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January 2021
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Recover From Online Training Disruptions
TD Magazine

Recover From Online Training Disruptions

THE SITUATION

Some virtual sessions can run without a hitch. In others, you may experience back-to-back disruptions that range from blaring building fire alarms to mass technical glitches that can cause a group to go offline. Such interruptions can throw off a class's energy—not to mention the schedule. How do you as the facilitator recover?

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THE TRICK

Disruptions are just that—disruptive. But here's how you can get yourself and your learners back on track.

  1. Acknowledge the disruption. Regardless of whether it occurred on your or the learners' end or whether it was technical in nature, call it out to recapture their attention. For example, ask them to raise their hand or put a green check in the chat if they have experienced similar situations in the past. You may even use a little humor in acknowledging the disruption. Your goal, however, is to identify it and press on.
  2. Ease anxiety. Disruptions on the learners' side can be distressing for them. In such situations, ease their anxiety by reassuring them that everything will be OK. Let them know that there are options available for them to get back up to speed once they are resettled. Options can include buddying up with someone after class or viewing the recording later to review parts they may have missed.
  3. Always have a plan B and plan C. When something unexpected happens, you may need to pivot—quickly. Think through pivot strategies ahead of time. In designing the learning experience, note slides you can skip, and know which activities learners could complete later on their own rather than during the session. In determining which content to retain or omit, ask yourself what will have the most impact on reaching your desired end goal. The key to a successful pivot is to let your original learning objectives be your guide.

PRO TIP

Involve learners in your go-forward plan. At the end of the day, your course is designed for the learners. One strategy to recover from a major disruption is to poll the class—for example, ask learners whether they're good to move forward or need a break. Doing so enables you to gauge where they are mentally. Likewise, it is a way to involve them as co-collaborators of their learning experience.

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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