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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.

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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How To Make Your Online Training Less Intimidating

 
 

New training technology can be exciting and engaging for health agency employees—really!

If you’re changing the way you do training to a new method that’s different for your team—probably in a conference room with a speaker at the front—your staff might feel intimidated. Change can be scary for some people, but it doesn’t have to be.

Adopting new training technology, such as online courses, means a different mindset for your agency staff. By doing some planning and strategy, you can roll out your new online learning project smoothly and get people trained as quickly as possible.

Here are 9 steps you can follow for the successful implementation of your new elearning program.

1. Cultivate a positive attitude.

Start off by setting the tone for your training program. Convey some excitement and build some anticipation. The right frame of mind helps people adopt new technology and other job changes. Nix any negative attitudes right away. Remind your team that they are capable of learning new things and can succeed.

Think of your new course launch like the premiere of a Hollywood movie, so your employees are enthusiastic to begin.

2. Remind new learners of their existing experience.

Taking a class online is much less challenging than most people realize. Most people take for granted the kind of work they do on a computer, including checking their e-mail, posting to their social media accounts, or typing a document on a computer. With that kind of ability, they won’t have any trouble with an online course. Remind them of that.

Next, address their fear of the unknown by letting them try out the tools and see they’re not so tricky. You could:

  • Use some screen recording software or a tutorial from your vendor to show how to get started.
  • Arrange a presentation to introduce them to the learning system.
  • Let them try it for themselves with a few simple tasks, such as logging in or changing their password.

Once they see the tasks aren’t very different from what they normally do on a computer, their fear factor will reduce considerably.

It’s still a good idea to ask an administrator to be available to new technology users to answer simple questions. You can also offer a computer-readiness quiz at the beginning of class to help pinpoint those who need extra help.

3. Show how the training relates to their job.

Some online trainings are vague and not well targeted. If your staff has had experience with these courses in the past, they might legitimately worry that they’ll have to sit through a course that doesn’t have anything to do with their job duties.

Solve this by relating any new training initiative with clear learning goals that are based on professional development. Then, when you do introduce a new program, it will immediately be relevant.

Be clear when you notify staff about the course that it will help them with X skill–provide real-life examples when possible. For example, tell them, “This new course on health literacy includes worksheets you can download and use to assess clients’ literacy levels.”

4. Put a friendly face to the training.

For some people, the idea of not being able to sit in the same room with an instructor is a big turn-off. The reality is that time away from work in a training room is difficult and expensive, and “remote” learning doesn’t have to feel far away.

If you have a course facilitator, encourage them to introduce themself to your staff and ask them to share information with one another. If it’s an administrator, have them post their picture next to a quick introduction. If there’s no one facilitating, include a picture of a person learning and enjoying it.

This will help build a personal rapport. It can also be helpful to build periodic conference calls into a course, or create virtual office hours, so participants can interact with the instructor. A mentoring structure can help too, if you can pair learners with experienced health workers.

The Office of Healthy Communities at the Washington State Department of Health solves this by presenting their community health workers with a blended learning model: an in-person session followed by an online program. Read more about how their program works.

5. Give your team time to train.

Some learners are happy about the prospect of learning new skills. Others look at training as one more thing they have to add to their to-do list.

You can ease this anxiety by setting aside time for your team to work on their courses.

Also remind them that an online course is far more flexible than an in-person training. Participants can do a bit of work when they have the time, break away to work with a client, and then come back to finish up. If 10 p.m. is a better time to work, they can work at 10 p.m. There’s no travel time.

6. Provide the right equipment.

Health staff are not technology staff, so they naturally don’t have access to the whole range of equipment someone who works in an office all day would. However, the list of equipment most people need for taking an online course is pretty short, and most people either possess or can find access to what they’ll need. The list includes:

  • A computer or smartphone
  • Speakers or headphones
  • A printer if they want to print anything out

Most people can go into an office to access a computer, if necessary, or they can visit their local library. You can make sure participants have their supplies by providing a “things you’ll need to begin” list and then telling them where they can find public access, if necessary.

7. Provide language options.

Many people who don’t speak English as a first language or fluently worry they won’t be able to keep up with a course. In feedback from our courses, we’ve found just the opposite. Because learners can reread text many times, listen to audio or experience the material in different ways, it makes it easier to spend the time necessary to process and understand the course.

If you have a critical mass of workers who need access in one language, you might consider having the course translated or offered in another language.

