Want to Improve Virtual Courses at Your Institution? Here’s How!

Virtual training, also referred to as synchronous online training, has a great deal to offer organizations and individuals who value the personal touch of face-to-face training but are restricted by geography, budget, or in more recent cases, worldwide pandemics.

From the hiring process to daily work operations, virtual training is an essential element in providing a successful remote workplace. However, many L&D professionals find it challenging to deliver engaging, interactive, and collaborative learning environments in an online setting, even as we continue to shift culturally to virtual solutions and experiences.

But don’t worry! We’ll help you plan your synchronous online training sessions and improve virtual courses at your institution.

Planning Your Virtual Course: Same Approach, Different Strategy

When designing a virtual training session, approach it with the same basic principles and preparation as a face-to-face session. Always start with your intentions or learning objectives. Keep the timing concise and balanced with a variety of activities (both group and individual, where appropriate), along with enough time for questions or discussion.

Balance and variety are important to help participants maintain focus and maximize their learning.

Improving Accessibility in Virtual Courses

In a virtual training session, we have a plethora of options and tools to help create the most open and welcoming environment for all participants and facilitators. Accessibility is not an onerous overhead in any training if you consider it upfront and as part of your course and content design.

The audience traits most of us are familiar with are sight and hearing impairments, but these are relatively well catered for with technology. At the bare minimum, make sure your videos have captions and/or transcripts and any supplemental images you use are clear and in context with alt text and meaningful captions/descriptions.

For your session to be truly inclusive, it’s important to at least give consideration to cognitive, digital, cultural, language and socio-economic accessibility:

  • Cognitive: a truly diverse audience will be neurodiverse. When someone sees the world a little differently, they can bring a whole new perspective to how you deliver your content.
  • Digital: this is relevant when there’s limited digital literacy and/or access. Keep the design and navigation simple and cross-platform. Someone may be logging in on a phone, a really old PC, or a public library computer. Don’t design for the latest Mac (unless you’re providing the hardware!).
  • Cultural: think about different lived experiences that render colloquialisms and jargon confusing or even redundant.
  • Language: imagine that your primary language is someone else’s second or third (or new) language.
  • Social and Socio-Economic: ultimately, your context and examples need to be accessible to a range of backgrounds. Examples and context shouldn’t assume anything about education, wealth, upbringing, etc.

Many accessibility options are available in even the most basic tools such as MS Office products and video publishing and hosting platforms. LMSs such as Moodle™ also have tools such as Brickfield to check the accessibility of your resources and content.

Cover yourself by keeping language concise and avoid copy that’s needlessly technical or jargonistic. Make sure images contribute to the content and aren’t purely decorative. If you’re lucky, you will have a platform that provides live captioning of your session. Many platforms either already have live captions or there are additional add-on services you can subscribe to that plug into popular platforms.

Be the Best Virtual Facilitator

Remember face-to-face facilitation? In traditional environments, certain struggles were all too common: trying to find the room, then finding the room and the projector or screen is on the fritz, someone is running over in the previous session in your room, the room is a mess… the list goes on.

We don’t miss it either!

Many of the traditional logistics are no longer a factor, providing you with more time to better prepare for your sessions. Test the tools and environments that you’ll be using and get participants engaged with some pre-polling or interactive pre-activity before the session even begins. This helps to ensure you’re engaging with your learners in the most effective way.

Take Advantage of Technology

Many principles of presentation remain the same as face-to-face training when you deliver in a virtual environment, like keeping presentations simple, clean, and visual. In any environment, slides containing too much information can be confusing and difficult to process.

While it’s not all about the technology, many platforms have some useful tools to help you elevate your session to a whole new level. With the tools at your disposal in your virtual environment, think about mixing up the media types a little more than usual.

Use animation to stimulate and engage participants, and use text only in speaker notes.

When you have a group or topic where it makes sense, host group activities during your sessions, leveraging the functionality of your platform. Most platforms allow facilitators to split participants into breakout rooms, with some even having timers, group leader roles, and more. These groups should be small so that they can work well together in an online setting. The facilitator can move between breakout rooms to check in on groups.

To cater to the variety of communication styles and accessibility requirements, use a variety of engagement tools. You may choose to use a live timed activity like Wooclap, iPal, or Kahoot to break the ice or gauge understanding, and use a well-moderated chat for those who can’t or don’t speak in live sessions.

Also remember that it only makes sense that virtual training is often shorter than a face-to-face session. You should leverage the ability to provide offline and online pre-work, post-work, and check-in assignments in order to prepare participants and reinforce the learning outside of the virtual classroom.

Start Improving Your Virtual Courses

Using the tips and strategies above in conjunction with a flexible and interoperable eLearning solution can help you improve and optimize virtual courses at your organization or institution. These practices allow you to reach a variety of learners and better engage with them through your learning content, increasing the value and impact of your efforts.

To learn more about ways you can maximize virtual learning environments, contact the experts at Open LMS with your questions, or request an individual demonstration of our flexible learning solutions below.

James Smith
About the author

James Smith

Customer Solutions Architect at Open LMS

I'm a Digital Learning Product Owner, Learning Project Manager, L&D Manager & Learning Transformation professional who solves business problems through enabling people.

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Open LMS provides world-class LMS solutions that empower organizations to meet education and workplace learning needs .