5 Strategies for Engaging Online Learners with Virtual Instructor-Led Training

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How to Engage Online Learners

The finale to our Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) series is how to engage your online learners. Now that you’re aware of the benefits and challenges of online learning, as well as Xpan’s KX strategy, the final step is to put it into practice.

But even with an excellent grasp of the previous concepts, instructors may feel frustrated when learners are unresponsive. How do you keep your content engaging and interesting?

Here are some tips to use as a guide when outlining your lessons to keep your learners actively participating in a virtual classroom

Analyze Your eLearning Experience

It is challenging to come up with an eLearning experience that is just right for your learners, their tasks, and your organization, but the value is measurable. Start by analyzing current instructional goals and optimizing content to your organizational learning platform. If necessary, complete a task analysis to ensure that online content meets the same training goals as face-to-face delivery.

Review the proposed training content and course objectives at a macro level. Curate it carefully: keep only what is necessary to meet training goals. Instructors need to start from the beginning when it comes to determining necessary learning objectives for sharpening and adapting course content for VILT delivery. Remember, not all content is suitable for online learning. Know what is vital—consider how or if it will work in an online environment.

Remember that less is more when it comes to lesson content. Take out superfluous slides or extra content that does not relate to the main idea. Having a concise lesson plan will make learners less likely to tune out. Even if the lesson needs to be broken down into smaller ones, it is easier to learn from two smaller lessons than one long lecture.

Design and Repurpose Individual Lessons

Effective training through VILT must be more intricate than videotaping lectures and posting them online. This includes Instructional Designers (IDs) working closely with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to design micro training by identifying the goals for each lesson.

Aligning content with the training goals and developing strategies is key for supporting engagement and retention of material. IDs collaborate with SMEs to create formative assessment strategies that result in increased engagement and performance for participants.

Develop the Content and Prepare the Instructor and Participants

At this stage, instructional design involves developing content for optimal learning and engagement. Some things to consider are the length, pacing, and modality of the content. Including a variety of ways to teach this content encourages participants to stay engaged as their brain works harder to absorb information from a video, switch to a PowerPoint presentation, listen to an audio file, and then back again. 

To encourage real-time participation, instructors can include multiple modalities in addition to pre-recorded video, such as polls, surveys, and quizzes. An instructor could use these features to test participants on the material or to check in with learning progress. Breakout rooms are also an effective tool to encourage discussion for participants who may not feel comfortable speaking in front of the whole group. In these sessions of about two-four people, small collaborative assignments also encourage creativity in discussion.

Most importantly, instructors must communicate with participants. They should ask questions at all stages of learning and listen to how the participants are feeling about the content. From there, an instructor should make adjustments to both the material and its pacing. When engaging with participants, instructors should know, understand, and communicate proper online behaviour, and take extra care to model it themselves.

Implement Thoughtfully

Instructors and learners have a symbiotic relationship in an effective learning environment. Every instructor should have a facilitator guide, which can save them a lot of grief. Training instructors in the use of the learning platform is imperative. They should master the use of communication with participants, work with groups and individuals, be familiar with polls and surveys, and switch from one modality to another. An instructor must be comfortable with all the programs they are using, so they should receive technical training and support to ensure their teaching flows smoothly.

Both the instructors as well as the learners should be well-prepared. They should expect to receive all communication about course expectations and login information prior to the start of instruction. This message should also remind the learners to test their equipment before the session begins.

Evaluate the Course

Don’t assume that everything will be perfect. If you can, pilot the course before using it. Pay attention to the opinions of learners. Send pre- and post-surveys. Ask the instructors what they feel worked. What didn’t work? Track participants to measure if the training resulted in improved performance.

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