Posted on: January 14, 2022
Author: Jennifer Hoffman, CEO InSync Training
3 Keys to Success as a Virtual Instructor image

This article was previously published by InSynct Training, an IACET Partner,  and is republished here with permission because IACET deemed it to be a resource that is relevant to IACET stakeholders.

The advanced techniques that virtual instructors must implement for success

Adoption of virtual classrooms for training delivery has become a critical component of an organization’s learning strategy. Unfortunately, we’ve been delivering one-way webinars for so long, it is difficult for a virtual instructor or a facilitator to make the transition to a more collaborative instructional approach. 

To start, a virtual instructor needs to demonstrate the ability to apply Virtual Instructor Lead  (VILT) best practices, including being able to: 

  • Use collaboration tools to support communication between everyone in the virtual classroom;
  • Work well with a producer to effectively manage the experience; and
  • Effectively manage any technical or instructional problems that arise.

These are the foundational VILT training best practices. But we need more than just the basics to truly inspire our learners.

As facilitators become more experienced with this learning environment, the focus needs to move from technologies and tools to a more holistic training delivery approach. Virtual classroom facilitators need to engage learners on an emotional, intellectual, and environmental level.

And that requires more than relying on the technology.

To truly engage learners, we need to connect with them. And the key to that connection is strong facilitation. 

Advanced Techniques (the 3 Keys) That Facilitate Virtual Classroom Success 

To create a learning environment that produces engagement that is equivalent to (or maybe even better than!) a more traditional face-to-face environment, start by adopting these three techniques. 

1. Provide purposeful and authentic delivery to engage on an emotional level.

In the virtual classroom, your language needs to be clear and purposeful. Every word counts.  Pay special attention to voice tone and inflection and watch out for your verbal crutches! (Um, you know, etc.) They are more noticeable in the virtual classroom.  

To support an authentic environment at the emotional level, practice ‘purposeful pausing.’

When you are responsible for delivering a narrative, silence can seem like a failure. We are concerned that if we stop talking, our audience will leave. This is not true. Silence gives learners the opportunity to reflect, respond, and react to the content.

It also provides you the opportunity to craft your next remarks. Be patient with yourself and trust the silence so that learning can happen with reflection. Give the learners time to reflect and connect to their real work. 

2. To stimulate intellectual engagement, minimize lecture and maximize facilitation.

While we want our presentation-focused webinars to be engaging, they are still focused on delivering content and clarifying concepts. Training programs, during which individuals acquire new skills and behaviors, require us to flip the classroom into a less lecture-intense approach and tap into the learner intellect. 

Accomplish this in a number of ways, including focusing on the way questions are asked and answered, and debrief activities.

Facilitators need to adopt questioning techniques that encourage learners to respond and contribute. For example, have everyone post one idea into chat and click the green check when done. Now you have many ideas upon which to build, instead of waiting for one person to raise a hand.

3. Learn to manage, and embrace, multiple learner environments. 

Diversity can make virtual programs more engaging and worthwhile, but we need to learn to manage this diversity. By maximizing environmental engagement, a virtual instructor uses that diversity to enhance the program, rather than detract from its success. Anticipate and manage environmental factors, including multicultural audiences, learners participating from mobile devices, and groups of learners in a multi-method delivery situation. 

  • Multicultural audiences require facilitators to develop cultural intelligence or, “the ability to consider the audience and facilitate interactions that are inclusive and provide needed support for the culturally diverse global audience.”

    This ability helps us to recognize the influence of culture and multiple cultures, play in the classroom and guides in adjusting our facilitation to accommodate our audience. Sometimes we just need to acknowledge the diversity and ask the learners to assist us in learning about one another.
     
  • Virtual learners may choose to learn from their mobile device instead of from their desks, and this creates its own series of challenges. Virtual classroom tools look different on a mobile device, and often don’t have the same features.

    Individuals also interact differently with a mobile device than with a desktop. Facilitators need to learn how to manage this dynamic. 
     
  • Virtual hybrid learning is the simultaneous support of non-co-located learners. This means some learners are at their own machines and using their own audio, some are in the same room sharing audio or machines, but not both, and some learners are in a conference room watching a shared projection of the virtual classroom.

    All of these scenarios create their own complications and change the way the facilitator interacts with the group. What often occurs in this situation is well-designed programs devolve into straight lectures.

    With preparation and awareness, hybrid virtual learning programs can be successful.

Wrapping It All Up

When it comes to virtual classroom facilitation, I can’t emphasize this enough: be specific

Because you lose most of your physical cues in the virtual classroom, you need to make sure you’re using very specific language. Say, “Raise your hand with your questions. If you don’t have one, mark the red X” instead of asking, “Do you have any questions?” Not only do you keep your learners audibly engaged, you’ve given very specific direction to invite them to discuss. 

And don’t forget the debrief – that’s where the learning happens. We’ve been using virtual classrooms for over 20 years now, and still seem to be holding on to a content model that is focused on getting through all of  the slides. Debriefing allows learners to process what they just did, in context with the content, and then connect it to real work. Modern learning design strives to connect training content and events to real work application. 

As facilitators, if we can make the connection clear to our learners, we are able to demonstrate relevance to adult learners, motivating them through lecture-heavy content. That connection makes the learning stick.


About the Author

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Jennifer Hofmann, virtual classroom, and blended learning visionary is founder and president of InSync Training, LLC. InSync is a global virtual consulting firm specializing in the design and delivery of engaging, innovative, and effective virtual learning. The company is a leader in the L&D industry in world-class virtual design, facilitation, and production. InSync delivers services using a proprietary virtual learning and engagement model called the InQuire Engagement Framework™ which uses brain science best practices to ignite and sustain learner engagement.

Under Jennifer’s expert leadership, Inc. 500|5000 named InSync training the 10th Fastest Growing Education Company in the U.S. in 2013, the 20th Fastest Growing Education Company in 2014, and to their Inc. 5000 list for four consecutive years. Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, Forbes Most Powerful Women Issue, The NativeAdVantage, and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program have all recognized her entrepreneurial drive.

Jennifer has written, and contributed to, a number of well-received and highly-regarded books including: The Synchronous Trainer’s Survival Guide: Facilitating Successful Live Online Courses, Meetings, and Events, Live and Online!: Tips, Techniques, and Ready to Use Activities for the Virtual Classroom, and Tailored Learning: Designing the Blend That Fits with Dr. Nanette Miner. Her latest book, Blended Learning ,introduces a new instructional design model that addresses the needs of the modern workplace and modern learners.

Jennifer frequently presents in-person and online for leading learning organizations including The Learning Guild, Training Industry, HR.com, and Training Mag Network. She serves on the Board of Directors for International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training (IACET), supporting the accreditation InSync has maintained for 15 years.

Subscribe to Jennifer’s blog Getting InSync (https://blog.insynctraining.com) and connect with her on LinkedIn for new content and timely insight.


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