8. Set some goals.

Setting and reaching goals is important to your staff, who needs to see how their work fits in with the larger objectives of your agency. This is part of the research you should have uncovered in your training needs assessment.

Once you set them, then look at what might make them more difficult to reach. In many cases, there could be a training gap. The gap might be:

  1. Individual. If one person lacks the skills to complete a task, they have an individual training gap. For example your new hire needs to do community outreach for your agency, but they don’t have any outreach skills.
  2. Team. Your whole team might lack skills to carry out an initiative, so they have a team learning gap. An example almost everyone can relate to is setting up new protocols for Covid-19.
  3. Organizational. Entire agencies sometimes have a gap in an area and have an organizational learning gap. Many organizations recognize they have gaps in cultural competency and have needed to supplement training in that area.

Learning goals might even reach into the future, and they can dovetail nicely with personal goals of your team. You can ask your employees what they’d like to learn in the next month, quarter, or year, and then provide them with training opportunities to get there.

9. Support peer learning.

Some employees are afraid they’ll feel isolated by working on a computer and won’t be able to meet the other people in the course. In feedback we’ve received in our courses, we’ve found just the opposite.

One woman, for instance, said she met many more people than she does when she’s in a live training. In a conference room, she talks only to the people sitting on either side of her, but online, she had lengthy and meaningful discourse with everyone in the course.

Online courses are also easily adapted, so you can offer support materials that do relate well to the community. You can ask participants to share personal stories with the group and provide lists of local resources and agencies that they will find useful. The best courses are the ones that reflect the people taking them.

The path to learner engagement.

The best way to address any fear is to acknowledge it, so your staff knows you’re taking them seriously, and then provide examples and evidence to make them feel more at ease. After the first week, most participants will wonder why they were ever worried in the first place.

Originally published June 6, 2014, updated March 08, 2021.

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Checklist: Does Your Team Need Cultural Competency Training?

Every healthcare and wellness organization needs cultural competence training, no matter what. Being able to view clients and patients with an awareness of their cultural background has a huge impact on your agency and also each person’s health.

Cultural competency allows your team to bridge a gap between the people in your community and the healthcare system.

Health Disparities in Populations

This gap in care is down to bias blind spots—sometimes intentional and sometimes implicit or unconscious bias—that leaves out wide swaths of the population.

Too many people have vastly different healthcare experiences because of their race/ethnicity, income, geographic location, sexual preference, or other characteristics. These differences often lead to health disparities in populations.

More African Americans and Latinos, compared to whites, have at least one of seven chronic conditions:

  1. asthma
  2. cancer
  3. heart disease
  4. diabetes
  5. high blood pressure
  6. obesity
  7. anxiety/ depression

Some of this is because they don’t get treated quickly or at all, compared to white populations.

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

Assessing Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Closing the gap in cross-cultural situation means that every single patient or client gets the care they need. Skipping cultural competency training is a sure way for those patients to fall into the gap.

Properly training healthcare and wellness employees will have a better self-awareness of their own biases and the ways that their clients receive inconsistent care base don their cultural beliefs and behaviors.

Knowing that you need cultural competence training at your work is step one. Assessing in what areas individuals might need extra training is step two.

Below is a checklist you can use as a basic starting point to see what are the general goals of a competency training program and where you might need help. Here is a list of many more assessments specific for different languages and working situations for a deeper dive.

Print out or save copies of this checklist and give it to your team members. Let them know that it’s not a quiz, it’s just a tool for assessing. They don’t need to add their name or even show it to you if they don’t want to. It’s just a way to rate a person’s level of cultural competency. Start now by taking it yourself.

Cultural Competency Self-Assessment

scoring
Scoring

Look at the number of checks in the “strongly agree” and “agree” columns. These reflect a higher level of competency. Think about signing up for training to improve those areas where there are checks in “neither agree nor disagree,” “disagree” and “strongly disagree.”

Ongoing Training

Cultural competency training isn’t a one-and-done event. Learning is a process with plenty of on-the-job practice that should extend throughout a person’s employment. Make sure you’re following the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care (PDF) and put together an ongoing training plan to keep improving.

Your community’s health will improve.

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18 Ways To Motivate Distance Learners in Professional Development

Your agency has probably restructured at least some of its professional development training as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. You may have shifted to online learning or at least holding some trainings via remote platforms like Zoom.

It’s handy to have a distance learning safety net so you can keep passing information on to your staff. But just because the technology is there doesn’t mean your team’s motivation is too. Times are tough, they might not be engaged in the same way as usual.

