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In today’s highly mobile corporate culture, virtual training is fast becoming the go-to approach for onboarding new hires and enhancing the skills of existing employees. It’s easy to assume that cost and time savings are the key benefits driving the surge, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that—thanks to our growing reliance on device-based technology and platforms—virtual training is also highly effective. As with all training, however, success depends on several factors: the development of the program, the quality of the content, the effectiveness of the presentation and so on.
While there’s no single virtual training approach that’s right for every situation, there are a few tips you can follow to ensure that no matter what your objective is, your training will be primed to deliver results. Below are five virtual training criteria we believe are crucial to increasing participant engagement, boosting retention and improving on-the-job performance.
The key to engagement in the digital age is relevance. Before you begin scripting your virtual training content, know precisely which employees you’re trying to reach and what outcomes you need to achieve. By establishing a set of primary learning objectives, you’ll find it easier to identify which key pieces of information are both necessary and truly useful for your audience. If the training is for a narrow group of employees—e.g., salespeople or technicians—tailor your content to speak directly to that audience, and create examples or exercises that are specifically relevant to their experiences.
When learners receive content in a disorganized jumble, retention suffers. Make sure your course script is structured in compelling, easy-to-recall segments. Create a topic outline and break your script into its essential components: intro, body and conclusion. Within the body, chunk content into chapters that cover the essentials of each topic—and title those chapters with simple, relevant headlines learners can easily recall. Remember to recap the highlights of that subject matter before moving on to the next chapter.
In virtual training, less truly is more. Studies show that content chunks longer than 10 minutes can lead to cognitive overload. To avoid this, keep each chapter to no more than 5-6 minutes in length. Write your presentation in concise sentences using active voice, and avoid complicated jargon as much as possible. In addition, consider following each chapter with a brief activity (a quiz or exercise, for example) to re-engage the brain, reward attention and keep participants motivated to continue.
Virtual training is highly visual, offering tremendous advantages for keeping learners engaged. But don’t overdo it. Make sure graphics are simple and easy to read. Keep text to short bullets of 4-6 lines per screen, and be thoughtful in your use of fonts and whitespace. If your technology allows, consider making the training interactive—using simulations or surveys to keep audiences engaged. You can even make course content and interaction shareable across social platforms, discussion boards and the like. Whatever you do, don’t assume your audience is as tech-savvy as you are. Make sure your content is easy to access, simple to navigate and formatted to view properly across a variety of devices—including smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Assessments are essential to helping you build the best virtual training course possible. Not only do they test employees’ knowledge and skills, but they also give you an understanding of how effective your training is. (After all, if 80% of employees are testing poorly after a certain module, odds are that content should be reworked.) Make sure to inform learners up front that they will be evaluated throughout the training. Place topic quizzes or assessments at the end of content chunks and include certificates of completion to reward milestones. To demonstrate learning fully, it’s a good idea to test learners on the same subject matter before and after each topic.
Want to discover more ways to create effective, participant-centered virtual training that engages learners right from the start? Sign up for Bob Pike Group’s Interactive Virtual Trainer Workshop today—attendance counts toward your professional certification!