Providing services in instructional design, virtual training, and human performance improvement.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Recommendations for Designing Virtual Instructor-Led Training

This past week, Kelley Rogers, an instructional designer with Victor 12, presented at the 2014 Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) International Convention in Jacksonville, FL. She presented on Victor 12’s experiences and recommendations for designing virtual instructor-led training (VILT) courses, which is one of our core services. Over the next several weeks, we will post excerpts from her presentation as well as information shared in other sessions.

This post focuses on recommendations for designing a VILT course. Some elements should be treated similar to a face-to-face instructor-led training (ILT) course while others should be approached from a web-based training (WBT) perspective.

Use modified face-to-face strategies.

Although VILT is taught virtually, face-to-face instructional strategies that are modified as needed, based on the technology capabilities and limitations, increase participant engagement and learning.

Just as an instructor for a face-to-face class must organize his or her classroom to decrease participant distraction and increase content retention, the virtual environment must also be organized to maximize participant engagement and learning. In a virtual environment, ensure that commonly used items, such as a chat pod, are in the same location on every screen to provide consistency. For chat pods, this is especially important so that participants can easily ask questions at any time.

Keep in mind that virtual real estate is valuable. Everything on the screen should have a purpose, so do not, for example, add images just for aesthetics. Less is more. We want participants focused on the content, not lost in a sea of information.

Look for ways to increase participant engagement. Consider the challenges of keeping a participant’s attention when they have all the distractions of a face-to-face classroom plus the entire internet at their disposal. We mitigate this concern by limiting direct instruction to small time increments and include frequent interactive elements throughout, such as polls, class discussions, and small group activities. While we do include multimedia elements, such as videos, we use them when they directly relate to the activity and keep them to under 2 minutes.

Storyboard like web-based training.

Although face-to-face instructional strategies work best when designing course presentations, we take our storyboarding cues from web-based training design.

When storyboarding for VILT, especially if the designer and developer are two different people, storyboards must be extremely detailed and well thought-out. While fairly effective ILTs can be taught using lesson plans that allow for significant instructor improvisation, VILT doesn’t work this way. This is especially true for our Victor 12 courses, as we have a virtual host who handles the technical end, allowing the instructor to teach without worrying about technology or platform concerns. The course design and storyboards must support this level of structure and coordination.

Below are some elements worth including in a VILT storyboard:
  • Screen layouts
  • Presentation slides
  • Instructor script
  • Technical directions
  • Participant activity instructions
  • Multimedia scripts
Storyboards must include all participant activities, presentations, and multimedia that will eventually be uploaded into the web conferencing tool. Additionally, you must decide where this content will appear on screen within the virtual environment.

Plan for participants with disabilities.

Finally, when designing a VILT course, you need to consider participants with disabilities. Make sure that your conferencing software is compatible with screen reading software and provide keyboard shortcuts for participants unable to use a mouse. Not all VILT software is created equal in these regards.

Also, make sure to include captioning for all multimedia and for the course itself. There are several companies that provide live captioning services. Captioners sit in the course and provide real-time captioning to the participants. If using breakout rooms, ensure that all participants who require captioning are placed in the same breakout room with the captioner. 

Victor 12 chooses to have captioning visible on all multimedia for all participants. We do this not only for participants requiring captioning but also to account for participants who may have bandwidth issues. If multimedia audio doesn’t play correctly due to internet limitations, they can still read text on screen.

Coming up next:
Our next post will contain recommendations for developing VILT courses.

  Kelley Rogers is an instructional designer with Victor 12. She has over 10 years' experience designing and delivering instruction for both face-to-face and virtual training environments. She is also a published author and experienced speaker at professional conferences.

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