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5 Characteristics of Successful Virtual Training

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
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When you look at a half-filled glass of water, what do you see? Is it half-empty or half-full? While either one can be a correct answer, how you respond depends on your experience and your current perspective.

In a similar vein, when you consider virtual training, do you see it as a chore to complete (“Ugh, another boring online meeting to attend…”) or as a refreshing way to connect with others and learn? Again, either answer can be correct. Your perspective is probably based on your experience and your expectations.

Sadly, many people—myself included—have experienced bad virtual training. Perhaps you’ve heard a monotone presenter who doesn’t engage the audience, or you’ve attended a session beset with technology problems. But these experiences don’t mean that all virtual training is bad. Virtual training can be an engaging way to learn--when it is intentionally planned and executed.

The most successful virtual training includes five common characteristics.

Intentional selection

What’s the reason your organization chose a virtual training solution? Hopefully, virtual training is chosen because it’s the best way to learn a certain topic or to reach a particular audience, and not simply as a way to slash travel costs. Select virtual training as a delivery method because it makes sense.

Appropriate technology

There are many online platforms available on the market, yet not all of them are conducive to virtual training. Select a virtual classroom platform that includes all the features you need for your learning to be successful. If you need small group interaction, choose one that includes breakout rooms. Or, if you need to show detailed live demonstrations, choose one that has high-definition video streaming.

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Thoughtful design

A successful virtual training class engages participants, invites them to connect with each other, and helps them learn and apply a new skill. Good design is more than just posting slides online and clicking through them while someone talks. It’s about creating a high-quality online learning experience.

Skilled facilitators

The quality of a facilitator can make or break a virtual training class. The best facilitators build rapport with learners, create a safe learning environment, and are extremely comfortable with the technology. They can engage a remote audience, similar to a radio host who creates a community of active listeners.  In addition, using a co-facilitator or producer is a must for smooth and seamless virtual training.

Prepared participants

Participant preparation is an often-overlooked key ingredient to virtual training success. In order for participants to get the most out of an online class, they need

  • An appropriate space in which to learn with minimal distractions
  • adequate equipment to participate, such as a telephone headset so they don’t have to cradle a phone in their ear for 90 minutes
  • aligned expectations—know that they are attending a training class and not just another meeting or conference call.

Through careful planning and deliberate execution, your virtual training can be a smashing success. Your participants will appreciate it, and perhaps have a changed perspective about online learning.

Cindy's new book The Virtual Training Guidebook is out now from ASTD Press.

About the Author

Cindy Huggett, CPLP, is an independent consultant, professional speaker, instructional designer, classroom facilitator, and author who specializes in workplace training and development. With more than 25 years of experience, Cindy has successfully designed curriculums, facilitated classes, and led training rollouts in almost every industry and every size organization. She partners with her clients to help them transition from the face-to-face to the virtual classroom, and works with them to design online and blended learning solutions.

Cindy is the author of three books on virtual training: Virtual Training Tools and Templates: An Action Guide to Live Online Learning (2017), The Virtual Training Guidebook: How to Design, Deliver, and Implement Live Online Learning (2013), and Virtual Training Basics, 1st edition (2010). She is the co-author of two Infolines, “Simple, Effective Online Learning” (2008) and “Designing for the Virtual Classroom” (2009). She’s also contributed to several compilations, including the ASTD Handbook: The Definitive Reference for Training & Development (2014) and 101 Ways to Make Learning Active Beyond the Classroom, and written several articles for TD magazine.

Cindy holds a master’s degree in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh, and a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University. Cindy is also a past member of the ATD National board of directors and was one of the first to earn the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) designation. You can find Cindy sharing training tips on twitter as @cindyhugg, or on her website, www.cindyhuggett.com.

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