Even in normal times, it’s tough to keep learners motivated in an elearning course. For starters, visual cues are hard to read from a distance, so instructors have trouble responding on an individual basis. Many self-guided courses are lackluster and not tied to learning goals, so they can be hard for participants to follow.

How to motivate learners

The secret to motivating learners is to hit them from all directions, and make sure every step is designed to promote enthusiasm in what they’re learning.

In general terms, this means ensuring your staff knows why they’re taking a training and that the value is clear. It also means giving them educational materials that are designed for adult learners. Grown-ups need to juggle competing demands, preferred learning styles, and their own familiarity with the delivery method.

Following is a list of ways you can create an environment that encourages learning and help staff feel inspired to build their own skills.

1. Make sure training is relevant for their job.

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. Learning new skills can keep employees engaged and dedicated to their jobs. It helps if you can merge training with staff learning goals.

2. Get buy-in from supervisors.

Participants’ supervisors need to be included from the beginning. A supervisor can make sure employees participate and also help answer any questions that arise in the course. Consider enlisting superiors as coaches for the best results.

3. Build anticipation for the course.

Treat your training launch with some showmanship. Deliver some teasers ahead of schedule that let participants know something exciting is coming up.

4. Promise a reward.

Some training needs to be done, no matter what, such as HIPAA or privacy rights. But you can tie a reward to successful completion in other modules. This might be a certificate of completion, some paid time off, new equipment for use on the job, additional training opportunities, or end-of-course lunches.

5. Allow time in their schedule for learning.

Allow an afternoon or a certain number of hours to complete training. This helps if they have a busy schedule that competes with their attention.

6. Set 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.

7. Share learning objectives.

Frame the training by sharing what the course will be about and give staff a target. If they know what they should be learning ahead of time, that helps them know what they should focus on.

8. Ask learners to set their own goals.

Similar to the above tip, you can encourage learners to state what they want to get out of the course. Thinking about how the material fits in with their life can help make it more relevant.

9. Call and/or email all participants at the start of class. 

Tell your staff from the beginning that you hope to connect with them as an individual and are invested in their success in the course.

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

10. Cultivate a warm classroom where you, as the facilitator, are present and reachable. 

Provide your phone number and/or a frequently checked email account that your participants can rely on reaching you in a timely manner. Many people are unsure of online learning and nervous about taking courses. This strategy helps overcome their fears and boosts their contribution.

11. Nominate a champion.

Encourage community participation by asking participants to elect an “Inspirational Class Captain” to post motivational quotes in each module. The blog tool or the discussion Forum is a good place for this contribution.

12. Ask early and often what participants think.

A survey at the end of the course is good. Asking them throughout the course how the material relates to their work is even better. Learners will often forget details by the end of a course. Check in with polls that ask how relevant they think information is or how long it took them to complete a module. Also create a forum designed for general thoughts, and ask your instructor to get in the habit of asking for feedback.

13. Talk to participants.

Offer Skype, Zoom, or chat sessions to participants on a weekly basis. Offering these as set office hours is a great way to motivate participants to ask questions they need immediate answers to and to engage with you when they otherwise might not have.

14. Be careful with feedback.

Provide consistent, positive feedback and frame all negative feedback with a positive tone.

15. Offer “extra credit” activities/games each week if possible. 

Even if participants aren’t participating in the course for grades, very short quizzes can be pitched as games that add a layer of fun to the module and help to motivate the participants to continue on.

16. Include partners.

Create peer groups or peer partnerships to encourage collaboration and class participation. This could be community partners or interagency partners. You can use the Groups tool to create private collaboration space.

17. Follow up often.

Identify low participating participants and respond more to their posts to show that you’re tuned into them. Call and/or email participants who are not participating in class to show that you’re concerned about their presence in the classroom and offer support to help them succeed. 

18. Give help.

Technology scares some people. Be prepared to make it easy to succeed in an online course. Read some more tips about making your course accessible for people who have visual or physical limitations. 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 July 3, 2014, updated February 12, 2021.

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10 Tips for Making Your Online Training, Meetings, and Programs Successful

An online format for connecting with your staff is now the new norm. Agencies have spent the past year adapting traditional professional development and in-person meetings to online training and meetings when plans can still be uncertain.

[Read more: How to Create an Annual Training Plan for Your Program]

True, face-to-face trainings can make it feel easier to communicate and read the reactions of others in the room. But by following some best practices, you can keep your team connected and up-to-date on their education while avoiding disruptions and increasing engagement.

