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Top Tips for Effective Virtual Learning – The Basics

Delivering live training virtually is something many of us had to learn to embrace during the pandemic. Some probably thought it would be a short-lived trend, born out of necessity. But, as many have discovered, virtual delivery can be as effective as face-to-face delivery – provided we tailor our approach and put the effort into building great content.   

The fact that virtual delivery can be effective is a good thing because it’s a method that can reduce costs and dramatically reduce travel, which helps the environment.  

But how do you ensure virtually delivered learning is effective, engaging and something both participants and facilitator can enjoy? Over the next couple of blogs, I’ll share my top tips, starting today with the three basics: 

1. Choose a System that Supports Learning
It’s important to choose the system you’ll use to support your virtual delivery carefully. As a minimum, your chosen solution should:

  • Enable you and participants to share screens.
  • Have a breakout room system that makes it easy to move participants from room to room and for you to drop in to monitor progress, provide guidance or simply observe teams at work. In short, if the breakout system you’re using doesn’t replicate what you could do with syndicate rooms in the real world, it’s not good enough.
  • Run polls.
  • Stream video clips.
  • Send files and links to participants.
  • Enable chat between you and participants and between participants. 

Essentially, you’re looking for a system that replicates as closely as possible the classroom experience. My favourite is Zoom because it offers all of this functionality (and more) and uses an interface that is relatively simple for both trainers and learners to learn and use. 

2. Keep your Group Small. 
If you want to provide training that is engaging and learner led, then keep the number of participants in each session down. I recommend a maximum of 12, which might be fewer than you’d comfortably manage in a classroom setting and until you’re confident with remote delivery, I’d suggest keeping the number down to about 8. This is because you’ll need all your concentration and focus to keep everyone involved, and to spot what’s going on in the ‘room’ like changes in body language and posture. 

If you have too many people in the room, you’ll no longer be facilitating learning, you’ll be presenting a webinar – and the two are very, very different.
3. Keep Sessions Short
Another reason to keep your groups small is that you should be keeping your learning sessions short. When time is tight, having fewer people in the room is the best way to ensure everyone can still participate and be heard. 

Virtual learning lends itself to bitesize sessions, particularly if you’re working with the same people over a long period. But, as we’ve proven, it’s also possible to run half-day or full-day workshops virtually, as long as they’re engaging and involve lots of different activities. But whilst a full-day in the classroom might involve 6 hours, aim for no more than 4.5 hours in a full day’s virtual workshop. Start late, finish early and build in plenty of breaks. (To discourage people from simply checking email or returning to work in these breaks, give them an activity to complete during the break that requires them to leave their desk!)

Next time I’ll provide some key tips around interaction and content. Until then, I’d love to know what your thoughts on my first three tips and how you’d build on them.

May 16 2023Rod Webb

Rod Webb

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