While self-paced, DIY learning paths work for some content, there’s no comparison to live learning led by a trained professional. There’s simply no substitute for the dynamics and interactions that can occur when everyone’s simultaneously interacting with the same material, regardless of whether they’re side-by-side in a meeting room or attending virtually from around the world. Live learning and training’s more engaging environment is a good fit for management and soft skills training, particularly those relying on interpersonal communication skills. Learners really benefit from exercises where participants can practice with others.
Live learning and training occur in real-time, offering opportunities for learners to interact with the instructor and each other. This interactive dimension is a lot more engaging than other modalities. It provides real-time feedback, practice and role-playing, and human connection opportunities. When you take the live learning and training from the physical classroom into the virtual realm, even more possibilities are unlocked. Remote learners from anywhere can now be interactive participants without the expense and disruption of travel. What does it take to deliver compelling live learning and training? This article will discuss how to engage learners, provide tips on giving and getting feedback, and share best practices for optimizing your virtual classroom. We’ll also touch on what must happen outside the classroom. Learning and development leaders must measure live learning and training programs’ return on investment (ROI), troubleshoot and overcome challenges, and evaluate providers.
5 Best Practices for Delivering Live Learning and Training
1. Creating an Effective Live Learning and Training Environment
Your training environment’s most important job is supporting and promoting learning. But that environment extends beyond the physical and technological boundaries. It also encompasses the behaviors and attitudes of the learners and instructor. Below are a few things to keep in mind while developing the learning environment.
Prep your space.
Test that technology works smoothly and as anticipated before the beginning of class for virtual learners, which includes providing instructions on testing their setup at least a day before the live class begins. Virtual instructors need a quiet space with good lighting, a headset/earbuds, or a room with good acoustics. Virtual learners are often asked to make an effort to keep cameras on to simulate an in-person learning experience closely. Virtual instructors should be adept at using the virtual classroom or have a tech expert on hand to handle questions and issues without derailing the flow of the class.
Establish live learning and training norms.
Part of what is special about live learning and training is that for the time the learners are together, they are a community, if only temporarily. Agreement on basic norms allows communities of diverse individuals to come together, so establishing the rules of the road is a key step. Norms can include expectations for keeping devices silenced, break length, how to contribute (raising hand in person and using the raised hand emoticon online), and completion of homework outside of class. The instructor will establish some norms, such as break length, whereas the learners could collectively determine how structured or unstructured break-out discussions end up being.
Set goals and clarify expectations on benefits and outcomes.
Recapping the training goals and the skills the learner should have by the end of the class is a great start. It gives instructors a chance to learn more about why the participants are taking the live learning and training and their existing knowledge base. For instance, asking participants to reflect on their personal “why” is also helpful—the why for the manager with a challenging direct report is obvious. Even a why as simple as “I am meeting my manager’s expectations” or “I can contribute my personal experiences to the class” will help focus each learner on their own intrinsic motivation.
2. Engaging Learners in Live Learning and Training
It’s no secret that human attention spans are shrinking at an alarming rate. This makes holding learners’ attention regardless of the venue critical. You can engage learners regardless of modality with a mixture of community building, quick pacing, and some basic tips. To engage learners during live learning and training, instructors can:
Switch up activities every 7 to 10 minutes.
This doesn’t mean all lessons or concepts must be taught in 7 to 10 minutes, just that the activity shifts. For example, after five minutes of instruction via PowerPoint, switch to an exercise. This might be “spend five minutes using this coding technique and come up with one question” or “break into small groups and apply this technique to a given case study.” Changing gears keeps people engaged, providing multiple entry points for different learners.
Incorporate some reflective personalized activities.
This might be having learners write for five minutes or sharing three bullet points about how they hope their job will be affected by taking this training. Something requiring the learner to think specifically about what they will get out of the training and will make the classroom materials have a longer-lasting impact. The trainee who lists out five things they will do the next time they feel overwhelmed and posts it near their workstation is more likely to use those techniques and rate the “Managing Workplace Stress” course more highly than the coworker who attended but didn’t make it personal.
Create social connections.
Building a true community in a training class might be a challenging task. But there are always opportunities to foster social connections. Discussions where one trainee brings a problem, and the class works to apply a specific approach or framework to the problem while guided by the instructor have a more significant impact than reading a canned case study. Learners that might not love the classroom learning process often find real-world scenarios and relatable characters more compelling and memorable. And don’t forget that live training is a networking opportunity. Try to build some time in for this. Even internal training can build connections to people in related departments and can provide additional unmeasured benefits.
3. Providing and Receiving Effective Feedback
Most of us perform better with feedback. Learners need feedback to make sure they have learned and integrated the information. Instructors need to know if their content is landing with the learners. Live learning and training provide unique opportunities for organic, integrated feedback.
To ensure you get the most out of giving and receiving feedback in live learning, read for some tips.
Use all your avenues for feedback.
For a virtual class, this may include emojis—like a thumbs up for correct answers or great questions—or just verbal feedback—such as “Great question!” or “Insightful answer!” The goal is to create the energy of an effective back-and-forth exchange. It also adds encouragement and psychological safety to ask questions to clarify understanding and contribute to the discussion. On the feedback-receiving side of the equation, instructors can solicit feedback either verbally, with a show of hands, through chat, via emojis, or using virtual classroom voting buttons. Examples include:
- On a scale of 1-5, how confident are you that you could successfully use what we just learned in your job?
- Should we go through some more examples of how to implement them, or should we move on to troubleshooting?
- How is the pace going for you? Is it too fast, too slow, or just right?
Use frequent questions and ungraded assessments.
