Everything You Wanted to Know About VILT

Virtual Instructor-led Training offers the essence of face-to-face classroom training with the convenience of online training for today’s generation of learners.

The World is Going Virtual!

While virtual games and shopping have been around for quite some time now, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a massive surge in virtual teams, virtual meetings, and not surprisingly, virtual training. Most organizations are increasingly opting for online training and development programs to ensure uninterrupted learning. And this trend for virtual training is not going to go away any time soon, even in the post-pandemic world.

Now a few words on online training. Online training can be synchronous or asynchronous.

Synchronous online training requires both learners and the instructor to participate in the session at the same time (from any location).

Asynchronous training, on the other hand, can be accessed by individual learners at their own time and pace (wherever, whenever), without the instructor.

Introducing Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT)

Although VILTs have been around for some time now, there still is a lot of ambiguity around what exactly constitutes a VILT. To leverage this format optimally, it is important to have clarity on what it is and equally importantly, what it is NOT.

What Is Virtual Instructor-Led Training?

Virtual Instructor-Led Training or VILT is a form of synchronous online training that is delivered in a virtual environment with the instructor and learners participating in the session at the same time, but from different locations. It offers learners all the benefits of human interaction in a brick-and-mortar classroom without the hassles of travel, logistics, and space.

Organizations often use VILT as part of a blended learning strategy for employee training, especially for product and sales training and employee onboarding.

The main advantage of VILT is its ability to connect learners of different backgrounds from different locations on one platform. Other advantages of VILT are its:

  • Convenience and flexibility (learners can engage at work, at home, or on a mobile device, wherever they want)
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Ability to upskill employees
  • Customizability

It’s a fact that classroom training can be highly engaging. But the good news is it is possible to replicate that experience in VILTs as well. Like the physical classroom, virtual classrooms also give participants the opportunity to:

  • Participate and collaborate actively
  • Engage in group activities
  • Share their learning

What Is NOT Virtual Instructor-Led Training?

Virtual instructor-led training is neither a webinar nor presenting classroom material in a videoconference. Why not?

Though a webinar is also a synchronous training format, it is mostly a one-sided communication from the presenter to participants. Participants are encouraged to share their opinions, feedback, or answer questions through polls, but the main essence of virtual classrooms – collaboration – is missing in webinars.

The 2 Pillars of the Virtual Classroom

The effectiveness of virtual classrooms hinges on 2 elements – Content and Technology

Content: Content is the most important component of the virtual classroom. If you already have classroom training material (PPTs, facilitator guides, manuals, etc.), you need to identify important need-to-know content from them to be included in the virtual session. It’s important that classroom material is not used ‘as is’ as the virtual classroom needs to factor for the absence of the instructor and collaboration. What you need to do is to organize the content and activities to be used:

  • Before the training session – to build rapport and trust
  • During the training for effective teaching – with different instructional activities
  • Collaboration activities – to be used throughout the session

Technology: Several technological platforms are available to help conduct your virtual classroom sessions. Popular ones include:

technological platforms

All these platforms offer a variety of tools to enable information sharing and collaboration (replicating the environment of a physical classroom) – each with its own limitations and strengths.

Unique Challenges of Virtual Classrooms

The virtual classroom has very different challenges when compared to the physical one.

VILT: Ways to Overcome its Limitations in Corporate Training

Instructional Methods for the Virtual Classroom

Establishing goals and ground rules is important for any classroom, and the virtual classroom is no exception. In addition to being courteous in their communications, ground rules in a virtual classroom would include:

  • Turning off phones (both office and personal)
  • Not sending or responding to e-mails
  • Actively participating in chats
  • Asking questions

When we try to replicate the physical classroom training experience in the virtual classroom, some things may differ slightly because of the delivery format. However, the main principles for delivery stay the same. Let’s consider how Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction can be used in VILT with the aid of technology.

