The LitheSpeed team has trained dozens of live, online courses for hundreds of people in the past month alone. With over 30,000 people trained since our company was founded, we have some online learning tips that will make the experience better for learners, instructors, and everyone involved with a virtual training.
Expect that your systems will fail
As much as online meetings have saved all of us in the current crisis, the reality is that the technology will be your biggest hurdle. Learners and instructors alike should assume that their internet will go down, the tools will stop working, and the sound will be choppy.
Learners – Do your own scenario planning before the event. Prep by finding answers for questions like:
- What will I do to dial in instead of using computer audio?
- What is the lifeline email or phone number to someone outside of the training in case of catastrophe?
Acknowledge that even if there are no big technical issues or if you are a pro, many of your classmates or colleagues will be new to online training and will need some patience or a helping hand.
Instructors – While hard to believe, your students may never have joined a video meeting on your preferred platform. To stave off tech issues, i’d recommend that you:
- Always, ALWAYS have a pen & paper backup to your activities
- Provide your class with some written instructions on what to do if the training platform kicks the bucket (Akin to assigning a meeting place during a fire drill and hoping the real fire does not make it necessary)
- Keep things simple so even your least technical learners can keep up. If you or your learners are really worried about accessing the training platform, hold a quick test meeting to get them comfortable before the big day.
- Have a support cohost online and direct any technical questions and issues to them so as not to interrupt the training flow
- If there is a technical issue, take a break. A short break is much more important to your learners than watching you become tech support
Get comfortable with your virtual classmates
Learners – We learn best when we are comfortable enough to speak up. If you are on the shy side, challenge yourself to participate as much as possible. If you’re afraid to shout out questions, type them in the chat. Others likely have the same questions. If you clam up in a group, don’t worry! You likely won’t see these people again! Or if you work with them daily, even better to build relationships in this setting that you can bring back to your normal work.
Instructors – It is your responsibility to ensure participants feel at ease. Be sure to have your class get to know each other as soon as possible. Making connections and breaking the ice should be done before you jump into the training content. Try having people unmute and introduce themselves as you explore your video platform. To keep this short for a big class, have folks write down answers to these bullets and then shout them out as you call on them. You can also paste the attendee name list in the chat so everyone knows when they’re up.
- Your name
- Your role
- Your favorite…
Help everyone learn
Reflect often, with a formal retrospective at the midpoint of the class.
Learners – don’t be shy to email or chat your instructor a couple of thoughts on what went well and what might make the next part of the class even better. You or your company invested in this experience, and you should do everything you can to squeeze all the learning out.
Instructors – solicit honest feedback on the logistics and breaks, as there are often simple fixes that make a big impact. If you have done your part to create a comfortable environment, your learners should be open to providing feedback.
Be real and be mindful
We are all facing challenges right now that aren’t visible to others through our laptop cameras. For many of us, these challenges are unlike any other in our lifetime. Stress can prevent you from learning properly, but if you are in a place to take on training, realize that mindfulness can increase focus and lower stress.
Learners – Even breathing mindfully for 30 seconds during a training break (between helping with your kid’s schoolwork, scarfing a snack and taking the dog out) can help distract you from stress and refocus you for learning.
Instructors – try a mindfulness exercise to bring everyone into a learning mindset. Before diving into a new section, something as simple as a 30 second body scan or quick environment check can prepare everyone for a new chunk of learning. Have your group close their eyes (or not) and ask one of these questions:
- Is your chair comfortable? What could you do to make it more comfortable for our next lesson?
- Are you clenching your jaw? Roll your shoulders and relax
For the above, end with a deep inhale and exhale. I just took a breath and hope you do too.
TL;DR: Things will go wrong in online training, and the best things you can do as either a learner or instructor are to plan for the worst and communicate openly.
On technology being the biggest hurdle: below is a silly skit from our team. Happy online learning!