September 2022
Issue Map
People are gathered in four groups.
TD Magazine

Increase Engagement With Remote Learning Activities

Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Situation 

Are you content with the learning activities you've implemented in virtual synchronous learning? Are participants? Perhaps you've stayed with the basics of virtual training and haven't yet included many activities.

The Trick

Use breakout groups and other tools to engage learners and add a social element.

  1. Allot enough time for virtual learners to participate. Virtual activities require different timing than in-person activities. An icebreaker activity may require only five minutes in person but up to 10 minutes virtually because learners will need to come off mute or type a response in the chat. A breakout activity that in person can take 15 minutes for people to partner up and share their experiences may take 30 minutes virtually. You will need to send learners to breakout groups, allow for introductions and sharing, and build in time to reconnect them as a group. Account for the expanded time as you plan the training session.
  2. Set participants up for success. Unlike in-person training, you're not automatically privy to the discussions that occur during breakouts. You may not know whether learners are having problems with the technology or don't understand your instructions. To offset those challenges, give each group a slide with instructions for the activity. Alternatively, include instructions in the participant guide or assign a group leader to ensure everyone remains on task.
  3. Remember that you are part of all elements of the training course. Breakout groups aren't time to disengage or check emails. Instead, briefly join each of the groups to check in on how participants are doing.

Pro Tips

Technology is great, but it's not perfect. Did learners have challenges with the tools? Ask for feedback, and be sure to remind learners during a session to use the chat or hand-raising function to alert you so you can assist and they can continue to engage in the learning.

About the Author

Nikki O’Keeffe is an internal ATD Facilitator. She is dedicated training specialist who delivers a positive, memorable, and meaningful service that repeatedly meets or exceeds the expectations of the client. She has experience creating strategies and visions to ensure training requirements and deliveries are in line with quality, probability, and client need. 

Nikki has worked in varied industries, including education, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. In her role as the global senior training and development specialist at PAREXEL International, her focus was on managing and developing courses for new and existing staff on technical systems, process changes, new products, and soft skills.  Her educational background includes a BA in psychology from Butler University and a master’s degree in exercise science, health, and wellness from Northeastern Illinois University. Her specific areas of interest include virtual training, facilitation techniques, and mentoring new trainers. 

Nikki is skilled at providing face-to-face and online learning programs for global participants of varying experience levels. In addition to delivering training, she has performed training needs analyses to identify gaps and recommend training solutions, worked with SMEs as a consultant to develop courses and curriculums, and evaluated programs for effectiveness. 

As a certified ATD Master Trainer and certified ATD Master Instructional Designer she understands the value of solid training plans and strong facilitation. Nikki looks forward to sharing her experiences and expanding her knowledge base by learning from her participants in the upcoming ATD courses that she leads.

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