationship between the numbers.  If you choose a rating scale between 0 and 10, what will 0 represent and what will 10 represent?

Likert scales

A Likert scale measures a participant’s agreement with a question or statement. They are useful for measuring attitudes and behaviors because they ask the respondent to select how much they agree or disagree.

Here’s an example from a quantitative patient survey:

A Likert scale question is a type of rating scale question, but it specifically labels each answer with a level of agreement or likelihood from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” or “not at all likely” to “highly likely.”

Use Likert scale questions to measure participant attitudes, opinions, and beliefs and use the 5- or 7-point scale with clear labels.

Semantic differential questions

A semantic differential question is another tool for rating and understanding opinion and attitudes. It asks participants to rate something on a scale between two opposing statements, and emphasizes two opposite adjectives at each end.

You see these questions in customer satisfaction surveys, as in the Net Promoter Score:

Semantic differential questions help you gather multiple impressions about one subject area.

For instance, you would define polar opposite statements like strong-weak, love-hate, exceptional-terrible, expensive-cheap, likely to return-unlikely to return, or satisfied-unsatisfied and include multi-point options in between.

You can acquire multiple attitudes about a service like “What is your impression of Service A?” and have options rate between “Hard to Use” to “Easy to Use,” “Weak” to “Strong,” and “Cheap” to “High Quality,” all to learn more about Service A.

Use semantic differential questions when you want to collect many opinions in one question.

Ranking

Ranking questions lets participants compare list items with another and assign an order of preference to them.

Ranking question data will show the level of priority or importance multiple items has to them, but will not offer insight into “why.”

If you want to look closely at individual respondent preference, then a ranking question is appropriate because it shows the relationship of how much they prefer one option to another. This can be more difficult when analyzing large sets of data because instead of learning how much more an item is preferred to another, the data would offer insight into what item is generally preferred.

Use ranking scale questions to learn what your participant values and prioritizes most.

Dichotomous questions

Dichotomous survey questions gives respondents two answers to choose from such as Yes/No and True/False.

These questions are simple and quick for respondents to answer, and they offer you clean data to analyze. The weakness of dichotomous questions is there is no room for preference, and leaves you little to interpret.

Use a dichotomous question if you want a participant to make a strict decision.

Open-ended questions

Instead of giving participants a set of answers to choose from, open-ended questions allow participants to respond in their own words in a text box. We use these in evaluation surveys often.

The data from open-ended questions is qualitative and less focused on measurement.

Open-ended question responses offer insight into learner impressions, opinions, motivations, challenges, and attitudes. They do take a level of interpretation on your end, and it may help to put their answer in context with any information provided about themselves and their other survey selections.

Although open-ended questions and qualitative data require more attention, they can fill gaps in the story of what your survey wants to learn. You can pair an open-ended question with a close-ended question to understand more about their decision: “What is the reason for your selection/score/ranking?” You may also include them independently: “How do you think you can improve as a business?”

The general advice is to use open-ended questions sparingly and strategically.

Like creating any kind of educational or survey content, coming up with effective and clear assessments takes practice. Great training content is always a work in progress.