1. Gain Attention

Gain Attention

  • Ice breakers and creative introductions
  • Sharing of experiences
  • Thought-provoking questions
  • Compelling stories or shocking statistics related to the topic

2. Inform Objectives

Inform Learners of Objectives

  • Videos of work challenges (which training will address)
  • ‘What’s in it for me’ Videos
  • Audio/visual clips from management on what they hope from the training

3. Stimulate Recall

Stimulate Recall of Prior Learning

  • Polls and micro quizzes
  • Open-ended questions on what they already know and how it connects with what’s to come.
  • Articles, pictures, or facts related to the topic

4. Present Information

Present Information

  • A variety of tools to present content
  • Videos to demonstrate processes/ explain concepts
  • Chats to answer questions
  • Polls to check learners’ understanding

5. Provide Guidance

Provide Learning Guidance

  • Breakout rooms for brainstorming
  • Instructor guiding with screen shares
  • Opportunities to practice the new skill
  • Role-plays based on scenarios, case studies, and simulations

6. Elicit Performance

Elicit Performance

  • Quizzes with hints if necessary
  • Breakout rooms to analyze case studies
  • Worksheets for individual/ group exercises
  • Learners to respond to ‘what-if’ scenarios

7. Provide Feedback

Provide Feedback

  • Chat to answer questions
  • Breakout rooms to encourage and correct
  • Main room for groups to share learning
  • Discussions on common questions

8. Assess and Evaluate

Assess and Evaluate

  • Polls to test learners
  • Peer-reviews for small groups
  • Tools (Breeze Presenter, Poll Everywhere) to help deliver full-fledged assessments

9. Enhance Retention

Enhance retention and transfer back on the job

  • Downloadable job-aids and links to resources
  • Contact details for additional help
  • Details of upcoming sessions (on the topic)
  • Session recordings of on LMS

Converting ILT to VILT

With a little bit of planning and sound instructional design, you can make the VILT as effective as an ILT. However, there are a few things you need to put in place, such as making participants familiar with the technology platform, “planning” your spontaneous activities, and so on.

Tips to Get Started

  • Set up a GETTING STARTED session for facilitators and participants to get familiar with the virtual format and tools.
  • Ensure all reference materials and prework are sent to the participants.
  • Explain how the sessions are structured and what participants can expect.
  • Share a roadmap of the entire program, with clear timelines and the road ahead.
  • Specify community expectations and etiquette.
  • Introduce participants to their smaller groups.

What do You Need for a VILT Session?

  • An introductory Getting Started webinar with opportunities for hands on practice
  • Facilitator PPTs
  • Facilitator Guides with:
    • All content rewritten for the virtual session
    • Information on how to use the chosen platform
      • WebEx training center/GoTo
      • Teams
      • Poll Everywhere (or whatever Poll they want to use)
    • Participant materials
    • Reference materials for activities/post work/next steps

How do You go About Converting ILT to VILT?

As with any other training initiative, we need to have a robust process in place when converting ILT to VILT. The process has three main phases as shown below.

Planning

  • Scope the project and agree on timelines
  • Decide on training materials
  • Decide on meeting software and facilitators
  • Factor technology into the design

Reviewing Content

  • Review ILT PPT for unnecessary content and gaps
  • Identify activities that need to be broken:
    • Into smaller ones
    • Across two modalities
  • Identify content to be animated

Development

  • Convert PPT to Word
  • Fill in gaps
  • Simplify larger activities or split across modalities
  • Rewrite content
  • Add references, do QA
  • Design PPTs

Activities to Maximize Engagement

Not all classroom activities can be translated into VILT. Some of them may have to be rewritten or replaced. Engagement in virtual sessions needs more planning and effort because you cannot have spontaneous activities. For a successful VILT session:

  • Replace activities that can’t be converted and add appropriate transitions.
  • Decide on modalities:
    • Polls
    • Chat
    • Breakout rooms
    • Annotations
    • Workbook activities
  • Perform periodic “pulse checks” on attendees by telling them to use “raise hand” tool
  • Don’t forget to provide breaks in between!