Remote training and meeting sessions aren’t identical to in-person education and events, but the good news is that distance learning systems and educational technology (EdTech) platforms are better than ever before. Here are some ways to make online meetings, workshops, and programs effective and productive. So, lower your anxiety levels and read on for 10 tips that will help you get more value out of your virtual training.

10 Tips for Making Your Online Training, Meetings, and Programs Successful

  1. Choose the Right Tool for the Training
  2. Optimize the Content
  3. Make a Plan
  4. Consider Time Zones and Schedules
  5. Send a Welcome Message
  6. Navigate Spam Filters
  7. Practice, Practice, Practice
  8. Keep Participants Engaged
  9. Provide Contact with Mentors or Coaches
  10. Follow up

1. Choose the Right Tool for the Session

The most important decision when you move training online is what tool you’ll use to offer it. Different situations and materials call for different solutions (you can learn more about what elearning platform works best for your needs with a training needs assessment).

If you’re doing a one-off training that takes no more than 1.5 hours, a webinar is a good choice, and you can use a tool like GoToMeeting, Join.me, Uber Conference, or Zoom. Learn more about a few popular video conferencing services.

If you need to repeat the training, need to offer certificates, or need more in-depth training, then self-guided online education is the solution you need. The fastest and easiest way to train your staff without being in the same room is through a learning and training subscription. Learning subscriptions are helpful so you’re not reinventing the wheel every time you train every worker.

A learning subscription lets you begin training within a few days. It’s a digital learning solution that provides 24/7 access to a complete catalog of interactive training courses and videos for anyone on your team who needs to build skills or meet training requirements. Learning subscriptions are helpful for existing and new hires because they make it easy to stay current as health recommendations are constantly changed and revised.

2. Optimize the Content

When the world started meeting and learning online, organizations had to find a way to present that information immediately. This meant that much of that information was poorly suited for online delivery. When you know what kind of platform you have, examine your content and make sure it fits the delivery platform.

3. Make a Plan

Unless you’re a pro at holding online trainings and meetings, having a careful plan is the key to a smooth event. A project plan helps you assign tasks, collaborate with others, increase engagement, and remove stress for everyone. Even if you’re the only one holding your online event, you should plot out the sequence of events and when they should happen.

At a minimum, include these main categories in an elearning project plan, including task, milestone, and person responsible. Here are some example categories for an online training event:

  • Registration
  • Text or content writing
  • Graphic design
  • Platform set up
  • Rehearsal
  • Follow-up

4. Consider Time Zones and Schedules

Nearly everyone has mixed up meeting times with someone in a different time zone. Consider where your online learners are in the US when you set your event, and think about when people are free.

You might even survey your participants to find out when it’s most convenient for them to meet. There are a lot of good scheduling tools out there, but Doodle is a good one that’s easy to use:

virtual training

5. Send a Welcome Message

Welcome messages help you set expectations and highlight anything important when people are most attentive. If you’re hosting a meeting, then send a reminder and an agenda instead. This can help participants feel more comfortable with the online training or meeting format.

Use your welcome message to give participants a quick preview of the virtual event, give them contact information, prerequisites, and give them major deadlines they can copy into their calendars.

6. Navigate Spam Filters

Spam filters are notorious for blocking messages from anyone, especially if your team works at a healthcare facility, which seem to have even more strict blocking measures. Double-down on your notifications and messaging by sending in multiple formats: email, automatic notification, Slack, text.

You might even reach out to your participants via their personal email addresses if possible, since so many people are home and might not have access to their work email accounts.

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7. Practice, Practice, Practice

Before you step into that virtual meeting space, know what you’re doing by practicing, multiple times if needed. This will give you a chance to try out new technology tools, new material, and be ready for unplanned events.

“Find a group of people who will support your learning curve and practice with the technology. Ideally you gather a group large enough to practice different features of the platform you’ve selected, such as organizing breakout rooms” advises Laura Wells, a trainer who regularly delivers leadership training around San Francisco in person.

She has started delivering distance training sessions for clients, and is currently planning to deliver an exceptional virtual format of the Search Inside Yourself program (details at info@awakeinbusiness.com) for which she is a certified teacher. She needed to quickly get up-to-speed in April when one training was rapidly converted to an online format.

“Practicing saved the day,” she says.

