Train the Virtual Trainer

Developing the Virtual Trainer- What does it take to design and deliver successful virtual training?

Since the pandemic CAMOR have been committed to translating security content into accessible, digital training. With an emphasis on innovation we have developed a number of interactive e-learning solutions to compliment the booming EdTech (Educational Technology) era, including 3D immersive learning and gamified learning. On top of this we have also ventured into the world of ‘facilitated online training’.

The Virtual Trainer

A lot of the dialogue and hype concerning digital training has centred around e-learning modules (independently led digital training known as asynchronous learning). These discussions have often focussed on ways to optimise engagement, accessibility and interactivity through technology. But what about the virtual trainer and the human role in facilitating online learning?

Online Facilitated SQA Courses

All of CAMOR’s SQA accredited courses can be facilitated face to face and online. It has been vital to understand the unique demands of online delivery and the challenges that can arise when training a virtual audience. Face to face training and virtual training sit in two completely different spaces and should be treated as two completely different entities. This is an area that CAMOR have both embraced and taken seriously as we have transitioned into facilitated virtual training.

Virtual Facilitated Training v’s Asynchronous E-learning Modules

‘Asynchronous’ e-learning modules take the onus completely off the human trainer, giving autonomy to the learner through digital self directed study. It is the role of the technology, digital interactions, content design and systems to carry the participant through the learning journey, hitting the learning objectives along the way. However facilitating training online relies on a fusion between both technology and the human, and the onus stills lies with the human trainer to deliver effective learning aided by technology- emphasis on the word ‘aided' not ‘guided’.

“Technology alone isn’t going to improve student achievement. The best combination is great teachers working with technology to engage student’s in the pursuit of the learning they need” - Arne Duncan

It can’t be denied that navigating training effectively in virtual spaces can be a demanding venture for the trainer, and relies on many of the points below:

  • A fluency and competency in technology- including streaming content, sharing screens, understanding lighting and audio quality, internet connections, virtual class room backdrops etc.
  • A very strong understanding of virtual teaching resources- how and when to use them effectively in the virtual classroom, as well as sharing them seamlessly during the session.
  • Commanding the virtual classroom- managing students behaviours in a virtual space, ie muting microphones, turning on/off camera and chat functions to aid engagement, using effective questioning to re-engage students.
  • Very strong understanding of the streaming platforms functionality, ie zoom. This could include whiteboard functionality, break out rooms, creating polls, uploading and sharing documents via the platform etc.
  • Presentation style- an ability to engage and enthuse audiences in virtual spaces. Energy has to be upped when training in virtual spaces as the digital nature can flatten interaction.
  • Body Language-being aware of body language and gesturing in the virtual classroom - using it effectively to compliment delivery.
  • A thorough understanding of teaching theory and learning styles to inform the structure and content of session.
  • Confidence- to deliver in a virtual classroom the trainer needs to be fluent and confident in their subject matter. Firstly to facilitate more discussion and improvisation (keeping learners engaged and avoiding ‘zoom fatigue’), but secondly in their ability create interesting activities and teaching ideas around their specialism. If you don’t understand the topic well enough you can’t think out the box with it.

Teaching Theory and Virtual Training

Accommodating all learning styles (VARK model) must be a priority for the virtual trainer to ensure the content is inclusive and has resonated with all students. The challenge of injecting an eclectic mix of activities and interactions into the online session must be embraced and cater to visual, audio, kinaesthetic and reading learning styles where possible. This goes back to the importance of the virtual trainer having a strong understanding of virtual teaching resources that they can use to support their sessions.

Andragogy, is the theory of teaching adults, and should be considered thoroughly when designing virtual training to an adult audience- it focusses on how adults learn and what motivates them to learn.

There are many theories and learning models out there to inform teaching practice. The above two have been selected to reference in this article, others include the Honey & Mumford theory, 7/10 structuring model etc.- the message however stays the same, that trainers need to be informed and theory should compliment the trainers subject matter expertise.

How have we ensured the quality and effectiveness of our virtual training?

Firstly robust policies have been written internally and vetted by the SQA to ensure that all ‘remote delivery of training’ is quality. These include guidelines for delivery, remote invigilators and assessments.

Alongside our policies we have developed our trainers and course designers to be proficient in virtual delivery through CPD development, undertaking courses such as ‘Train the Virtual Trainer’.

CAMOR are committed to delivering quality training across all mediums, spanning face to face, digital e-learning modules and virtually facilitated training.

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