A little over a year ago, Vale Training closed its doors to comply with public health guidelines amid the pandemic. As a result, we were tasked with quickly reinventing the business as a virtual learning provider. Initially, many people were concerned that remote learning might negatively impact the overall experience, both for the students and the instructor. However, the feedback we’ve received over the last year said otherwise. In fact, Vale student, Ashley shared that her program almost felt like a “one-on-one experience” even though she completed it from her couch. Courses may not have been in-person, but when executed properly, virtual instruction can be just as beneficial. In an effort to support remote instructors and students, we’re sharing our top tips for developing virtual training programs that exceed expectations.
Go into virtual learning with an open mind.
While you can control the course curriculum, there will be moments of general interruptions and technology glitches. With various student environments to consider, learn to accept that each will be different. The best thing you can do as an instructor is offer advice, allow for frequent breaks and leverage direct messaging to keep everyone focused and engaged.
Set the stage and personalize the experience.
As you introduce students into a virtual training program, it’s important to take a few minutes to explain where you are and what will be on the screen for the duration of the class. By scanning the room, showing the outside weather or holding up props, you humanize yourself as the instructor and establish a connection with the learner.
Encourage students to participate in introductions and icebreakers. This will be beneficial in building student confidence to join class discussions, ask questions and take part in role playing. For instance, at Vale most of our students are new to the industry, so we encourage them to begin establishing their professional network among their classmates.
Make your expectations clear.
Many students are committed to home, work and family schedules in addition to their virtual course load, so it is essential that they plan their schedule and know when they must be in class. They also need to know when there will be free time to handle other necessary tasks. As you develop the agenda for the virtual program, ensure you maintain a consistent structure.
Be flexible and add variety.
Learning styles vary, so it’s important to offer several options for self-paced learning, exploration and reinforcement. At Vale, we created 3D environments for exploration, shared documents, as well as videos to supplement live stream learning. We also encourage students to explore additional online content. The variable nature of the curriculum supports a balanced learning approach.
Seek evaluation from different angles.
As an instructor, communication is imperative. Asking students for regular feedback, recording a portion of the class and playing back for self-assessment, or asking a colleague to sit in on a portion of the class will help you validate your delivery and fine tune as needed.
Keep it engaging.
One of the biggest topics of discussion when it comes to virtual learning is the dreaded “Zoom fatigue.” To avoid this requires a fun atmosphere, so introduce surprise elements into your program. Short sharing sessions, silly hat day, fun filters, coffee talks or an ice cream sundae break will do a lot to put a smile on a remote learner’s face. Another consideration is to send material to the students. Include a surprise gift with a note not to open until day three of the course. Then once you’re all together, ask that they all open the surprise together and enjoy the reactions.
Vale Training wasn't the only organization tasked with quickly reinventing itself as a virtual learning provider. Many K-12 and college students experienced virtual learning firsthand over this past year, which may speed up the demand for virtual course offerings across other industries. We'll continue to update you as trends evolve.
Have a virtual learning tip that’s worked for you? Let us know in the comment section.