Monday, January 10, 2011

Moving From Traditional Training to Virtual Classrooms, Part 1

When traditional instructional designers—who have made their bread and butter conducting face-to-face training—try to go virtual, they are often shocked at the differences between the two modalities.

They give it their best shot, but find that creating effective virtual classroom sessions is much harder than they thought. After all, it’s just ILT done virtually, right? Wrong. There are many differences, but when understood and implemented properly, you will find that creating and delivering virtually can be very effective and fulfilling. In our book, The Learning eXPLOSION: 9 Rules to Ignite Your Virtual Classrooms, we outline four approaches you must change in order to successfully make the transition—content, length, instructional design, and delivery. We will briefly share these four approaches in this four part series.

When it comes to content it is imperative to realize that you need to change the amount of content used in your virtual classrooms. Don’t try to force the same amount of content you usually teach in ILT programs into your sessions. Just because you have eight hours worth of face-to-face training content doesn’t mean you have eight hours worth of virtual training content. There is a lot more learners can assimilate when they are physically present, compared to what they can assimilate when they are only present virtually.

Faced with these limitations and challenges you can still effectively transfer your ILT content to the virtual classroom using two proven methods—summarizing and chunking.

As the name implies, you simply provide a shorter virtual classroom version of the full ILT course. This well-established instructional approach works just as effectively in the virtual classroom as it does in traditional ILT. The key with this approach is to focus on the core principles, skills, and/or techniques you want your learners to adopt, and only include that content in your virtual classroom. It will be very hard to part with all of the excess content, stories, and exercises you have been refining for years, but this you must do to apply this knowledge transfer approach.

If you do not wish to part with all of your material then you should break that content up into separate virtual classroom “chunks” or sessions. With this option, you end up keeping much more of the original content and learners simply attend multiple sessions. With the chunking approach you may also consider teaching your virtual classroom sessions over a couple of days, or even weeks. Don’t feel like you need to try and cram them all in one day. Spacing your events apart allows you to build more of a blended learning experience, with assignments, exercises, and other asynchronous learning modules built in between.

To successfully transfer your corporate classroom online requires you to change your approach when it comes to what content to include.

By Treion Muller and Matt Murdoch

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