By AMA Staff
It’s the new normal for teams to meet and collaborate virtually in real time—but how do you create and facilitate successful live online learning experiences? What’s to stop your participants from hitting the mute button, getting sidetracked or effectively “tuning out”?
There are far fewer second chances in virtual live learning than with in-person training. It’s much more tempting to succumb to distractions in a virtual environment, so you need to be prepared to tackle a host of unique challenges. Engagement and structure are critical for success; you must speak and listen well, seamlessly juggle course content, answer and engage in live chat, solve unexpected disruptions and more. And during all of it, you need to remain composed and professional.
Here are some of the most important areas to consider when designing and delivering synchronous online learning:
Plan and coordinate the three crucial phases. Successful online training depends on how well you perform three distinct processes: preparation, execution and follow up. Before you start designing your program, carefully analyze the performance objectives. For example, if the goal is to help learners become proficient in the fundamentals of marketing, start by deciding what specific type of content would be included in an introductory program, and how much detail you can present in the desired timeframe. Determine what technology platform would work best with this type of content, and what overall program design would be the most engaging for the learner. During the program, will the platform be managed by you, or will you have a producer to oversee the technology as you present your training? Decide how you will pace the experience, field questions, take polls, modulate your voice and deal with any problems that occur. Finally, plan the follow-up actions you will take after the training, such as course evaluations and additional learning materials for reinforcement.
Know how to “read” your group in real time. Once you feel satisfied that your preparation is sufficient, consider the number of participants who are attending your training and decide the best pitch, pacing of delivery and volume you should use to keep the group engaged—and be ready to adjust “on the air.” As you get a sense of their skill level, tailor how you convey information so that retention is maximized, and gauge how quickly and how loudly to speak for learners’ comprehension and comfort. Also, be ready to decide how and when you must heighten and monitor engagement through the use of live polling, chats, and online breakout groups and exercises. Get a sense of the group’s energy and decide how often to ask questions in order to break up the lecture, and recognize the best ways of giving encouraging feedback to this particular group of individuals. As you present, you must also be careful to pace and manage your own energy, and be constantly aware of how your energy level is affecting participants.
Be ready to manage the unexpected. When you go live, things can go wrong—and assume that they will. For example, if attendees report that they’re experiencing background noise, you’ll need to have troubleshooting guidelines on-hand and a plan ready to quickly resolve the problem. If a participant disrupts the course, be prepared to deal with the disruptor in such a way that the problem doesn’t continue or get worse, and have a strategy for getting the course back on track as quickly as possible. Be aware of cultural differences among participants and know how to avoid sensitive situations or conflict. Also, have recovery strategies for common challenges, such as audio and video disruptions, online connections that are weak or become disconnected, and participants reporting that class exercise materials are inaccessible.
Delivering the most positive experience for learners is not only a matter of being as prepared as possible in terms of content and delivery, but expertly resolving any disruptions that occur during the live presentation.
As with all skills, practice, feedback, and then more practice are necessary for your design and delivery to reach maximum effectiveness, and to get the results you desire.
Learn more about how to develop and facilitate great live online training, and get an opportunity to practice these skills by taking AMA’s instructor-led, highly interactive Live Online course, The Virtual Trainer: Success Strategies for Facilitating Live Online Training. Visit www.amanet.org/the-virtual-trainer-success-strategies-for-facilitating-live-online-training/