The virtual learning experience comes with so many benefits, especially with the recent launch of our very own Virtual Classroom Catalogue. Virtual courses give participants the outcomes of traditional classroom learning, with all the convenience of e-learning. However, virtual classroom training doesn’t come without its pitfalls.
The fact is, the world is moving more towards a virtual style of working and the transition may have been given a little nudge by the coronavirus pandemic. With an increase in remote working and virtual teams, businesses are now discovering that the tools for virtual work aren’t just a temporary fix, but perhaps even a long-term solution.
Like any change, this transition isn’t without its challenges. Virtual learning is a different environment, and one that can take some adjustment for both trainers and participants. Fortunately, with courses like our own Train the Virtual Trainer, you now have the ability to bridge the gap between students and teachers in a virtual environment.
There are some online learning platforms that have helped both teachers and students with the online learning process. The covid-19 pandemic has been revolutionizing learning norms since its onset and looks to continue influencing online learning even as the coronavirus crisis begins fading into a distant memory. While there are challenges to online learning, there are also many benefits as with online learning programs, students can save money, enjoy a more flexible routine and learn at their own pace in a safe and secure environment.
In this article, we address some of the challenges faced by students during virtual learning, and some ideas to overcome them.
Distractions During Virtual Learning
We often speak about the convenience and flexibility offered through virtual training. The ability for your employees to stay at their desk and log in to a virtual classroom is great, because everyone wins. From a business point of view, staff are getting the training they need but they can also get back to work quickly when it’s done. No more whole days out of the office attending training. For the participants, they’re learning skills and developing, but they don’t come back to a whole day’s backlog of work like they would from traditional face-to-face training.
So, while the benefits are obvious, it doesn’t come without distractions. When you attend face-to-face training sessions, there’s not really much else you can focus on. The course material is in front of you, the facilitator and other participants are talking – so you’re completely immersed in the learning environment. With virtual learning, this may not always be the case.
If you’re in a busy office, sitting at your desk trying to concentrate on training can be difficult if there’s a lot going on around you. The temptation is also there to check and respond to emails, or maybe catch up on a few simple tasks you haven’t had time for. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the training.
For students, a little discipline is required. If you’re in a virtual classroom, you should close down all other computer programs to avoid temptation. Even put your phone away so you’re not inclined to have a quick browse through social media. For trainers, it’s not unreasonable to make these very same suggestions at the start of the virtual course. It’s a helpful reminder for people, and helps them stay focussed. Another important aspect is keeping course content engaging, and maintaining a good flow of information in your class. If you don’t give people the time to be distracted, chances are your online training will be more successful.
Becoming Familiar with New Technology
Let’s face it, not everyone is a technological whiz. Now, we might think our virtual training software is pretty easy to navigate, but for some people that may not be the case. Even trainers can sometimes take a while to work out the best way to run their virtual courses. Like all new technology, getting used to virtual classrooms may take a little time.
Learning new technologies such as ChatGPT and other Generative AI tools is now more important than ever for students. However, students must be careful to not plagiarize or directly copy AI-generated content and pass it off as their own. Tools like Originality.AI can detect ChatGPT generated content.
The reality is, virtual training isn’t too tricky to navigate, but trainers need to be aware that everybody copes with new software differently. A little patience is required, and if you have first-time users in your class, it’s worth running through the basics with them.
Building Trust and Confidence
One thing that’s essential in all training settings is for the facilitator to gain the trust and confidence of participants. If the facilitator struggles with the training software, it makes it hard for participants to feel confident in their learning. So, whether you’re running Microsoft virtual training or online professional development courses, you need to be on top of the technology.
MCI Solutions offers Train the Virtual Trainer courses as part of our Virtual Readiness program, and these courses can make sure all trainers know how to run their own courses confidently.
Difficulties Asking Impromptu Questions
When you’re in a traditional face-to-face training course, the visual cues in the room make it easy for people to interact when and how they want. It could be raising a hand to ask a question, or just engaging in fluid conversation with the trainer while having open discussion amongst the room. Naturally, this makes it quite easy to interact and ask questions as you go.
In a virtual classroom however, those visual cues just aren’t there. Depending on the type of course you’re doing online, you may not have the ability to just jump in with questions as you go along, and this can be off-putting for many students.
To overcome this issue, virtual learning systems offer alternatives, but trainers need to stay alert. Most virtual classroom programs have built-in functions where participants can raise their hand or alert the trainer that they’d like to ask a question. This is a way all participants can stay involved and engaged in the course as it goes.
Also, trainers have the opportunity to run their course however they like, so a great idea is to pause regularly and seek confirmation that people are understanding the content. Seeking involvement from participants is an effective way to build rapport and increase engagement.
Lack of Social Interaction
Many people enjoy the social interaction that a training course brings, and it’s also helpful with engagement. This might include being able to discuss topics amongst colleagues, chat informally with the trainer, or even learn from the experiences of others. The social aspect of training isn’t really as prevalent in a virtual training course, because often the participants will be seated at their own desks, immersed in the computer.
One of the best ways for trainers to increase the interaction between participants is by allowing plenty of space for discussion. Most virtual courses have functions for both text and voice chat, so the facilitators can set their own rules around how each should be used. Group discussion is always a good way to help people feel more involved in the training though, so where possible, this should be encouraged.
Difficulty Getting Immediate Feedback
Some training courses don’t require a lot of feedback because they are mostly informational. If you’re participating in these types of courses via virtual learning, it’s likely you won’t experience a whole lot of difference to face-to-face training. However, if you consider a Microsoft virtual classroom, the experience may be considerably different.
Such courses may require you to work on a specific software program as you go, and where this may have been done previously in a room full of computers, it’s now just you. In that sense, getting regular feedback from a trainer as to whether you’re understanding everything correctly can be somewhat problematic.
Again, this is where trainers simply need to be aware of the differences and adjust their teaching methods accordingly. With functions such as screen sharing, virtual classrooms can still offer the same engagement a normal training venue can.
If you started this article thinking that virtual classrooms could never offer the same benefits as face-to-face classes, hopefully we’ve helped to dispel some of those thoughts. Virtual classrooms are being adopted throughout the country, whether you’re using virtual training software to run your own internal courses, or you’re utilising innovative ways to access external training.
It’s true, there are certainly differences, however with skilled facilitators and enthusiastic participants, it’s easy to bridge the gap and deliver quality learning outcomes in a convenient virtual classroom setting.