If you haven’t attended a virtual instructor-led-training (VILT), sign up for one now! As learning and development professionals, having some VILT knowledge and experience will increase your tool set and give you an opportunity to show your organization how to embrace this cost-effective, flexible, and efficient way to train many learners in diverse locations.
I’m sure you’re asking yourself… “Isn’t a VILT the same as a webinar?” The answer is no. Webinars and VILTs are similar in that the presenter uses a platform to “broadcast” content to learners who attend the training using a laptop, tablet, or even mobile device. But the big difference is that webinars are usually straightforward presentations. This is fine if the purpose is mainly to provide information in a way that requires the learner to listen and watch, but not interact with, the content and other learners. A VILT, on the other hand, is structured to engage the learners throughout the session with the expectation of accomplishing objectives, which generally speak to increasing knowledge or the capacity to perform a new task. If you want to teach someone how to perform functions using a new software program or provide practice in handling customer services issues, then a VILT approach would be appropriate. If you want to inform everyone on the company’s progress in reaching key performance indicators, then a webinar would be a good choice.
If you decide that a VILT is the right delivery method for your content, think about this: in the book Design for How People Learn, author Julie Dirksen likens our brains to elephants. Elephants go where they see something interesting. They wander. And so does our brain when we’re not engaged. VILTs are gaining popularity because when they are well designed and facilitated, they can be highly engaging. And when learners are engaged, learning transfer increases because our “elephant brains” will stick with the content.
Here are a few tips to get started with VILT:
- Get informed. Participate in a few VILTs. Make notes as you attend to determine what worked well, how the learners responded to activities, and what the facilitator did to keep them engaged. Ask other learners about their VILT experiences and what kept them interested.
- Know how to sell it. Your stakeholders may love the idea of bringing training to more learners in a shorter time and at a lower cost than traditional instructor-led training; however, they may not have any context beyond a typical webinar. You may need to take the time to explain the differences between a webinar and VILT, as well as the similarities between a VILT and traditional instructor-led training.
- Know your platform. Like traditional instructor-led training, you need to practice using the equipment, do dry-runs, and get some feedback on how you performed before going “live” with learners. Just like moving around in a classroom, you need to move around in your platform with ninja-like precision by using the interactive tools your VILT platform provides, such as break-out rooms, polls, the whiteboard, and chat.
- Partner-up. You may design a beautiful VILT, but if you don’t have a buddy, you’re stuck handling issues for your learners such as logging on, getting the screen to show, and other technical issues in full view of your audience. Dealing with these issues can take you off task and impact your timing. Do a few dry runs with your partner to determine who handles each topic, who sets up the polls, who determines the breakout groups, etc.
- Get visual. Facilitating a VILT means you need to be on-screen — at least some of the time. This personalizes the experience for your learners. In addition, using interesting colors, a theme, and images will keep the “elephant brain” from wandering.
- Keep it moving. To keep learners focused, use the 90-second rule: make something happen on the screen every 90 seconds, even if it’s just circling a key word. Also, since learners need to take action and make associations to content, plan on ways for them to type a chat response, respond to a poll, or even go on camera to answer a question.
- Make it solid. Support your VILT with a solid framework of achievable objectives, instructional strategies that include relevant activities with thoughtful engagement strategies. Last, figure out a way to determine if the objectives were met — bake in one last poll, send a survey out afterwards, or take on a larger return-on-investment approach to evaluate your VILT.
For more information on getting starting with VILT, check out the resources on the Association for Talent Development website. You’ll find, articles, books, courses and more to help produce engaging experiences. You also can watch a recorded version of ILG’s latest webinar on VILT, “No More Dry Toast! Butter Up Your Virtual Instructor-Led Training,” to see how I applied some of my tips. Good luck!