December 15, 2020
15 Tips and Strategies to Engage Remote Learners Through High-impact Virtual Training
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December 15, 2020
15 Tips and Strategies to Engage Remote Learners Through High-impact Virtual Training
Asha Pandey is the Founder and Chief Learning Strategist at EI Design. She heads the organization’s Solution Architecting and Innovation mandates. She brings in her experience of 19 years to help EI Design customers transform their learning and keep pace with the changing workplace dynamics. She also heads EI Design’s newly launched Learning Consulting practice.
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With a manifold increase on Virtual Training in the last few months, the focus shifts towards the approaches to increase remote learner engagement. In this article, I share 15 tips to help you achieve a high remote learner engagement quotient.

Background

Triggered by the work from home mode on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, L&D teams are looking for ways to move their classroom or ILT sessions to Virtual Training programs.

The high impact of the trainer-led classroom sessions is difficult to match when the entire audience is working remotely. However, by adopting the right tips and strategies that engage the remote learners, this goal can be met successfully.

In this article, I share 15 tips and strategies that will help you improve the learner engagement and enable you to deliver high-impact Virtual Training programs.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Workplace – The New Mandate for the L&D Teams

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workplace dynamics, and we are now witnessing the “new normal” of remote operations. While the percentage of remote learners may change over time, it will clearly be an integral component of the workplace in the future.

As an extension, it clearly heralds the need for L&D teams to have a clear strategy toward the Virtual Training program transformation:

  • Planning a progressive transition of classroom/ILT sessions to the online mode. This journey could feature:
    • ILT to Virtual ILT (VILT). This would map to:
      • Synchronous connects or live sessions.
      • Asynchronous connects via online access to VILT recordings and supporting collateral (prep material and hand-outs).
    • ILT to Self-paced or Fully Online mode.
    • ILT to an optimal Blended mode that offers VILT with a Self-paced or Fully Online mode. This would again leverage VILT sessions in synchronous/asynchronous modes.
  • Factoring for tips and strategies that will engage remote learner teams in each mode.
  • Drawing up a long-term, sustainable action plan that covers not only the transition but also has crucial measures to ascertain:
    • The effectiveness of the training in the new mode.
    • The training impact.
    • The demonstrable value for learners and business – matching or exceeding what was being met in the classroom/ILT mode.

What Are the Key Challenges in Engaging Remote Learners Through Virtual Training Programs?

Before moving on to the tips and strategies, let’s look at the key challenges associated with training remote learners.

  1. Given the scale of the pandemic, with no clarity on when this will end, there is an underlying anxiety that each one of us, including the remote learners, is going through. With this, it is difficult to get their mind share and have them fully engaged to the Virtual Training.
  2. Every day brings in new variables and as businesses react and respond to them, this impacts the remote learners. While they are aligning to the changing dynamics (with different degrees of success), it is difficult for them to retain the focus on Virtual Trainings.
  3. Several organizations made a quick transition of ILT sessions to a 100% VILT mode. This call was made to ensure a timely rollout of the planned, essential trainings. However, in the process, the adequate analysis of the new medium (VILT delivery platform) was not done, which could have helped achieve the required degree of learner participation and engagement. What they are seeing is that the long drawn VILT sessions do not hold the attention of remote learners.

So, while offering Virtual Training for remote learners is the need of the hour, it will not be successful unless L&D teams adopt certain tips and strategies to engage them. In the process, they must map the current trainings to the appropriate Virtual Training mode (VILT/Blended/Fully Online) that will provide the required impact and accomplish the learning objectives.

Here are 15 tips and strategies you can use to make your Virtual Training Programs more engaging for the remote learners.

What Tips and Strategies Can You Use to Engage Your Remote Learners as You Opt for Virtual Training Programs?

Part 1: Tips and strategies – When you move the entire classroom/ILT training to a VILT mode-based Virtual Training program

  1. Create manageable milestones: As you look at this transformation, do remember that the 7-hour long ILT session cannot be mapped to a 7-hour VILT session. The remote learner attention would be good only when the VILT program is divided into shorter and manageable chunks. Look out for the right option as you remap the ILT to VILT as:
    • A series of sessions – with each session not exceeding 60-75 mins.
    • A learning journey with live sessions, break-out sessions and activities, re-grouping, and interactions with peers/facilitator. This would help you match the flow and create the impact of the ILT session. Also, evaluate when you should opt for the live sessions – do watch out for the group size, if you need highly interactive sessions.
  1. Highlight the value of the Virtual Training: Prior to the Virtual Training roll-out, invest on short nuggets (Microlearning Videos/Infographics or even simple Newsletters) that showcase the value of the Virtual Training for the remote learners. Once they are in sync, you will see a more engaged audience.
  2. Learner interaction: If you opt for moving the entire classroom/ILT training to a VILT mode, assess the features available in the delivery platform first. Re-map the existing classroom interactions to the new medium. For instance:
    1. Most of the platforms offer interactions like polling questions and chats.
    2. You can also have provisions for breakout sessions, exercises, and re-grouping with remote learners’ presentations.
    3. You can also create a learning journey by structuring the multiple virtual sessions over a period of time and have interjections of supporting materials or exercises for the remote learners.
    4. If the VILT session delivery is integrated into your LMS, you can also add interactive quizzes at suitable junctures that can be tracked.
  3. Reward learners: Rewarding remote learners with a certification is a motivator to complete a program. This incentive is a great motivator for remote learners to complete the current one and, more specifically, look out for more Virtual Trainings in the future.
  4. Encourage Social Learning: Encourage your remote learners to collaborate through Social Learning by providing them the platform to discuss and collaborate. This can be done using chats, discussion boards, breakout rooms, and peer-to-peer feedback.
  5. Continue the connect with remote learners: Even after a successful completion of the VILT program, retain the connect with remote learners by facilitating sessions between other team members or with the facilitator/instructor.
  6. Take feedback for continuous improvement: Since Virtual Training is a moving target, upgrade your approach, delivery, and strategies regularly by asking learners to complete a review or survey to collect their feedback. Use this information to improve and hit the desired engagement quotient.

Part 2: Tips and strategies – When you move the classroom/ILT training to a Blended or a Fully Self-paced, Online mode-based Virtual Training program

The following tips and strategies are for the Self-paced, Online training that can be part of the Blended mode or offered as a stand-alone training.

  1. Allow seamless movement across devices: Mobile-friendly or Mobile-first designs provide multi-device support. Enable learners to move seamlessly across desktops/laptops to tablets/smartphones during the day.
  2. Offer Personalized learning: A great way to engage remote learners is by offering relevant content that helps them meet their personal learning goals. You can offer Microlearning based learning paths (with varied formats to suit different learning styles). Additionally, you can offer curation (both Formal and Informal training assets).
  3. Leverage Microlearning and action-oriented learning: This is engaging for remote learners as it is easy to learn and apply. Furthermore, you can engage the remote learners by offering spaced repetition for practice, proficiency gain, and meet the tougher goal of behavioral change.
  4. Use immersive strategies: Depending on the content and your budget, you have a wide spectrum of engaging and immersive approaches. You can invest in approaches like VR/AR, Gamification, Scenario/Branching Scenarios Based Learning, Interactive Story Based Learning, and Video and Interactive Video Based Learning. All of these approaches guarantee an engaged learning experience for your remote learners.
  5. Use brief and relevant content: When it comes to Self-paced Virtual Training, some remote learners take time to tune in. By keeping the journey intuitive, precise, and relevant, you will have their attention and higher engagement. Navigational aids like buttons, icons, and arrows must be well-designed, visible, and easy to navigate. An intuitive user interface will motivate learners to explore more in the Virtual Training programs.
  6. Have meaningful interactions: The days of mere “click to learn more” to engage learners are over. Learners demand interactions that make a compelling read and offer value. So, add interesting questions that probe and push remote learners to pause and think and stay away from the obvious ones.
  7. Integrate just-in-time learning aids: It is not enough to provide Formal training assets – what should the remote learner do when they encounter a problem late at night? Having a combination of just-in-time learning aids/job aids can help them. You can offer cheat sheets, ready reckoners, FAQs, tips, and so on. All these help remote learners apply their learning on the job. Additionally, they have easy access to learning aids/job aids within their workflow that help them at the moment of need.
  8. Retain the connect with remote learners: Even after the completion of a Virtual Training program, retain the connect with the remote learners. You can push curated information to support the initial program or keep them posted on what’s next. These simple approaches keep the remote learners connected and engaged. Furthermore, you are nudging them toward Self-Directed and continuous learning.

I hope my article provides you the tips and strategies you can use as you transition from classroom/ILT to VILT/Blended/Online Training for your remote learners. These will certainly help you improve the learner engagement for your Virtual Training programs, irrespective of the mode.

If you have any specific queries, do contact me or leave a comment below.

2 Comments
2021-01-06 04:56:05
2021-01-06 04:56:05

This is a great read. Thanks.

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2021-01-01 13:47:37
2021-01-01 13:47:37

Really interested in gamification, what types of award/ badge do you find most popular with your students?

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