Training employees in a hybrid learning environment — one that combines live classroom instruction with virtual components — can significantly expand their range of knowledge and skills, thereby benefiting employers in many ways. Among the key benefits:
- Reduction in turnover. Employees understand they’re valued when businesses offer training and opportunities to grow from within.
- Improved morale. With the acquisition of new skills comes a boost in morale and an enthusiastic willingness to take on new challenges.
- Competitive advantage. As employees acquire and implement what they’ve learned, your business gains an advantage over competitors who don’t make a training investment in their workforce.
As wonderful as these benefits are, corporate trainers still face the nagging issue of keeping learners engaged throughout the training process. This can be particularly challenging in a hybrid learning environment, since virtual students aren’t physically “tethered” to a classroom and may be more susceptible to all the distractions present in our real and digital worlds.
How can you harness the same technology used for virtual learning to maintain participant engagement in the training process? Here are delivery strategies to heighten learners’ interest and keep them actively participating in the program:
Encourage brainstorming with digital tools. Electronic whiteboarding is an effective tool for promoting creative thinking and collaboration. Trainers can share content via Google docs or other types of digital whiteboards, prompting in-class and virtual learners alike to brainstorm ideas and insights.
MicroTek President Hugh McCullen is responsible for expanding the customer services portfolio and global presence while accelerating the company’s ability to provide best-in-class training solutions designed to enhance the learner experience. McCullen continues to position MicroTek as a trusted partner of choice, with a focus on providing speed and flexibility for training, meeting and event management to help customers evolve noncore services into strategic assets.
Incorporate breakout sessions as part of the training experience. Several virtual learning platforms facilitate two-way communications between in-class and virtual learners. Ask a question or present an issue through a video conferencing platform, and invite responses from small groups of pre-assigned collaborators made up of in-class learners and those in a dedicated virtual environment. Employees get “fired up” when paired with others in a collaborative experience.
Invite anonymous feedback through online polling tools. Less outgoing participants feel more inclined to “speak up” by using polling software to anonymously respond to an instructor’s question or comments. It’s also easy to create chat rooms where participants engage with each other to comment on training content.
Use annotation tools to direct learners’ attention. Your slides and presentations don’t have to consist solely of dry text and figures. Annotation tools built into conferencing software — such as highlighters, pointers and arrows — enable instructors to focus attention on specific points. This gives learners the sense that they’re retaining key information rather than trying to absorb a seemingly infinite amount of data.
Leverage emoticons for a lighthearted effect. Another way to infuse new life into a presentation is by using emoticons or response icons to single out key bits of information. The inventive use of emoticons adds fun to the learning process and makes it feel less formal to participants.
Test knowledge with online quizzes. You can maintain engagement by throwing in online quizzes that test for comprehension and the transfer of knowledge. Just as in traditional classrooms, knowing a quiz might be forthcoming keeps learners more alert and attentive. The key here is keeping the quiz short, so participants don’t feel intimidated. Also, the positive reinforcement that comes with “acing” an online quiz keeps individuals more motivated to move on to the next topic.
Send learners on an online scavenger hunt. Supplement the learning experience by creating an online scavenger hunt, where participants search for answers to key questions or work together to complete a specific task. This is most effective when it includes a time limit and an interactive discussion of the experience afterward.
The use of these and other learning engagement techniques let participants know they’re not being subjected to more of the “same, old” learning process. People learn faster — and generally retain information longer — when the experience of learning is varied, entertaining and interactive. Adding technology to achieve these objectives helps your hybrid learning environment stand out from the rest.