almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition. “the virtual absence of border controls”
Similar: effective, in effect, near, near enough, essential, practical, for all practical purposes, to all intents and purposes, in all but name, indirect, implied, implicit, unacknowledged, tacit
- not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so. “virtual images”
- carried out, accessed, or stored by means of a computer, especially over a network. “a virtual library”
- being on or simulated on a computer or computer network
- print or virtual books
- a virtual keyboard
- occurring or existing primarily online – virtual shopping
- of, relating to, or existing within a virtual reality – a virtual tour
Various dictionary definitions indicate the first and general meaning of virtual as nearly or almost – the traffic came to a virtual standstill, or he felt a virtual prisoner in his own home. The second meaning is the one we have come to accept as the primary meaning these days. It is not a word that I particularly like, I am not keen on being a virtual trainer or virtual learner! I am a real trainer and learner, not nearly or almost one.
The virtual classroom provides an experience as close to traditional face to face classroom events as possible. We are used to virtual shops when we buy online, we read books from virtual libraries and watch movies in virtual cinema environments and therefore you can certainly learn a new skill in a virtual classroom.
Virtual Learning allows the benefits such as cost reductions for travel, ease of access on multiple devices, inclusion of people geographically spread out – even Worldwide and less time spent away from the office environment. Many of us these days do not spend much time in the office and home has become the office of the moment. Business are now looking at this virtual training and learning opportunity with new eyes.
The virtual classroom is not a webinar where communication is generally one-way with possibly a live question and answer session afterwards. Nor is it a pre-recorded video with voice over, or e-learning simulation that is self-paced. It is a true classroom experience with all the options for syndicate sessions, quizzes, use of the whiteboard etc.
Moving our training to the live, online space brings many benefits to us as learning professionals, to our organisations as well as to our learners. The technology we use to deliver online training has been with us for many years – videoconferencing and online meetings are often common in our working lives.
The two main benefits that seem to drive the adoption of virtual classrooms are reduced travel and overall training costs, but the benefits extend beyond geographical locations and financial issues.
- Reduced time out of the home/office
- Quicker response rate to training needs
- Accessibility to training for a global audience
- Improved training quality
- Supported learning for remote workers
- Reduced carbon footprint
As we move training content into virtual classrooms, do not expect what we designed for the face to face classroom to work as successfully in the virtual classroom. We need a new approach. Converting an existing face to face course to an equivalent virtual instructor led course is not as easy as it may seem.
First, let’s be clear about what we mean when we talk about moving training online. We mean moving it into the live facilitated world of virtual classrooms, not just into a self-paced e-learning world that we create for our learners.
There are a number of steps we can take to move learning content to an online environment technology based training which is dynamic and engaging moving away from the traditional face to face classroom training that we all know and love.
Virtual learning can incorporate interactive media (from videos to quizzes and tests) that offer instant feedback and reinforcement regarding the learner’s understanding of the material and the trainer acts as a facilitator and observer for these sessions. You can easily assess and evaluate learning and comprehension with fun quizzes throughout the course.
While a virtual classroom session may be shorter than an equivalent ILT (Instructor Led Training) session, overall training time may be equal when you include “before” and “after” activities, eg pre-assignment quiz and post course follow up questionnaire. Choose virtual training for its value in closing a performance gap, not purely to save time.
The additional bonus that most virtual learning tools provide is the ability to record the session, the poll and quiz results and then you are able to distribute them to the participants as a reminder without them having to make copious notes during the course.
Tips, Tricks and Best Practices
Prepare polls, quizzes or information that people joining early can watch or complete. You can also use this opportunity to check that sound, volume, visuals and webcam are working correctly. Remember to log in early so that you are there before the early birds – there will always be one!
Set rules regarding communication – for example get agreement from the group that they will allow someone to speak and not interrupt and that they will engage and participate themselves.
Facilitation and Communication
Involve your participants every 3-5 minutes. Use variety. Some participants prefer to chat or use a whiteboard to communicate. Leave these options open and encourage their use. When you do get feedback, acknowledge it just as if it were stated aloud.
If you have been talking for 5 minutes, then you have been talking too much. Involve your participants more.
An online facilitator needs to simultaneously present, engage learners and use the technology platform. You can’t do everything yourself and therefore you need help managing the classroom. It’s not uncommon for an online facilitator to team up with a silent partner (often called the moderator) whose main role is to help manage participations in the virtual classroom such as the chat.
Design your activities to be interactive and engage the participants. You do this in the classroom, but you need to adapt a little for the online environment. Remember to think about what they will see and hear and how you want them to interact.
Keep track of who asks questions. Create a checklist for yourself and remember to use it to track their interactivity. You can then ensure that you get participation from all of your audience.
Ask more questions than you normally would in a face to face classroom environment. Keep them engaged and use the 5 Ws.
Promoting the Virtual Classroom
Virtual classrooms often are seen as a great environment for delivering soft skills we need in the workplace – skills as communication, decision making, working in teams, leadership and time management.
But there are so many other content areas that the virtual and online classrooms can support. Research shows that these content areas include desktop or web application training (88%), product knowledge training (79%), technical skills (85%), regulatory and compliance (56%) and onboarding programmes (55%).
Challenges of the Virtual Classroom
However, just because we have opted to move our training programmes from one method to another does not mean we are going to be successful.
Technology has to work. Having worked with a number of clients, this is the number one show-stopper to online training. Your IT Departments have to ensure technology works to ensure training delivery is efficient and effective.
Another challenge is that of duration. Often we invite learners to a full-day experience, maybe even two or three days, in the face to face classroom. With virtual online training we need to provide the same information, but in a much shorter format. We can’t just convert an existing three-day face to face course to a three-hour virtual classroom. It has to be redesigned, rethought.
During a recent event, when a number of experts were asked, the common duration of a live online event, 97% of respondents run sessions of 90 minutes or less. Our training courses are scheduled for 1.5 to 2 hours. Any more, and we incorporate 10 min breaks, as we would do so in a classroom training session.
Here are some of the other considerations to online training.
- Trainers or learners are not always comfortable or familiar with the virtual classroom environment and toolset.
- Learners see the reason for moving training into the virtual classroom as a cost-cutting measure for the business and are somewhat cynical about it.
- Learners are multitasking because the content or delivery is not engaging enough to keep their attention.
- There is a lack of Learning and Development Team skills, a lack of stakeholder buy-in, and a hesitancy of trainers to engage in the technology.
Adapting as Training Professionals
Before moving to online training, trainers need to adapt. One of the reasons for this is the change in dynamic between trainer and learner in the virtual, online classroom. In the face to face environment learning involves seeing others, their body language or facial expressions, in the virtual classroom we lose much of that visual element.
In the face to face classroom, we can sense when someone wants to ask a question or share a comment through body language or facial expressions. In the virtual classroom, we need to provide other ways for learners to indicate that they want to speak – we have to rely on virtual classroom tools like the feedback icons or the hand raise tool.
We can help you learn and adapt to a virtual training and learning experience by taking one of our courses. Check the Courses page on the website for more information. There are two categories: Change Management and Train The Trainer.
23 Nov 2020