Creating Engagement in Virtual Learning

Remote workers are under considerable pressure as they try to balance their job responsibilities while learning new skills.

As organizations shift from in-person training to remote learning, there is a strong need to upskill employees. Elearning or virtual instructor-led training (VILT) isn’t always enough to properly train remote workers. Combining multiple virtual approaches is necessary to meet your training objectives and keep learners engaged. A blended approach to virtual training can catapult your training to the next level.

I’ve been helping clients create virtual learning solutions for years. I’ve learned that a blended virtual learning program must be engaging, collaborative and match content with the best learning approach to be successful. A blended virtual solution can incorporate:

Regardless of the blended approach you choose, several elements will ensure your solution connects with today’s learners.

1. Space the learning in short ‘bursts’

When working with clients, I’ve seen how employees struggle to balance their work responsibilities with the requirements of a virtual learning course. Learners frequently underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a virtual course and don’t always schedule time in their week for the virtual program. To overcome this challenge, we find creating short learning events (or learning bursts ) over time appeals to learners and has several benefits:

  • Helps learners successfully complete the course and still accomplish all their work responsibilities
  • Improves the transfer of skills and retention of knowledge by organizing the content into small bite-sized chunks of information
  • Increases engagement by spacing the learning over multiple periods that give mental breaks vs. creating one long event that makes it difficult for learners to focus

2. Create a Learner Journey

Learners love it when a course includes a clear, visual path for completing a course. A course map (or learner journey) provides learners with the guidance and direction they need to stay on track throughout the virtual experience. I’ve found that a learner journey helps learners plan their time to ensure they complete the course successfully and navigate the program’s key components.

A well-designed learner journey should:

  • Set course expectations
  • Communicate critical information
  • Highlight important events and due dates
  • Provide approximate time to complete each section

Take a look at an example learner journey .

3. Establish a Clear Beginning and End

We find that learners benefit from “touchpoints” to ensure they remain engaged throughout the training. When we work with clients, we recommend providing learners with a clear beginning and end to the training. This can be accomplished by hosting live web conferences to kick-off and close the course. These sessions can be short but are very powerful.

A kick-off session at the beginning of a program should:

  • Discuss the time commitment and set expectations
  • Review the learner journey
  • Identify assignments and due dates
  • Allow learners to interact with peers

A wrap-up session to conclude should:

  • Review key learnings from the learner’s perspective
  • Identify next steps that challenge the learners to apply what they learned
  • Gather feedback focused on continuous improvement

These sessions are a great way to keep learners engaged in the course, introduce them to their peers, connect with the course coach/facilitator and improve the overall learning experience.

4. Personalize with Coaching

Over the years, I’ve seen a clear link between learner success and personalized support. Having a coach guide learners through a course:

  • Creates a customized experience
  • Improves accountability
  • Increases learning and engagement

Adding a coach or facilitator to a virtual program can ensure that learners stay on track and understand the training’s key learnings. A coach can use “office hours” to provide guidance and support on an individual basis, or if there is group work, the coach can meet with each team to review assignments and provide insight.

5. Build Lasting Connections through Peer Collaboration

One of the biggest benefits of in-person training is learners’ ability to interact with and learn from their peers. You definitely don’t want to lose this benefit when you go virtual! Peer collaboration keeps the training interactive and allows learners to learn from one another and network with co-workers. Adding a competitive element to your course can further improve collaboration, especially when it’s team-based.

Peer collaboration can be accomplished through:

  • Breakout room exercises during synchronous events (such as a web conference)
  • Off-line exercises where teams work independently to complete a task.

Regardless of the format, it’s important to incorporate peer collaboration into virtual training programs so that learners have the opportunity to interact with and connect with peers across the organization.

6. Develop a Communication Strategy

To connect with learners, ensure that the program includes clear and frequent communication. Creating a detailed communication plan that informs learners of key events and deadlines improves the learners’ experience and helps them stay on track and successfully complete the course. Consider creating emails for the coach/facilitator to use (and reuse) to:

  • Welcome learners to the course
  • Summarize key events
  • Communicate deadlines

If you have a course that is completed over multiple weeks, send out an email at the beginning of each week summarizing the events for the week. Be sure to send links to web conferences, office hours and other reminders to help learners manage their time.

Remote workers are under considerable pressure as they try to balance their job responsibilities while learning new skills. To engage virtual workers, you must develop blended learning that creates collaboration, a personalized approach and focuses on communication. By implementing these key elements, your training initiatives will be successful, engaging and allow you to upskill learners.

Feel free to share additional tips that work for you in the comments section below.

You might also find our blog on converting in-person training to virtual learning and common-sense tips on instructing a VILT helpful. Feel free to share your comments and tips below.

About the Author

Jill Gualtieri, is the Chief Learning Officer and a partner at Performance Solutions International (PSI). She has been providing training and consulting services for the last 25 years and loves helping clients achieve their learning goals.

Performance Solutions International (PSI)

PSI is the leading provider of industry-focused training, custom learning solutions and learning consulting services to empower your professionals with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment.