The tilt to VILT

Virtual Instructor Led Training is on the rise. No surprise there. But what’s interesting is that the prediction for forward growth takes it’s starting point as November 2020, rather than benchmarking future figures against pre-Covid stats.

According to a MarketWatch report, the global virtual classroom market size is predicted to see a nearly 10% Compound Annual Growth Rate over the next five years, compared to figures gathered in November 2020.

A report from Redback, an Australian web conferencing company, gives this prediction some weight:

This graph highlights how many more digital events we are attending in 2020 compared to last year. The report reveals it’s no longer just one or two events a month, but getting towards 10 or more for some people.

And that’s not going to change any time soon. A smaller scale survey by Breeio says that, for many L&D and HR professionals, virtual events are here to stay.

This all speaks to quantity – but not quality.

L&D professionals, be they individual operators or corporate departments, were at varying stages of competency when it came to facilitating live online learning before the pandemic hit.

In the US, Digital Promise conducted a survey of more than 1,000 college students whose coursework moved from in-person to online in response to Covid.

It found that whilst some elements of courses were reported to be better online, students’ satisfaction levels dropped sharply and elements such as understanding what was expected of them or feeling included in class were far worse online.

Digital Promise went on to produce a report on the challenges reported by academic faculties as they tried to transition to remote delivery. The struggle to keep students engaged tops the list.

There were also major challenges around transitioning the content to deliver remotely, adjusting the instructional practice, as well as using and getting comfortable with the various bits of tech.

We hear you! At Lightbulb Moment, we train teams of people in how to design and deliver webinars and virtual classrooms, so we had our fair share of SOS calls when Covid kicked off. We found that clients were facing three main challenges:

  • Time
  • Skills
  • Investment

Time to deliver live online learning well

For many, the bulk of the training delivery was already planned and, in some instances, had to go ahead regardless. Some clients had just hours or days to transition from face-to-face to virtual and were feeling immense pressure and uncertainty.

Then there’s the question of gauging the optimum running time for your live online learning. Jane Bozarth, Research Director for The eLearning Guild, recently wrote about the number of full-day live online events being run in response to the pandemic. In 2019, InSync Training was asked to support 116 events that ran for seven or more hours. In 2020, that leapt to 1,267.

You can run all-day events live online, but they need to have exceptional design and facilitation to work. As Jane advocates, step back and take a look at things from the learner’s perspective. We’re meant to be making their lives better, not worse.

Skills for VILT

We know that designing and delivering for live online is different from face-to-face. Yes, your existing training skills come into play, but you can’t just ‘lift and shift’ and expect it to work well. Pressing deadlines meant that many were forced to work with the skills they had – which didn’t always go well.

“The online facilitator must have an excellent
ability to engage learners.”

As a 2019 paper highlighted: “The online facilitator must have an excellent ability to engage learners.” No facilitator skill, no learner engagement. As providers ourselves, we know the huge value in a team attending formal training in order to develop those skills.

With the right techniques, live online learning can be exceptional. Research found that participants appreciated obvious, simple, but often overlooked things such as interaction, feedback, and support from the facilitator and their peer group.

Presenters must be enthusiastic, encourage meaningful interaction and be watchful for digital body language. All skills that can be learnt and honed.

Investment in virtual classroom skills

Organisations were facing extra costs associated with the massive upheaval caused by Covid while at the same time, in many cases, seeing a dent in profits. To make matters worse, they hadn’t budgeted for the training needed to upskill their people to become confident live online facilitators.

But most bit the bullet and invested in L&D. As LinkedIn research has highlighted, two-thirds of L&D professionals say that learning and development is becoming a more strategic part of their organisation.

The way ahead

There are two pieces of research that you can contribute to help with future insight. One is from Sukh Pabial, about the impact of Covid-19 on L&D, and the other is from Breeio, as part of a virtual classroom webinar series I’ve been working on with them.

If you want to make a success of Virtual Instructor Led Training in 2021 you’ll need to focus on the three core elements of time, skills and investment. The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. Lightbulb Moment offers training courses, a community forum for support, and a whole host of free resources such as videos and podcasts to help you make your live online learning not just as good as face-to-face – but better.

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