8 Helpful Tips for Running Better Virtual Trainings

For the health and safety of learning communities, it’s a good idea to host all training events online in the coming weeks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and advice from the World Health Organization are advising people stay home as much as possible. You can still protect the health and safety of your staff while updating your training policy to host training events online.

Face-to-face trainings can make it feel easier to communicate and read the reactions of others in the room. But an online training, especially a webinar, can make it seem like you’re losing some of the participants.

Remote training sessions aren’t identical to in-person education, but there are ways to make them effective, productive—and lower your anxiety levels. Here are 8 top tips that will help you get more value out of your virtual training.

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8 Tips for Better Virtual Trainings

  1. Choose the Right Tool for the Training
  2. Make a Plan
  3. Consider Time Zones and Schedules
  4. Send a Welcome Message
  5. Navigate Spam Filters
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice
  7. Keep Learners Engaged
  8. Provide Contact with Mentors or Coaches

1. Choose the Right Tool for the Training

The most important decision when you move training online is what tool you’ll use to offer it. Different situations and materials call for different solutions.

If you’re doing a one-off training that takes no more than 1.5 hours, a webinar is a good choice, and you can use a tool like GoToMeeting, Join.me, Uber Conference, or Zoom. Learn more about a few popular video conferencing services.

If you need to repeat the training, need to offer certificates, or need more in-depth training, then self-guided online education is the solution you need. The fastest and easiest way to train your staff without being in the same room is through a learning and training subscription. Learning subscriptions are helpful so you’re not reinventing the wheel every time you train every community health worker.

A learning subscription lets you begin training within a few days. It’s a digital learning solution that provides 24/7 access to a complete catalog of interactive training courses and videos for anyone on your team who needs to build skills or meet training requirements. Learning subscriptions are helpful for existing and new hires because they make it easy to stay current as health recommendations are constantly changed and revised. Access to a continuous learning system like CHWTraining keeps staff connected to enhanced training or CHW certification requirements with each new update.

2. Make a Plan

Unless you’re a pro at holding online trainings, having a careful plan is the key to a smooth event. A project plan helps you assign tasks, collaborate with others, and remove stress for everyone. Even if you’re the only one holding your online training, you should plot out the sequence of events and when they should happen.

At a minimum, include these main categories in an elearning project plan, including task, milestone, and person responsible:

  • Registration
  • Text or content writing
  • Graphic design
  • Platform set up
  • Rehearsal
  • Follow-up

3. Consider Time Zones and Schedules

Nearly everyone has mixed up meeting times with someone in a different time zone. Consider time zones when you set your event, and think about when people are free.

You might even survey your learners to find out when it’s most convenient for them to meet. There are a lot of good scheduling tools out there, but we often use Doodle:

4. Send a Welcome Message

Welcome messages help you set expectations and highlight anything important when people are most attentive. Use your welcome message to give students a quick preview of the virtual training, give them contact information, state prerequisites, and give them major deadlines they can copy into their calendars.

5. Navigate Spam Filters

Spam filters are notorious for blocking messages from anyone, especially if your team works at a healthcare facility, which seem to have even more strict blocking measures. Double-down on your notifications and messaging by sending in multiple formats: email, automatic notification, Slack, text.

You might even reach out to your learners via their personal email addresses if possible, since so many people are home and might not have access to their work email accounts.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice

Before you step into that virtual classroom, know what you’re doing by practicing, multiple times if needed. This will give you a chance to try out new technology tools, new material, and be ready for unplanned events.

“Find a group of people who will support your learning curve and practice with the technology. Ideally you gather a group large enough to practice different features of the platform you’ve selected, such as organizing breakout rooms” advises Laura Wells, a trainer who regularly delivers leadership training around San Francisco in person. She has started delivering distance training sessions for clients, and is currently planning to deliver an exceptional virtual format of the Search Inside Yourself program (details at info@awakeinbusiness.com) for which she is a certified teacher. She needed to quickly get up-to-speed in April when one training was rapidly converted to an online format.

“Practicing saved the day,” she says.

“It’s tricky to switch smoothly between screen sharing of content to organizing breakout rooms without losing focus (yours and the participants). Going through that a few times in practice made it much less awkward during the live training,” Wells says. “I was so happy to get through the awkwardness with friends first! And that first April session received excellent evaluation marks from the participants.”

Some tools, such as GoToWebinar, let you start events in practice mode without leading a live session. Even if you fake your own practice mode, run through the event with other presenters, moderators, hosts, and organizers to perfect it before your learners show up.

“I also think a benefit of the practice session with friends is stress management. You don’t feel so alone in it. Sitting in your living room facilitating a training can feel a bit surreal,” Wells says. “It’s great to have the practice people already there in the room with you.”

7. Keep Learners Engaged

For some people, the idea of not being able to sit in the same room with an instructor is a big turn-off. “Remote” learning doesn’t have to feel far away if you focus on building community with your online group.

Encourage the instructor to introduce themselves to your staff and ask them to share information with one another. This will help build a personal rapport. It can also be helpful to build periodic conference calls into a course, or create virtual office hours, so participants can interact with the instructor. A mentoring structure can help too, if you can pair learners with experienced health workers.

Some other best practices for increasing engagement:

  • Ask early and often what participants think.
  • Offer rewards, such as certificates or CEUs.
  • Ask everyone to turn on their video cameras to help everyone connect with each other.
  • Remind participants to be in a quiet place, mute themselves when not speaking, and use a headset.

8. Provide Contact with Mentors or Coaches

If a health worker works in an office or clinic, they have regular contact with managers or coaches and can use new skills with their supervisors right away. Some remote workers don’t have regular access to supervisors or mentors, so what they pick up in class could sit stagnant. This is one of several hidden challenges of training remote learners.

If mentors aren’t in the learners’ communities, put them there, at least virtually. This could mean setting up phone calls with a coach to discussion implementation of the skills or requiring regular online check-ins through the forums or email. A little extra attention, and accountability, can make a big difference in a health worker implementing what they learned faster and better.

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