Polls

Polls help collect learners’ opinions and feedback. They can also be used to:

  • Stimulate recall of prior knowledge
  • Recap/summarize a learning point
  • Quiz learners on a topic just covered

Polls

Tips to use Polls

  • Decide on the kind of polls you want – Open ended/ Word cloud/ Multiple choice.
  • Check if you can integrate the Poll Everywhere link into the PPT as a plug-in.
  • Plan how to minimize disruption when using multiple polls.

Chat

Chats enable textual communication between learners and instructors. They can be:

  • Private to facilitate one-on-one interactions
  • Public to share global updates and instructions

Chat

Tips to use Chat

  • Clarify chat etiquette at the outset.
  • Establish how participants will communicate during the session.
  • Specify how volunteers can volunteer (raise hand).
  • Identify activities that require unmuting participants and give instructions in the FG accordingly.

Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms are perhaps the most effective feature that replicates the collaboration and peer-to-peer interaction of a physical classroom. They are virtual rooms where small groups of learners can meet to discuss, share opinions, or participate in group activities.

Breakout Rooms

Breakout Rooms chat

Tips to use Breakout Rooms

  • Decide on the group size and composition.
  • Establish ground rules for small breakout group activities.
  • Make sure participants introduce themselves within Breakout groups.
  • Include instructions for appointing a spokesperson to share group learnings.
  • Decide on moderated discussions, which will need to be facilitated.
  • Determine how you will:
    • Conduct breakout room sessions
    • Share breakout room instructions (participant guides or Teams)
    • Summarize learnings from breakout rooms with a larger group

Whiteboard and Annotation Activities

In its simplest form, ‘annotations’ enable learners to type an answer or pick favorites from a pool of alternatives and display the results in creative ways.

Tips to use Annotation Activities

  • Get familiar with the Text Annotate Tool in your Meeting center.
  • Give participants a chance to try the Annotate tool for a simple activity in the first session.
  • Use the whiteboard to create a grid for learners. Let them use annotation tools (pen, pencil, text box, draw) to share anything that is relevant.
  • Plan how to make annotations work if the group is large.
  • Make provision for capturing learning for Annotations. (Post pics of the slide on the Chat.)

Worksheet Activities

Worksheet activities in the virtual classroom have been an all-time favorite for learners to have fun while brainstorming on strategy and planning, team building, communication exercises, leadership exercises, and more.

Tips to use Worksheet Activities

  • Identify Worksheet activities and ensure all participants have workbooks.
  • Decide between hard copies or soft copies (in editable format).
  • Provide instructions in the FG if participants need to share snapshots of the worksheet activities for discussion.
  • Decide if learners need to share snapshots of the worksheet activities for discussion. If yes, share the instructions in the FG and inform learners what they need to do.
  • Decide where participants will share the snapshots – maybe a separate Teams channel?

It’s but natural to have misgivings about learner engagement in VILT. But, thanks to advances in technology, VILT now has the know-how to offer tools and features that help replicate the real classroom, virtually! And with COVID-19, digital learning is certainly transforming the way organizations are looking at training.

And, before wrapping up, here are some tried and tested best practices to convert your classroom training to VILT.

Best Practices for ILT to VILT Conversion

  • When converting ILT slides to VILT, factor for more slides than those in the ILT version.
  • Organize the ILT content into appropriate chunks for eLearning or VILT if opting for a blended approach.
  • Determine content that can be consolidated/repurposed as job aids or reference material.
  • Conduct a pilot test for inputs to enhance the VILT materials and test activities.
  • Ensure adequate interpersonal interactions.
  • Use the same channel for sharing materials before, during and after the sessions.
  • Integrate multiple mediums to provide a seamless experience.
  • If outsourcing, look for a vendor with a background in both ILT and VILT.

Here’s an eBook that’ll help you understand VILT better – Virtual Instructor-led Training: A Beginner’s Guide – Explore the Art and Science of Replicating the Real Classroom Virtually.

Virtual Instructor-led Training Beginner’s Guide
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