Over the last two years we’ve pivoted in a thousand different ways with how we work, live, and train. As we’ve navigated these changes, we might long to get our worlds back to the way they once were in our personal or professional lives, our day-to-day exchanges, or even our classrooms.
I’ve heard many trainers ask, “When can I go back to the classroom?”—and that’s often followed by waxing sentimental for the days when we could audibly hear the laughter in response to a video or see the “aha” moments as we glance around the room.
As we near the two-year mark of the pandemic, it’s become clear that life won’t return to the way it was before anytime soon. As trainers, navigating this evolution provides an opportunity to focus on our why. Instead of asking when we can go back, ask, “What are people in my organization experiencing in their world today, and how can I help right now?”
With this question, we can explore everything from addressing burnout to navigating different ways of managing employees in today’s virtual landscape—and most of these answers involve finding ways to talk about tough issues, manage changing dynamics, and create sustainable business solutions.
A few barriers prevent some trainers from fully embracing a virtual training model. The three most common ones I hear are, “I don’t think virtual training works as well,” “I worry about low engagement,” and “I just don’t like it—I miss in-person training!”
Let’s take a closer look at each of these three areas, starting with, “I don’t think virtual training works well.”
Crucial Learning began researching the impact of virtual training in 2015. We’ve found that behavior change among virtual participants has been immediate, “with participants using one or more of the skills ‘very frequently” after attending the course,” according to this initial whitepaper.
We’re continuing to research virtual training, including a survey sent last month to update our data. One respondent to this survey said, “Normally I prefer in-person training, but I feel that Crucial Learning does an EXCELLENT job of ‘keeping the learning sticky’ in a virtual environment. Lots of engagement. Lots of opportunity for trying things out. I don’t feel like I missed anything by going virtual, and I also feel it’s much more convenient. I’d prefer to not need to travel for training!”
Another respondent said, “I like both types of learning. I was amazed at how engaged the participants were throughout the program. Loved the buddy system! I met up with my buddy already, and it was great!”
The beauty of these learner comments is they highlight the ease of attending and the impact that the training is having.
Which leads to our second area of concern: low engagement. Nearly half (44%) of respondents of this recent survey rated Crucial Learning virtual training as more engaging than other virtual training courses they’ve attended. One in four respondents felt it was much more engaging than other courses.
What does engagement look like in the virtual classroom? It looks like insight from almost every learner. I’ve always loved the discussions and debriefs around the videos and challenges that learners were facing. Often, in an in-person space, that meant engaging with two or three comments per discussion. In moving to a virtual environment, we can hear from participants in so many different ways that feel most comfortable to them. Chats, polls, emojis, audio, and drawing tools allow participants to connect with the material and each other. As a trainer, connecting the content to learners’ challenges in a meaningful way also contributes to behavior change after the training has ended.
Finally, what if we just don’t like virtually training? That’s okay. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a reverence and love for our in-person classroom days or that I don’t also miss that connection. What I am saying is that there are other ways we can help people right now, right where they are. If we can tap into a new way to find our “why” as a trainer—why we do what we do and the impact we want to have—we can truly start to address what people in our organizations are experiencing right now.
Maybe we can build some truly meaningful learning cohorts across our organizations and bring people together to bond over addressing challenges. Maybe we can help others become grounded in skills that will help them navigate some of the most difficult conversations in their lives. It might be exactly what someone else needs right here, right now. It may not look the way it did before—and yet, if we can find our why, maybe we can have an effective, engaging, different-yet-meaningful learning and life experience.
If you’re looking for a more hands-on virtual trainer experience, reach out to your client advisor and they can connect you with an implementation consultant at Crucial Learning to explore solutions.