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
- What is virtual training?
- How do you keep people engaged during online learning?
- What equipment do I need for virtual training?
- What are the most common ways to access virtual training content?
- Who can facilitate virtual training?
- Is virtual training effective for professionals?
- What are the benefits of virtual training?
- How do you organize a virtual training program?
- How do you guarantee success in a virtual training program?
- 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:
- Live discussions or chats
- Live online classrooms
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.
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:
- Create check-ins to get participant feedback.
- Partner new learners with more experienced workers.
- Include stakeholders in planning and goal-setting.
- Create a team for your program, so you’re not the only one responsible.