Online learning is the fastest-growing market in the education industry, with numbers suggesting a 900% growth rate since 2000. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated virtual training, but the demand for and success of this type of education and training means providers need to look at how they can incorporate it into their provision.
The UK EdTech sector was valued at approximately £3.2bn in 2021 and grew 72% in 2020, no doubt driven by the pandemic. However, people still assert their preference for virtual learning opportunities when in-person learning is possible and available. Implementing virtual learning can be as simple as downloading eLearning courses and distributing them, but does this deliver the high-quality service your learners deserve? Understanding and exploring best practices in virtual training is vital to ensure you make the right decisions when implementing new programmes.
The importance of virtual training in the wake of COVID19
Virtual training is simply a teaching method in an online environment. The training can be similar to in-person training, with teachers and tutors actively involved, or it can be video-based, utilising different materials to deliver the same content as you’d receive in person.
Virtual training has the primary benefit of being location-independent. Anyone can learn from anywhere, and when COVID-19 saw us unable to leave our homes, it became particularly indispensable. Many people invested in their education during the lockdown periods, and employers and educational companies began to recognise the added value virtual training could offer their organisations.
Without virtual training, many programmes and courses would simply have had to stop during the pandemic. Virtual training is convenient for learners and training providers, as lessons can be watched and digested at a time and pace to suit different learning styles.
Virtual training is a powerful tool for crafting blended learning experiences, with education businesses and organisations able to incorporate a mixture of class-based, virtual and structured learning sessions to suit the needs of their learners and the aims of the course.
8 best practices in virtual training for the education industry
To succeed with virtual training, you have to invest time and commit to delivering the highest quality experiences possible, with these best practices to guide your decisions:
1. Implement a modern LMS
A learning management system (LMS) is the hub of all your virtual training. You need a software package that suits your audience and the tools available need to deliver to your specifications. The right LMS will help you facilitate training in the formats best suited to your learners, allow for course authorities, knowledge base development, and many other features. A good LMS also provides your learners with a base to track their progress. They’ll be able to access their profile from any location or device and pick up from where they left off.
2. Set clear rules and expectations
Virtual training can seem impersonal and as a course provider, you may feel disconnected from the learners. You need to provide set rules and expectations, so learners know what to do. You should never assume anyone attending virtual training sessions has the same understanding of rules and etiquette if you haven’t communicated them. Provide learners with access to basic rules and guidelines via your LMS and give them the opportunity to ask their questions and voice their concerns.
3. Ensure accessibility
The most important benefit of virtual training is its universality. It should be accessible from any device in any location, internet connection permitting. It’s important to check your training works across various devices and operating systems. Checking the compatibility of your LMS is one of the first considerations when choosing the right software for your purposes.
4. Utilise different media and methods
Virtual training needs to grab the attention and engage learners. Endeavour to create visually engaging and impactful training courses by integrating a range of media and different training methods. Multimedia approaches to virtual training help to ensure it engages every kind of learner and all those involved in the course can connect to the material. There is a wide range of media you could use for your training course, from videos and slides to formal (recorded) lectures and live question-and-answer sessions.
5. Prepare for problems
Nothing runs without problems, and a proactive approach will help ensure you aren’t caught out by difficult questions or troubleshooting problems you have no answer for. Anticipate the key pain points and ensure you have plans in place to solve each. Internet outages and glitching videos are sometimes impossible to avoid, but ensuring you have a backup and alternatives in place can ensure things run smoothly again. Preliminary activities and additional resources ensure learners have something to do if the main course material malfunctions.
6. Consider bitesize learning modules
The more interactive and broken down your virtual training is, the more people will digest and engage with it. Invite discussion, offer up opportunities for questions, and throw in the occasional quiz to ensure learners are both paying attention and engaged with the material. It’s harder to gauge engagement levels with virtual training so ensuring there are regular stop gaps, opportunities to take stock, and digest information are vital.
Similarly, long drawn-out modules with large blocks of lecturing or information overload simply don’t suit the virtual learning environment. Learners are more likely to switch on and off, so delivering learning in small components will help learners to retain more information.
7. Test, test, and test again
The first time you put a training session live to learners should never be the first time it officially goes “live”. You must test and keep testing, so you’re 100% confident in your content and delivery. Running practice sessions with willing participants can help ensure no technical issues or content delivery problems are first discovered when you release the course to the public.
8. Listen and learn from feedback
Your learners are your only real source of critique so paying close attention to their feedback is vital for ensuring improvements are in place for future courses. Gather feedback from participants and look for ways to build upon any criticisms to improve further courses.
Deliver impactful, engaging virtual training programmes
Making the switch from traditional face-to-face training delivery to a virtual-first approach can take some adjustment. However, learners clearly show their preference for virtual sessions, so delivering them effectively is crucial for any educational organisation wanting to compete.
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