Four Strategies for Transforming Virtual Classrooms into Strategic Differentiators
By Roger Courville
The world of L&D is changing. Unfortunately virtual classrooms are underutilized, and programs are like bad webinars. Learners leave yawning, and the results you're looking for are elusive.
The good news is that transforming your use of virtual classrooms into a strategic asset isn't rocket science.
Identify and Communicate ROI Beyond Saving Travel
Training in a virtual classroom will save some money, to be sure, but often there are other benefits that will deliver the impact you need. For example:
Impact to time
Increased frequency of touchpoints
"Just in time” knowledge transfer
Less time out-of-territory for reps
Impact to learning
Improved ability to plan spaced repetition
Increased access to subject matter experts
Improved engagement with active, instructor-led learning
Commit to Adapting to the Medium
By analogy, you can tell a story in a book or a movie, but we understand the skill to do it well is quite different for each. Unfortunately, more often than not we tend to apply old paradigms to new media until we develop a new approach.
Moving some part of your curriculum into virtual classrooms will create the most value when you optimize for the unique qualities of the new medium.
Pursue Mastery in the Four Dimensions of Engagement
Attention is a scarce resource, and if learners don't show up from the neck up, they miss your message. The antidote is to avoid focusing on "using virtual classroom software” and refine your skill in four distinct areas that impact attention, cognition and retention.
Content: As the sales adage goes, "Facts tell, stories sell.” The most important skill in a virtual classroom is creating learner-centric, brain-friendly content.
Interaction: The root of the word educate means "to draw out.” Live, virtual classrooms are great vehicles for social learning through discussion and discovery.
Design: The new "room” is its own experience. Designing a learning experience goes beyond attractive PowerPoint (though that helps) to consider the entirety of the sensory, cognitive, and social stimuli.
Delivery: The trainer or facilitator's ability to "carry the room” can dramatically help – or hurt – attention and impact.
Consider Using an Upside-Down Model for Some Content
If you're like most trainers, you've got more content than you ever get a chance to share. The risk is, as grandpa used to say, "Trying to squeeze fifty pounds of potatoes into a five-pound sack.”
Sales reps are good at finding answers and solving problems. What they need is meaning-making and context for decision making.
To make more room for discussion, reflection and application, blend the learning experience. Move some content to other accessible media forms and focus more virtual classroom time on human interaction.
The Bottom Line
Outside the C-suite, sales reps are usually some of the highest paid people in an organization. In other words, their time and attention is a precious resource.
It would be irresponsible to abandon all face-to-face training, but it would be equally irresponsible not to master the virtual classroom as part of your organization's learning strategy.
Done well, in fact, the virtual classroom will become an indispensible part of your strategy to deliver the learning necessary to keep sales reps on top of their game and ahead of the competition. And in the process, you become an indispensible asset to success as well.
Roger Courville is author of The Virtual Presenter's Handbook, The Virtual Presenter's 102 Tips for Online Meetings, and Successful Webinars with GoToWebinar. Learn more at http://thevirtualpresenter.com/roger-courville/.