5 common vILT mistakes (and how to avoid them)

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Instructor-led training (ILT) is a direct mode of training conducted by the instructor for learners.  It is similar to a traditional classroom, often involving a group of learners but sometimes one-on-one. An instructor is an expert on the topic of training. This medium of instruction allows learners the opportunity to engage and interact with the instructor and peers and is therefore advantageous.

However, this gold standard of training has become difficult to continue in these current circumstances, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A transition to Virtual classrooms has become necessary. This blog covers 5 common mistakes and how to avoid them while moving from ILT to vILT.

ILT to vILT

Not establishing training goals

Establishing training goals is an important facet of any training program, whether ILT or vILT, or blended. Training goals ensure that content and delivery do not lose sight of the purpose of instruction. Break down training goals to fit short learning sessions or small learning activities. The brevity of content in this way is a form of microlearning, which has been showing to lead to better learning outcomes (Boring, C., 2020. Microlearning: An Andragogical Case Study on Knowledge Retention, Learner Satisfaction, and Behavior Change). More on this in Tip #4, below. It is also important to note that training goals should not only focus on the needs of the enterprise but how the learners can benefit from engaging with the training. Clear training goals also allows the learner to understand what the performance expectations are, post-training.

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Training content is neither engaging nor interactive

In a traditional classroom setting, even a bland session with a progression of visually unappealing slides still forces participants to remain seated and present. This is because they are a captive audience and have little choice. However, in a virtual environment, it is easier and more tempting to “zone-out” or disengage with the session and check emails or avail a million other distractions. This makes it all the more important for the highest attention to be paid to audience engagement.

How to keep virtual training engaging and interactive

  • Do not let the learners fatigue. As you would in a traditional classroom setting, build in a break every 45–60 minutes. Keep every session no longer than 90 minutes
  • Add multimedia elements: attractive video and audio clips, infographics, animations, mini-games, and objective polling questions.
  • Utilize online platforms to foster a collaborative environment — facilitators have various options for breaking a large group into several smaller ones to work on activities, brainstorm, etc. Encourage participants to communicate and collaborate within these smaller groups. Brainstorming sessions to solve problems can also help to foster a creative and collaborative environment
  • Use a community space on social media — Pre-class activities such as reading, questionnaires, and expectation-setting. Post-class exercises and quizzes to keep participants thinking about the training.

Pro-tip: To keep learners engaged and satisfied with the training, they should be allowed to use their newly learned skills as soon as possible in a rewarding environment.

  • Not managing the training session effectively: the instructor-moderator paradigm

The Instructor: Virtual Instructor-Led training is the closest equivalent of traditional classrooms in the digital world. Despite this, the primary challenge arises when instructors cannot see learners’ faces, pay attention to non-verbal cues, and understand levels of engagement from participants. Instructors can work better if trained to adapt to a virtual environment.

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Tips for Virtual Classroom Instructors

  • At the beginning of the event, request that participants turn off their phones
  • Familiarize yourself with the content as well as tools of engagement including the web conferencing software
  • Speak clearly and at a medium pace
  • Keep an eye on the session chat, video feed for questions and comments. If you see some learners aren’t keeping up, this will ensure you don’t move on too quickly
  • Camera awareness: Check ahead and tune how you appear on the video feed. Lighting may be inadequate, or if you are too close to the camera, your hand gestures may not be visible to the audience.

Pro-Tip: When handling a large group of participants, a moderator may prove beneficial to conduct an effective session. A sole instructor, while primarily focuses on delivering the content, can get overwhelmed with a large audience when he/she has to scan the chat, keeping track of questions, while dealing with the tools and technology of the virtual training event.

  • Cognitive Overload

Effective instructional design must adhere to the principles of cognitive psychology — the scientific study of mental processes such as “attention, language use, memory, perception, problem-solving, creativity, and thinking”. The fundamental tenet here is that the quality of instructional design will be greater if consideration is given to the role, and limitations, of working memory. Cramming too much content and aiming to achieve too many training goals in a short period can lead to poor uptake.

How to avoid cognitive overload

  • Distribute content and learning goals between sessions
  • Adopt a blended learning approach, where reading material is provided to participants before and after a training session and discussed during a session
  • Make microlearning modules available to learners so they can engage with supplementary content outside the virtual classroom sessions.
  • Failing to implement assessments/gather feedback from participants
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Gathering information from participants is critical to sound Virtual Instructor-Led training. It allows the instructor to understand the needs and level of training required for participants and model their content and delivery accordingly. There are three types of assessing the audience that can be beneficial:

  • Pre-training Assessment: This ensures the participants have the prerequisite knowledge for a training session. It may be necessary to prescribe a foundation course to some participants.
  • Post-training Assessment: This ensures the learning objectives are achieved and learners have understood key concepts and skills.
  • Participant Surveys: This allows facilitators to find out what challenges the participants face during the session. It may be related to content, delivery or tools, and technology.

These are the 5 common vILT mistakes and the ways to avoid them. If you are looking for an effective transition from traditional classroom-based training to virtual learning, following these tips will help you make a smooth transition. Let us know what you think in the comments section below. You can also write to us at info@originlearning.com

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