“It’s tricky to switch smoothly between screen sharing of content to organizing breakout rooms without losing focus (yours and the participants). Going through that a few times in practice made it much less awkward during the live training,” Wells says. “I was so happy to get through the awkwardness with friends first! And that first April session received excellent evaluation marks from the participants.”

Some tools, such as GoToWebinar, let you start events in practice mode without leading a live session. Even if you fake your own practice mode, run through the event with other presenters, moderators, hosts, and organizers to perfect it before your participants show up.

“I also think a benefit of the practice session with friends is stress management. You don’t feel so alone in it. Sitting in your living room facilitating a training can feel a bit surreal,” Wells says. “It’s great to have the practice people already there in the room with you.”

8. Keep Participants Engaged

For some people, the idea of not being able to sit in the same room with an presenter is a big turn-off. “Remote” learning doesn’t have to feel far away if you focus on building community with your online group.

Encourage the presenter to introduce themselves to your staff and ask them to share information with one another. This will help build a personal rapport. It can also be helpful to build periodic conference calls into a course, or create virtual office hours, so participants can interact with the presenter. A mentoring structure can help too, if you can pair participants with experienced workers.

Some other best practices for increasing engagement:

  • Ask early and often what participants think.
  • Offer rewards, such as certificates or CEUs.
  • Ask everyone to turn on their video cameras to help everyone connect with each other.
  • Remind participants to be in a quiet place, mute themselves when not speaking, and use a headset.

9. Provide Contact with Mentors or Coaches

If an employee works in an office or clinic, they have regular contact with managers or coaches and can use new skills with their supervisors right away. Some remote workers don’t have regular access to supervisors or mentors, so what they pick up in class could sit stagnant. This is one of several hidden challenges of training remote learners.

If mentors aren’t in the participants’ communities, put them there, at least virtually. This could mean setting up phone calls with a coach to discussion implementation of the skills or requiring regular online check-ins through the forums or email. A little extra attention, and accountability, can make a big difference in a team member implementing what they learned faster and better.

10. Follow Up

When you’re finished, follow up with participants right away. Ask them for feedback so you can improve your next session. If you’ve taught them new skills, find out how and where they’re applying them and what they might still need to know.

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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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How To Make Training Investments Really Pay Off

Most agencies think training is important for their employees—but many think it applies only to onboarding. You may find where you work that after the first few months of someone’s employment (or volunteer position), training tapers off. Daily tasks start to seem more important than training investments.

→ Free Presentation: Women’s Health and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Not so. Agencies like yours have many reasons to keep up on professional development opportunities through the entire duration of a person’s employment.

Train your staff the whole time they’re employed.

Training your staff throughout the year, and throughout their employ is an investment that will pay off. Here are three compelling reasons:

  1. It’s what employees want. Investment in training is one of the top reasons workers apply to organizations. If you making it clear you’ll offer these professional development opportunities in job ads and through the interviewing process, you’ll get more applicants who are dedicated and come ready to offer their new skills.
  2. It sparks motivation. Learning new skills can keep employees engaged and dedicated to their jobs. It really helps if you can merge training with staff learning goals.
  3. It creates qualified employees If you invest in training for your existing staff, you can hire and promote from within. Hiring processes are expensive and time-consuming. Tapping into current talent is a shortcut that can pay off, and if you know the employee, you also have an idea of their work ethic and dedication.

Let your staff use their new skills.

We recently conducted a survey of a professional development course we offered. The results were positive:

  • 70% said the course gave them the tools they directly needed for work
  • 90% said they had significantly increased competence in the topic
  • one person said they used the course to kick-start a syringe exchange program in their community

Exactly the kinds of results we love to see.

But when we asked how much importance learners’ managers placed on the skills and concepts they picked up, the results were less encouraging. More than a third said their managers did little to let them use their new skills.

Uh oh.

Investing in training for your health staff is a smart move. It sets employers to have loyal, motivated workers who can do more on the job. Companies that invest $1500 or more for training, per employee per year, average 24 percent higher profits than companies with lower yearly training investments, according to HR Magazine. These figures are proof that training serves the organization well and increases the health of the community.

While many employers recognize the value of investing in training, too many neglect this second step. They have to let people use what they’ve learned. Health worker training is of little use when that education ends with the last day of class.

Here’s the secret to making sure investments in training pay off: make it easy for employees to learn, make it easy for them to share that knowledge, and set you and your staff up for success.

Review your organizational goals before you register anyone in training. Your staff may love a course on creating walkable neighborhoods, but it doesn’t matter if your program’s focus is on oral health. (Read 11 Things To Know About Setting Training Program Goals.)