Many learners think they understand the material. But when asked actually to use the new skills, they realize they don’t understand it as well as they initially thought. Presenting learners with options to privately self-assess progress and frequent Q&A gives learners a chance to check for gaps in understanding.
Extend feedback beyond the classroom.
The rubber meets the road for learners once learners are back on the job. Asking learners to assess the impact of training immediately at the conclusion, one week, month, or quarter out, should provide you with a sense of how “sticky” the training was. For example, at Hone, learners provide feedback immediately via a post-class survey. Then, 30 days after a program is complete, they are sent a more in-depth assessment to gather feedback and measure the impact of their training.
Learner feedback may also evolve over time as they realize that perhaps they needed more role-playing or practice or the approach didn’t cover a common complication. Where appropriate, provide learners with ongoing access to instructors for questions and troubleshooting to solidify further connections formed in class.
4. Measuring the ROI of Live Learning and Training Programs
There’s pressure on every budget line item for learning and development teams. To ensure training is effective, most courses include a feedback survey. According to a McKinsey survey, however, only 30% of companies examine metrics other than employee feedback, and a 2021 survey found a mere 8% of organizations regularly calculate training ROI. Below is data collected by Hone’s users around the business impact from live learning and training:
Measuring training ROI is beyond this article’s scope, but below are some key considerations:
Follow up with learners over time to see if training delivered long-term value.
With more distance from the course, learners can better report on the extent to which the training was used and effective. At Hone, learners are sent a post-program Assessment 30 days after their program has ended to capture the impact their live learning and training had on learning, behavior, and performance.
Connect employee training to employee performance.
Examining employee performance ratings before and after training can be a simple measure of the impact over time.
Use supervisor assessments to determine the live learning and training impact.
Alternatively, survey supervisors to understand what differences they observe between employees who have completed training and those who have not. We’ve written a guide that will help you measure the ROI of manager training programs available for free, below:
5. Overcoming Common Live Learning and Training Engagement Challenges
The most effective teachers have a large toolbox of engagement skills to draw on. In addition, they’ve seen time and again how overcoming engagement challenges significantly impacts outcomes.
Whether the “smart room” doesn’t recognize the projector or learners can’t figure out how to use the chat functionality, technology snafus can disrupt the flow of the class and make it hard to regain everyone’s attention. Test drive everything in advance. Arrive early to make sure everything is working. Log in early to help anyone struggling. Depending on the tech savviness of the instructor and the class size, consider having a tech expert on hand to help out. Have a breakout session or other learners’ activity handy for in-person classes while you get that smart room online.
Phones, smart watches, tablets, laptops, there’s no lack of things to take learners off task. Participants might put their phones in a basket or make agreements with their classmates to silence their devices and not use them. Some online classes ask learners to keep their cameras on. Other instructors have participants use their phones to respond to poll questions, making it challenging to answer poll questions and scroll through TikTok simultaneously.
No content exists in a vacuum, and there are a million ways to stray off-topic. Instructors need a few strategies to ensure they can get everything in before the session ends. First, designate someone to keep track of all the off-topic questions, ideas, and inspiration in a parking lot list. They aren’t lost but can be ignored until the core content is covered. Validating the valuable lived experiences of your over-contributors and then outlining the need to make sure everyone gets a chance to be heard can also help things run more smoothly.
Lack of psychological safety
Part of what promotes engagement is a feeling of safety, confidence their contributions won’t be unreasonably criticized, believing their thoughts will be valued, and that they can show up as themselves without any political or personal fallout. A key role of the leader of the training is to help everyone feel comfortable, heard, and included. Classes with leaders in similar roles from different companies might adopt Chatham House rules.
The Best Practices for Delivering Effective Live Learning and Training Programs Checklist
- Provide a checklist or roadmap for L&D professionals to follow when designing and delivering live learning and training programs.
- Set up and prepare physical space with a focus on limiting distractions.
- Get comfortable with virtual classroom technology or technology to be used in person.
- Send an email before class to ensure everyone knows what to expect and can test their system and resolve any issues before class begins.
- For virtual live learning, pay attention to your lighting, background, and acoustics to ensure nothing extraneous is distracting from the content or making it harder for participants to see or hear.
- Log in or arrive early to greet learners and troubleshoot any log-in issues.
- Consider designating a technology assistant to ensure the instructor can focus on teaching.
- Establish norms early on so everyone knows what is expected regarding technology use, break length, how to contribute, homework, etc.
- Incorporate reflective moments to enable learners to connect with their personal “why” for being in the class and tap into intrinsic motivation.
- Pace lessons to switch up the activity every 7 to 10 minutes.
- Include different modalities, such as PowerPoint presentations, small breakout groups, example exercises, and role-playing, to make sure there is an entry for each type of learner.
- Make time to create social connections and enable networking.
- Use frequent questions and ungraded self-assessments.
- Ask questions to check for understanding and to check that the pace is working.
- Extend feedback beyond the classroom and collect feedback weeks and months after to understand the impact over time.
- Deal with digital distractions from the outset and set up expectations.
- Manage off-topic temptations to ensure things stay on track and all content can be covered.
- Work to establish psychological safety to engage learners.
- Consider if post-training Slack groups, Facebook groups, or other private social media for participants to continue their engagement with each other is beneficial.
Live learning and training provide a number of advantages over asynchronous or self-paced options. Greater opportunities to ask questions, practice, and role-play while receiving instant feedback while being a part of a community of learners scratch the surface.
To learn more about how live learning and training can supercharge your learning and development ROI and ensure your workforce can use live learning and training to meet your goals, check out Hone for more information.