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Ask a Trainer: Converting In-Person Training for Virtual Delivery

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Tim,

I’m a trainer at a medium-sized organization and, as is the case with many people right now, my work is being affected by the coronavirus outbreak. My in-person training sessions have been canceled or postponed, but we have some time-sensitive compliance training that needs to be rolled out soon, and my boss has asked me to deliver this as a virtual training. I’ve presented on webinars in the past so I’m familiar with the basics, but I’ve never facilitated an entire virtual course.

Do you have any suggestions for converting in-person training content for virtual delivery?


Thanks for reaching out! With the recent coronavirus outbreak, many learning professionals are quickly rethinking how they’re delivering their in-person training content. And while I wish no one were in a position to have to make dramatic changes to their lives or work due to this virus, from a training perspective I think it presents a unique opportunity for everyone to think outside of the box.

So, how can you convert your in-person training content for virtual delivery? Here are two practical tips.

Tip Number 1: Don’t Try to Completely Recreate the in-Person Training Experience

One of the first mistakes many training professionals make when converting in-person training for virtual delivery is attempting to 100 percent recreate the in-person experience in a virtual environment. It just doesn’t work that way.

Ideally, the content you’re currently teaching in-person was designed to take advantage of everyone being present in the same room. This allows for easier face-to-face interactions between you and the participants. It also makes it easier for you to see whether your class is engaged, who is struggling, and more. When teaching virtually, there are many more barriers for you to deal with.

When converting in-person training for virtual delivery:

  • Include additional opportunities to check for understanding. Ask participants to respond verbally, via chat, or by using emoticons.
  • Solicit specific and regular interaction from the entire class. Don’t be afraid to call on specific names when asking questions.
  • Use breakout rooms (if your virtual training platform allows) for small group activities and discussions.
  • Turn on your webcam and, if you’re facilitating a small class, encourage your participants to do the same.
  • Recruit a second facilitator to act as a producer during the virtual session to assist with technical issues (if your resources allow).
  • Break your virtual training sessions into shorter, smaller chunks. Don’t force your participants to sit for an eight-hour webinar.
  • Record each session and make them available for replay.

Tip Number 2: Explore Blended Learning Options

As you’re seeking to convert your in-person training for virtual delivery, you may discover that you don’t have the time or ability to completely redesign or transform all your existing content. In these situations, you may want to explore a blended learning approach.

The benefit of blended learning is that it allows you to create modular learning objectives, which you can mix and match to create a holistic learning experience. It also gives your learners several different options for obtaining content.

When creating a blended learning experience:

  • Curate existing content, either from the Internet or in-house, to augment your virtual training.
  • Design informal performance support or job aid documents for quick reference.
  • Record short how-to videos or micro e-learning courses that can be posted and tracked within your learning management system.
  • Create an online discussion board, Slack channel, or hub where learners can ask questions and get answers.

I hope some of these tips help. I know this sudden need to transform your existing in-person training content for virtual delivery is an inconvenience. However, I encourage you to view it as an opportunity to break the status quo. Experiment with solutions that you’ve never considered in the past and see what unconventional solutions might work.

Once this coronavirus situation is behind us, you may discover you’ll want to keep some of the changes you’ve made.

Best of luck!

Tim


What other strategies or tips can you share about converting in-person training for virtual delivery? Share them by commenting below!


Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to askatrainer@td.org. Also, visit the Ask a Trainer hub to check out all of your questions and my answers.


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Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

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About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

18 Comments
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Hi Tim, These tips are great! Thank you. I am looking for equipment recommendations to improve the learners experience. Something along the lines of a best practice to provide learners with to make the experience seamless. Do you have any suggestions or another article that may help me?
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Hi Tim,
Thanks for posting these tips. We are researching how to conduct our typical 1 or day sessions in the virtual environment. I see your comment regarding slitting them up into shorter sessions. Do you feel a 4 hour session is acceptable? Our thought is to break up the 1-day into 2 4-hour sessions provided at a time beneficial for most time zones and our 2-day course into 4 4-hour sessions. With breaks & break-out sessions is 4hrs acceptable?
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Same situation: converting 10-day F2F to online. More tips: plan more breaks than F2F (we have learners with kids and pets at home--already seeing need for more breaks); plan for internet outages (also already experiencing that; trained facilitators will have to step in to teach, if needed); incorporate multiple learning technology strategies--workbooks, video clips, synchronous classes, quiz games, anything to break up the monotony.
Thanks for the additional tips, Marta! I totally agree with you on providing additional breaks!
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