In a recent study conducted by TrainingIndustry.com, learning leaders cited the majority of organizations are increasing their use of virtual instructor led training, or VILT. This doesn’t surprise me as organizations can bring globally dispersed participants together to collaborate and learn without the cost of travel. VILT provides that human touch and real-time collaboration that online learning and self-directed learning doesn’t.
When talking about VILT, it is a good idea to start by defining what VILT is, and what it is not. VILT happens when a facilitator and participants meet virtually and collaborate real-time in a virtual classroom platform, such as WebEx Training Center. VILT is not a webinar, webcast, or online meeting. A webinar participant is really just passively listening to the speaker and viewing the slides. A VILT participant frequently engages with the facilitator and collaborates with the other participants. While webinars and webcasts can include a large number of participants, the VILT session is most successful with less than 20 participants—more like the face-to-face classroom.
To be successful implementing VILT in your organization, your learning professionals will have more hats to wear and will need a new set of skills. The good news is they can use the skills they already bring to the table, such as instructional design and facilitation skills. They will need to adapt these skills to be able to design, produce, and facilitate VILT. Let’s take a look at what’s the same and what’s different when it comes to your team ramping up their skills to create engaging VILT sessions.
What skills does your team need to create effective VILT?
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When designing VILT, your learning professionals will already be familiar with using an instructional design process and developing content to meet learning objectives.
What’s different when designing for VILT? Learners need more than a webinar or online meeting experience. So, VILT uses an adapted instructional design process. Your instructional designers will need to design activities and frequent communication between the participants and the facilitator to engage a VILT audience; this is often accomplished by using the virtual classroom tools and visually engaging content.
Your classroom facilitators will already be familiar with learning the content and facilitating through activities with the participants. But that is where the similarities end. Facilitators need to adapt their skills, as they can’t see participants’ reactions and body language. VILT facilitators need to use the virtual classroom technology to communicate often with participants to “see” how participants are doing. They also need to use their voice as a key tool to engage participants and deliver the content without body language. Intonation, tone, and a smile all make a difference in delivering engaging content. Some face-to-face facilitators find it difficult to move to this virtual classroom where they need to manage the technology to “see” their participants and be very deliberate with their voice.
Unlike designing and facilitating, producing is a completely new hat to wear for your learning professionals. Producing is not part of the traditional classroom design and is a new role with a new set of skills. The VILT producer needs to know the VILT technology in and out and be able to troubleshoot on the spot during the session. Sometimes the producer can serve as the host and produce reports following the session. Some VILT facilitators can also do the producer role, but the experts recommend using a producer for a smooth learning experience for your participants.
Adding these VILT skills to your learning team will give your organization an edge up on its blended learning strategy.
How can you get started with improving your learning team’s VILT skills?
Get expert help. Consider working with a vendor your first time to help you set up VILT at your company and coach your learning team. Fredrickson Learning provides VILT designers, producers, and facilitators to help you bridge the VILT skill gap.
Get trained. Encourage your learning team to get trained on VILT skills. The eLearning Guild and Association for Training Development are two good places to start looking for VILT training. Synchronous Online Support (SOS) offers a VILT certificate for $1,349 per person. What training or certificate has your team been successful with?
Follow VILT thought leaders. My favorites are listed below. Who do you follow to learn more about VILT?
- Cindy Huggett, author of The Virtual Training Guidebook: How to Design, Deliver, and Implement Live Online Learning and Virtual Training Basics (ASTD Press, 2010)
- Jennifer Hofmann, author of The Synchronous Trainer’s Survival Guide: Facilitating Successful Live and Online Courses, Meetings and Events (Pfeiffer, 2003), Live and Online! Tips, Techniques, and Ready-To-Use Activities for the Virtual Classroom (Pfeiffer, 2004), and How To Design For The Live Online Classroom: Creating Great Interactive and Collaborative Training Using Web Conferencing (Brandon Hall, 2005).
- Ruth Clark, author of Harnessing the Virtual Classroom and Four Steps to Effective Virtual Classroom Training