Training and travel budgets are being slashed, yet training must go
on. The solution that many organizations are turning to is virtual
web-based training programs. These artificial virtual environments
cannot replicate the learning that takes place face-to-face in a
classroom; however, they can be very powerful substitutes if we
take the best practices from classroom instruction and apply them
to a virtual setting.
Just as there are good and bad instructors and training
environments, there are factors that are more or less conducive to
learning in a virtual environment. There are some clear lessons
learned that can significantly improve the likelihood of success of
your next (or first) virtual training session.
Training in the global environment creates unique challenges and
opportunities. Some of the major considerations are hidden and may
not show up until the program goes live, but factors that can be
- time differences
- multiple languages
- different cultural norms
- trainer's comfort level with the technology
- participants' technical abilities
- participant engagement.
There is no one best time to deliver training for a global
audience. The best solution may be to have multiple sessions in
respective regional time zones. Of course, this lessens the impact
of a global perspective, but at least the results of any polling or
conclusions reached in each regional session can be posted for all
to see and discuss.
Differences in language usage can be resolved by having each
participant write (in private) to the moderator any time an
unfamiliar word, phrase, jargon, or acronym is used. This avoids
the embarrassment a participant might feel admitting to the whole
group that he does not understand something. It's a good idea to
compile and post this information for future participants'
Different cultural norms
Mixing a variety of styles in the virtual training program may help
ensure that your message is being received, but there will still be
a reluctance to speak up or try something risky in some cultures.
Giving students the opportunity to ask questions before, during,
and after the session is strongly recommended, especially when
working with students from multiple cultures.
Trainer's comfort with the technology
You need practice, practice, and more practice. As the instructor
of a live virtual global training program, you will need to know
the limits and capabilities of the platform your organization is
using. These can range from simple webinar PowerPoint presentations
to extremely involved virtual reality campuses and classrooms where
everyone shows up as an avatar. The key is to design your training
to fit the capabilities of your system. Once you know your system,
you must practice your presentation at least three times with pilot
audiences to make sure you are comfortable with the technology and
that any bugs have been fixed.
Participants' technical abilities
Make certain that all participants have easy access to the virtual
training technology and that they know how to use it. Nothing kills
the momentum of a training session more than having participants
delay the process because they cannot access the audio or video
transmission or they don't know how to log on or use the features
of your virtual training platform. For some of our clients, we have
developed a course on how to use our system that is delivered
immediately prior to our regularly scheduled webinar. Attendance is
a webinar prerequisite for anyone who has not use the system
previously. This has significantly improved the efficiency of the
One major complaint about virtual training is that too often
participants are not fully engaged, and we know that most
participants are multitasking while at their computers. By having
frequent interactive exercises, however, you can keep people
focused on the training. The best virtual training programs include
many interactive opportunities, such as quizzes, polls, and the use
of chat rooms where small groups can meet and discuss an important
topic and report back to the entire group.