When employees are done with a new training program, ask them to suggest new programs or improvements for existing ones based on their experience. Refer to earlier example of the syringe exchange program, which originated in a course forum discussion between two people at opposite sides of the country.

Ask participants to share the knowledge they just learned. Ask them to prepare a presentation to give to the rest of the care team, or have them summarize some of the most salient resources in an email to your whole organization.

Repeat with every person at every educational opportunity.

Start now by thinking about your training programs as part of your company culture and strategic plan. Continue to evolve the program to keep up with best practices, changes in clinical guidelines, or outside research like community health needs assessments.

Originally published May 16, 2016, updated January 04, 2021

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5 Ways to Improve Communication in Training

Best practices for communicating better with learners and staff in online courses.

Imagine being a patient and meeting with a healthcare provider for the first time. Your consultation might be rushed, you’re unfamiliar and by the environment, and the language new and confusing.

If that provider doesn’t have the best communication skills, it can add up to an unrewarding experience.

Recommended Reading: How To Make Your Online Training Less Intimidating

That confusion is what many people feel when they take an online course. Online learners, just like patients in a doctor’s office, need good communication for a positive experience.

If you’re an administrator or facilitator for an online training program, think about how to communicate with your readers in a way that connects, informs, and extends the learning experience.

Communicating with online learners—through such channels as announcements, emails, texts or forums—is especially important because you can’t use the power of nonverbal communication. Normally, you can use the tone of your voice or facial expressions to reinforce your meaning. But when the only way you have to connect is with words, you’ll have to give extra thought to how to connect.

Sometimes, the people in charge of enrolling and disenrolling people into a course, for example HR representatives or program managers, might not think communication is part of the job. They’re wrong!

Clear communication should be part of your overall training strategy, even if you didn’t create the curriculum yourself. Any exchange you have with your learners should support what they’re learning and make it easier for them to understand content.

Here are five ways you can improve your communication skills to connect better in online courses.

5 Ways To Communicate Better in Online Courses

1. Use Announcements Effectively

The Announcements feature of an online learning management system (LMS) is a central part of any online course. Announcements are the primary way you can establish your presence.

They provide the clear communication students need when they go into a classroom. They let you connect with participants, lead the group, and set the tone for what they’re about to learn.

Announcements lets you post messages to learners and staff who are enrolled in your course. Depending on how you use them, you can also set announcements to be delivered directly to learners through email or RSS.

An announcement is often the first thing someone sees when they log into a classroom. Because they’re the first thing that anyone sees, announcements should be useful.

Here’s a simple example of a reminder to complete course evaluations:

You can also use announcements to build rapport and increase course engagement. This example shows the instructor’s personality and also creates a connection with each learner and the group.

2. Avoid Acronyms and Jargon

Any training curriculum can be full of specific jargon and acronyms—especially healthcare. The glossary is the place for those—not in general communication. Assume your students are there to learn, so make sure you spell out phrases and skip buzzwords.

3. Communicate Often—but Not Too Much

While some course managers neglect communication tools, others over-communicate. Checking in too often or leaving too much text can have the counterintuitive effect of making learners check out. They’ll learn to ignore overly frequent messages or glaze over when looking at a wall of text.

Consider if the medium for the message. Is the Announcements feature the best place for it? Should you be writing an email to an individual or a team? Should you post something in the forum to increase peer learning and interaction?

4. Use Meaningful Imagery

Written communication is essential, but an image can get your idea across in an instant. It’s human nature to notice a graphic, especially among a string of text (we’re betting you saw the picture above).

Knowing that and using imagery strategically can help you increase communication and understanding in an online course.

Before you start adding images in your announcements or emails, ask yourself if they’re really adding to the communication. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before you add something to your course:

  1. Does the image help communicate something important in the curriculum or content?
  2. Are there too many images?
  3. Does the image make sense in the context?

5. Plan Your Communication

It’s a good idea to plan out your communication in a course just as carefully as an editor plans articles in a newspaper. It will help you stay on schedule, think clearly about what you’re communicating, and do the work up front.

For example, you could always post a wrap-up message on Thursday afternoons. You might always send an email with a link to the gradebook on Monday mornings.

If your LMS has a date release tool, such as Talance’s Schedule Course Mail, you can write all your announcements or emails up front, set the dates when they’re to be delivered, and then let them go automatically in time with the training session.

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