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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become the new normal for many of us, including myself, which can be a considerable adjustment. By working remotely, we are participating in more virtual sessions like conference calls, webinars, and online training. This requires us to re-examine how to learn and collaborate despite our physical separation.

Moving from on-site to online training can be a challenge because online activities lack some dynamic elements that on-site work offers. For example, being unable to quickly gauge the audience for learning verification, determine when breaks are needed, or even discuss without the fear of accidentally talking over one another, are realities with virtual meetings.

That being said, online training does have some advantages over its on-site counterpart, one of the major ones being the ability to include individuals from different locations without incurring costly travel expenses.

Guidelines for Online Training

But how can we best optimize engagement, learning, and retention from virtual sessions? Based on research on how adults learn best, plus our professional experience, we recommend the following guidelines when facilitating online training sessions.

  • Since adult learners are concerned with “What’s in it for me?,” ensure that learning objectives clearly address this concern.
  • Virtual sessions should not exceed 2 hours. However, if a session must be longer to meet the learning requirements, break it up into 2-hour chunks or less to make it more digestible and to allow attendees to practice and reaffirm what they’ve learned before coming back for more content.
  • Include checkpoint questions or polling throughout the session to confirm learning and for you, as the facilitator, to gauge information retention.
  • Encourage participation via cameras, chat function, and microphone.
  • In addition to the auditory and visual stimuli of the session, plan ahead to include job-relevant hands-on activities to improve engagement and learning retention. For instance, in the ergonomics workshops that we facilitate, we incorporate case-study videos that are strategically placed after an assessment method is covered. Participants then apply what they’ve learned to pertinent industrial or office tasks in their workplace.
  • Provide 5- to 10-minute breaks every 45 minutes to maintain attention span.
  • Schedule a Q&A period at end of the session.
  • If hosting individuals from different time zones, determine start and end times that accommodate all attendees.

By adhering to these guidelines, you’ll be able to facilitate more effective and participative virtual training sessions.