COVID-19: In-Person Training is No Longer an Option

How You Can Successfully Transition To Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT)

Mario was given an almost impossible task in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic: Transition all the company’s traditional in-person training into Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT) and do it ASAP. Two weeks ago, his company proactively recommended some staff to work from home as a precautionary measure. Now there is Stay-At-Home order, so all employees at his company must now work remotely. As a learning professional, he’s responsible for providing the essential training his company needs but now must figure out how to do all of it virtually.

Regular Training

  • New Employee Orientation
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Leadership

Special Training

  • Working from Home
  • Managing a Remote Workforce

How Would You Approach This Challenge?

As detailed in a previous blog, transitioning to virtual training requires you to first shift your mindset before you do anything else. This means if you keep your old mindset and just grab a virtual collaboration tool like Zoom and start hosting online sessions before you know how to effectively design virtual learning with it, your efforts will most likely fail.

So what do you need to consider when you shift from in-person training to virtual training? Here are three shifts that are worth considering.

#1: Shift from Hosting an Event to Building a Community

In-person trainings are event-based learning activities. You 1) schedule your training, 2) employees register for it, 3) you do it, and then 4) you have records of completion. Compare that to VILT, where everything is online. In VILT, you can do much more before and after the actual training event, including: 

  • Assigning or providing pre-work activities to spark curiosity
  • Creating an ecosystem of references to build background
  • Recording the session and discussion chats to reference later

But why stop there? If you have an existing infrastructure such as Office 365, you can create a Community of Practice around that topic in which training events are just one piece. The training event is essential because it provides a common core knowledge, but the real work happens when workers discuss how they apply that knowledge in their workplace. This blended and spaced learning approach has been proven to reinforce learning and minimizes retention loss.

#2: Shift from Limited to High Engagement

During in-person trainings, only one person gets to talk at a time, so everyone can hear what’s being said in the room. However, in VILT, while one person is speaking, everyone can respond simultaneously- via chat. The best VILT sessions include engagement opportunities every couple of minutes – not only through chat, but through polls and other online collaborative tools.

#3: Shift from a Content Focus to a Performance Focus

In-person trainings focus on delivering a body of knowledge. The trainer “Pushes” the course content to the workers who are learning the material. In VILT, that still occurs during the virtual session, but there is more. When workers need it, they also “Pull” additional resources and material (i.e., Quick Reference Guides, worksheets, and curated content such as podcasts and TED talk videos). This is an essential difference because workers are not just learning the content, they are implementing it. As they apply and refine their skills that they learned in the VILT, they reference back to and pull the specific content they need to support them.

Making the Transition to VILT

Returning back to Mario, he can be successful in implementing his VILT training if he shifts his mindset in these three key areas. 

  1. Build a Community: Using a single or suite of online tools (such as Office 365 or Zoom and Moodle), he’ll create a community around a body of knowledge, such as Conflict of Interest. 
  2. Increase Engagement: During his VILTs, he’ll maintain high engagement by asking many questions. These discussions will then continue online in the virtual community. 
  3. Focus on Performance: To support the learning communities, he’ll build an ecosystem of performance support resources, including the recorded VILT sessions. Workers access them and ask questions in the discussion as they apply and refine their knowledge to their daily work.

If you are in Mario’s shoes and need to shift to VILT rapidly, you can use this strategy to make your efforts more successful.