As organisations are looking at new ways to deliver national and global learning programs and workshops, whilst removing the high costs associated with travel and face-to-face events, virtual training is becoming more important than ever before. Virtual workshops and training enable real time delivery across geographical divides, saving time and money. Virtual workshops, when facilitated in an engaging and skilful way, also provide a safe and inclusive place to learn.
Virtual learning workshops work! The rise of online learning, podcasts and easy to use technology (like Zoom) means individuals and organisations are increasingly seeing the benefit of investing in virtual training as an alternative to traditional face-to-face learning.
The difference between a virtual workshop and online video is the facilitation and engagement you can achieve. Online videos are useful for creating awareness and knowledge. Virtual workshops are more dynamic and promote engagement with peers and the topic.
1. Running the Show – Have a producer and a facilitator/subject matter expert
Great radio programs always have a producer to their show. We have found it enormously impactful to use a producer to onboard participants, run the breakout rooms, manage the chat conversations, manage polling, and to ensure the workshop is a valuable experience for everyone. It allows the facilitator or subject matter expert to concentrate on the participant’s engagement, content and the right level of conversation.
2. Increase Engagement – Be animated like a radio show host
This is critical. To make the virtual workshop dynamic, we recommend being 10 to 20% more animated in your tone and approach. The technology reduces the energy you can generate, so your tone and energy need to be more to compensate.
3. Be Seen – Everyone needs to show their face
This is important and controversial. A lot of people like to switch off their cameras when they are on the workshop. There could be a good reason why they don’t want to show their screen; however, it makes the experience less engaging and impersonal for their peers. When participants cannot be ‘seen’, engagement and personality is lost, participant involvement is reduced, and the advantages of the virtual workshop are lost too. Being ‘seen’ allows the participant to actively participate and creates connection. Set this up as an expectation when you are commencing the program. Tip: avoid participants moving into groups or meeting rooms as it reduces engagement; therefore, encourage people to remain at their individual workstation.
4. Make it Practical – Create break-out rooms to facilitate on the spot practice
Great workshop facilitation principles apply to virtual workshops. You want to ensure every person gets the opportunity to practice and apply the skill or tasks in the virtual learning session. By using breakout rooms (commonly available on most web conference technologies) as a place to practice, you increase value and connection. The facilitator can ‘drop into’ break out rooms to offer extra personalised coaching as required.
5. Size Matters – Keep group sizes between 15 to 30 people
The ideal size of a virtual learning workshop is between 15 to 30 participants. Any more than 50 participants can lead to the workshop feeling more like a presentation than a dynamic learning environment. You can also use sub-facilitators to reach a broader audience.
6. Experiment with formats – Open vs. closed forums
An ‘open’ virtual workshop is where the tutor sets a time to be available to help his or her cohort of people address the challenges they are facing, relevant to the program or course they are participating in. A ‘closed’ forum is where the tutor runs a structured, time-based session on a specific topic and format. Whilst each format has its unique benefits, it is recommended to provide a combination of both formats so that you are not only supporting the participant through online learning, but you are actively asking them to participate in the open virtual forum.
7. Make it Relevant – Workplace lead vs content lead
Structure the workshop to ensure it remains relevant to individual workplace scenarios. This means constructing virtual learning around participant challenges that are relevant to them and encourages peer-to-peer learning. You can achieve this by constructing the workshop in three parts – Past, Present and Future. What is a past issue, and how did they approach it? What is a current (present) issue that is concerning them now? What is a future challenge we can focus on? We use these issues to connect the learning to the participant.
Learning Republic have a breadth of experience in the successful delivery and facilitation of online training and virtual learning workshops for our clients. Our Digital Learning Environment is supported by experienced facilitators, experts in delivering virtual learning workshops to achieve your strategic learning outcomes.
Please contact Learning Republic if you would like to know more.