While it’s ideal to offer live instructor-led training sessions that are interactive and engaging, this may not always be possible for a variety of reasons. This is where a virtual classroom comes in handy.
A virtual classroom is described as a “teaching and learning environment where participants can interact, communicate, view and discuss presentations, and engage with learning resources while working in groups, all in an online setting.[i] Organizations are leaning more towards this informal way of training their employees for many reasons.[ii]
- Virtual classrooms bring increased convenience and flexibility. If an organization has multiple people in different parts of the world, the training can take place at their convenience and on their timeframe. It’s a known fact that not all employees can take time for training at the same time. A virtual classroom allows for employees to take the training at different times, and if the training session is pre-recorded, it allows for breaks as needed.
- Another benefit of virtual classroom training is the ability to revisit topics for increased knowledge retention. Training sessions delivered virtually are usually structured in shorter modules and allow for interactivity that, if needed, can be repeated.
- Many training sessions require some sort of knowledge check or assessment to ensure the learners are retaining the information. Virtual classrooms allow for immediate feedback, allowing the learners to gauge their understanding of the topics. Also, organizations can use these scores for their advantage as well. In the traditional classroom setting, scoring assessments could take days or even weeks to return and by then the feedback will not be as successful.
- Learners are often shy and held back from participation when in person. With a virtual classroom there are many other options for participation, including chat rooms, and commenting that gives the learners the chance to be more engaged and interactive.
It’s important to thoroughly plan a virtual training session. The organization needs to ensure that not only are the learners enjoying the topic, listening but that they are also, most importantly, retaining the information.[iii] A virtual platform may already be adapted into the company, but if not, do your research and make sure it’s reliable and versatile. Once you have the platform established, make sure you seek out an energetic, engaging facilitator. It’s vital to the success of the training to make sure this person is experienced and can hold the attention of the class. Finally, designate a comfortable learning environment with all the necessary equipment for a successful course. Always prepare for technical difficulties.
Engaging learners can be difficult, especially in a virtual setting. A great way to involve the learners before the course is to set up pre-session activities and introduce content previews. Have a group meeting with managers to discuss the importance of the training and its benefits for their careers. Or, start the training day with an ice-breaker game of some sort. Other ways to ensure the audience is engaged is to keep the content relevant and relatable.[iv] A learner is more likely to enjoy the training and retain the information if its content references current reality and if they can picture themselves and their lives in the presentation. Have enjoyable team building activities, or collaboration exercises to go along with the content, and ensure learners are interacting.
Overall, virtual classrooms are a desired form of corporate training. However, like all training, there is always room for improvement. After each session, ask the learners for their feedback. Again, this feedback will be immediate and will really aid in perfecting virtual classroom learning as more training sessions are offered in the organization.