Whether we’re in the same room or connecting remotely for a virtual training session, we’re constantly competing for our learners’ attention. After all, distractions are everywhere. Even before we moved to hybrid work models, 70% of employees reported being distracted at work.
Though there have been plenty of studies that show working from home can benefit productivity, training facilitators must grapple with a unique set of challenges as companies and organizations continue to grow their hybrid learning and development strategies.
Let’s put aside the allure of social networks that demand attention or family matters that employees working from home may need to address more frequently than when in the office. Hybrid work means an increasing reliance on technology. Technology has made it possible for us to start working from home, but a myriad of digital tools that enable messaging, email, video conferencing, virtual training, and other work functions create a steady stream of distraction.
This means that training facilitators are competing with the standard array of traditional distractions as well as other tasks employees need to complete for work. This isn’t new to virtual instruction, but it can be more difficult as facilitators to read the room through video chat and easier as learners to start multitasking.
I’ve had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in many virtual training sessions and got to see what worked and what didn’t. The most successful trainers came prepared to engage remote employees with the goal of transforming passive participants into active learners.
With that in mind, I put together this list of seven tips for engaging your remote learners.
7 Tips to Drive Engagement in Virtual Training
Mix It Up
There is no doubt that you create the best presentations, but it’s inherently difficult to pay attention after the second hour and hundredth slide of a virtual training session–especially when you’re only halfway through!
Break up the monotony of slides with high-quality video or share your screen for a live demonstration. The best trainers prepare a multimedia playlist and navigate through these different content items to better hold the attention of their learners. Variability and video are fantastic ways to keep your learners on the edge of their seats.
Utilize Quizzing and Polling
Not only do polls and quizzes provide real-time data for facilitators to measure feedback and understanding, but they also drive engagement. Learners have fewer opportunities to multitask when they must actively complete objectives within their virtual classrooms.
Sharing that there will be assessment activities throughout the virtual training can do wonders for holding learners’ attention. Launching polls is a great way to spark active learning and create discussions. Facilitators can see each learner’s response in real-time and ask learners to expand upon their response.
Get on Video
For some of your extroverted colleagues, hybrid work is a lonely exercise. Virtual training sessions offer opportunities to learn new material from the instructor as well as from each other. By connecting via webcam, each learner becomes more accountable to the other. This can help foster a stronger cohort of learners and create more open dialogue.
Remember, the reason we need learners to join synchronous virtual training sessions is to engage them in meaningful conversations and exercises. The difference between real-time and anytime learning is the presence of a dynamic group of employees, so don’t be afraid to call on learners to speak up.
There are many benefits to working from home. However, there are some drawbacks, too. Employees need the option to work together and collaborate.
Breakout rooms provide an incredible opportunity for employees to engage one another as well as complete meaningful training exercises. You can even use breakout rooms for learners to meet one another at the beginning of a recurring training series. Learners will be more willing to contribute to the session if they feel like they are part of a group.
Virtual classrooms have a lot of tools designed for specific learning activities, but they’re flexible enough to allow facilitators to experiment. When sharing slides, for example, you can allow participants to annotate on the shared file.
This can be a fun activity that promotes some amateur art, or it can be an active learning activity such as a table that learners need to fill in or a heuristic chart. Anything we can do to get our participants interacting is a win when it comes to vying for their attention.
Offer Multiple Options to Participate
Depending on the cohort of learners you are working with, webcams and even microphones might not be something everyone is comfortable with. Leave a group chat open and encourage learners to engage with one another. Here, they can ask and answer questions to help expand upon the topics at hand.
Build in Breaks
Even the best prepared facilitator with the most engaging content cannot go on for four hours straight without a break. Share the training agenda at the beginning of the virtual training session and let learners know that there will be breaks for coffee or a snack and a stretch.
It’s important to let folks recharge–including yourself. Some organizations even play timer videos that show how long the break is with some fun music and imagery. Little details go a long way.
Making Virtual Training Interactive
Preparing multimedia training sessions with interactive activities will keep learners engaged and improve learner outcomes. That’s not the whole story, though.
Whether you are facilitating a session virtually or in-person, it’s important to remember that the most successful facilitators inject a whole lot of personality into their training sessions. Learners have tons of opportunities to learn anytime through on-demand video hosted in your corporate learning portal. Learning in a real-time session just cuts differently.
Get creative, mix it up, and remind learners that there’s a shared goal to improve. It’s OK to ask them kindly to turn off their email, minimize their distractions, and chat for a while–it’s worth a try.