Is Virtual Training Actually Effective?
By: Bobbie Bratu First of all, let’s be sure we understand what “virtual” training is. Some people might refer to it as online training, but I think ‘virtual’ describes it better. Virtual training is almost the same as classroom training. You can see the instructor. You can hear the instructor. You can talk to the instructor. You can ask the instructor questions and get immediate answers. You can talk to the other students. The instructor can talk to you. The other students can talk to you. If you are doing hands-on labs on the computer, the technology allows for the instructor to see your monitor and provide assistance as you work through the labs. The only difference from the traditional classroom is that you are not in the physical classroom. You are in a virtual classroom – an online classroom – but still participating in real time with a real instructor and real students. Think of how exciting that can be! You have the capability of taking a class with a star instructor, even if they are in a different state or country. Physical distance won’t hinder you from taking advantage of his or her expertise and you won’t have to spend the money to travel. So, in addition to having access to some of the best instructors around, what makes the virtual experience as effective for students as traditional classroom learning? Unfortunately, I don’t think there is one silver bullet solution to this question. However, we do know that the effectiveness of a class has more to do with the engagement of the student than how the class is delivered. Because keeping all students engaged can be a challenge, it’s imperative that the instructor be an expert in their field and have years of experience in training. In a virtual setting, the instructor cannot see the students like in the classroom setting, so he/she cannot always gauge their mood and their reactions. So perhaps he pauses briefly to be sure everyone is still with him. During this pause, he might ask if there are questions or toss out a question to the audience. Some instructors might make a joke to see if students are listening. Experienced trainers know how to adjust their styles and engage their students in a way that specifically meets their needs. Charlie Hill, a Senior Technology Instructor at QuickStart and 360training.com, has an additional way to help students stay involved in the virtual learning environment: “Early in the week, we’ll discuss how our subject matter is timely and news worthy. [i.e. There’s a major security breach every week, and you can’t go a day without seeing a dozen ads for cloud services.] I’ll give them their only homework assignment for the week: Find our subject in the news, any news. Greeting the students as they return from break, we’ll discuss the topics they’ve found. I’ll steer the conversation. Using my notes from Monday morning intros, I’ll segue the topic into a specific question I can direct toward the more reluctant students, mentioning details about their companies. I keep track, and make sure that I hear from each student, a couple times a day. The discussions are brief, and make for natural transitions back to the courseware. They also serve as an informal roll call and communications check.” Because we want all of our students to have a great experience, 360training.com and QuickStart challenge the instructor to keep all our virtual students engaged. However, it is very important that the students should also take action to maximize their experience. Ask the instructor questions. Ask each other questions. If a fellow student has an issue at work that you know a little bit about, reach out to them. Chances are the majority of the students will benefit from your information and the class will become more interactive and enjoyable for everyone. Don’t want to interrupt the instructor? No problem. One advantage of a virtual class is that you can ask a question by simply typing it in the chat box. We all know that attending the virtual classroom is here to stay, and it is a great option for those who are limited by distance. As such, instructors and students will continue to find ways to get the most out the experience. Want to try the virtual classroom out for yourself? Enroll in one of our IT Skills and Software training courses!