Projections for the e-learning market estimated that the industry would be worth $107 billion by the end of 2015¹. While the huge demand for e-learning services is laudable, those who have done virtual classroom training have sometimes wondered: “Is anyone really listening to me?” It’s quite a challenge to make people listen, let alone transferring the knowledge.
The success of a training session – virtual or face-to-face – depends on three basic things – one, the instructor; two, the content; and three, the audience. Although there’s a lot that goes behind the scenes. And if it’s an online training session, there’s a fourth element too – the medium through which learning is delivered. Therefore, spending a couple of days on planning will help ensure that the design and development of a virtual training program are on the right track.
To guarantee that your audience is not only listening to your online training materials, but learning from them, implement these five tips for better course design into your next e-training.
How to design Interactive Virtual Classroom Training
1. Conduct Environment Analysis
Environmental analysis is the first and the foremost step in designing an interactive virtual classroom training. This is because each learner learns differently. Also, their learning environments are different basis the geographies, cultures and mind sets. Assuming that all learning environments are similar is a wrong practice.
Most of the times, it’s difficult for instructional designers to actually understand the environment in which training is delivered. Therefore, it’s important for them to collaborate with the trainers facilitating learning in real time in order to understand the audience.
2. Choose the Right Medium
There are many different options for virtual classroom training software. To best connect with your target audience, it is important that you spend time selecting the right medium for your message. Some most common tools, such as Webex or Skype, allow you to communicate easily and share files securely.
But are these platforms apt for teaching? Not really. These platforms may work for one-on-one training, tech support, or online face-to-face communication. Yet it is difficult to use these tools effectively for large audiences, long-form online training, or full-fledged courses that require classroom tools, like whiteboards, polling, breakout rooms for discussion, and many more.
If you are teaching a multi-session online course, then you need:
- A platform that is designed to support learning delivery
- Self-directed software where users can watch video and audio materials you create any time
- Technology that allows you to upload hosted content
Make sure to choose the right technology before you start with the content.
3. Understand Your Audience
Before you can design an effective course, you must have an audience for the content. The more you know about the people who will be taking your course, the better you can tailor the content to meet their unique needs.
Let’s say you are offering a training in social media marketing. Are your audience small business owners? If so, you must:
- Answer their questions about social media from a small business perspective
- Inform “Mom and Pop” shop owners and solopreneurs which platforms generate the biggest return on investment
- Teach small business owners how to create and automate quality content
- Deliver relevant examples that reinforce lessons learned
If your audience were marketing professionals, you would need to address their concerns of how social fits into their larger marketing strategy.
Sure, you could offer them the same course material as the small business owners. But they’d probably be bored and apt to negatively review your course if it did not offer them anything new.
How well you know your audience is really important.
4. Create Amazing Content
When you know who you are talking to, creating content becomes much easy. Here are few tips on creating great content:
- List the needs and questions of your audience
- Outline material that answers these questions
- Review the rough draft of your content
- Organize all content to make everything concise and easy to understand
- Create informative and interactive elements to reinforce teachings.
Smart course developers integrate interactivity throughout every course session in the form of quizzes, games, group chat, or other media.
Without these materials, virtual training can become boring.
Adding in interactivity roughly every five minutes can help break up the material, reinforces lessons being learned, and trigger audience engagement throughout the lesson.
If you have offered other courses and noticed declining engagement throughout the sessions, increasing interactivity will give your course engagement and your ratings a major boost.
Engagement also enriches dry course material. If you have to create an e-course for something basic that can be boring, such as corporate onboarding, adding engagement reinforces learning and reduces boredom.
5. Practice Delivering Content
If you want a good outcome, you need a knowledgeable instructor. To help your instructor succeed:
- Create and distribute a facilitator guide that walks trainers through the e-course.
- Have all trainers run through the e-learning material and webinar presentations more than once. When trainers are familiar with the material, they can present with confidence and answer student questions.
- Request that all trainers do test run a class with peers. This will give them an idea of what works and what doesn’t.
6. Leave Time for Trainers to Learn the Course Delivery Software
Not only will course trainers need to deliver audio presentations, podcasts, webinars, or instructional videos, they will have to engage with students using the e-course software. If trainers do not know how to use the software, they will need to figure it out once the course has launched. As a result, it can take them longer to deliver feedback or answer student questions, driving course ratings down.
Before the course launches, give trainers time to learn how to do the following tasks in software:
- Create forums and forum posts
- Design lessons
- Upload course material
- Make changes to course formatting or display
- Review and deliver feedback on course material
- Create quizzes
- Record an audio or video conference for learners
- Review the documentation and virtual training program materials and fully understand the software
- Use email or live chat tools
- Accomplish other tasks as needed
When trainers have time before the course launch to familiarize themselves with the software, they will be able to teach the course with more confidence. They can also respond to student needs faster, for the improved satisfaction of all.
As these steps illustrate, it takes time to put together a high-quality course. The good news is, once you get the course right you can continue to offer it with confidence that you’ve got an amazing product. Whether you offer e-learning to employees as part of HR training, make a living offering e-courses to global learners, or use a virtual classroom for tutoring, these tips will help you succeed with your e-learning goals while reducing time spent managing courses.