It has long been observed in the education profession that students get bored with being lectured. Not only does the learner lose interest by merely being given boatloads of information they don’t know how to use, but they also don’t always learn what they’re supposed to. If you do virtual trainings for your clients, you may have noticed something similar. Stony silence when you ask for questions and lots of follow-up about things you already covered in training are dead giveaways. It’s not uncommon for a straightforward, explanatory training session to leave clients more confused than when they showed up.
Most of us learn best when we do something, rather than being told something. Education professionals in the 21st century have recognized this and developed strategies to get past the lecturing model of teaching. “Doing” doesn’t always mean hands-on; it can also be applying critical thinking skills or even students teaching their peers – yet more ways your clients can apply the knowledge you provide them. Consider some of these teaching strategies to smarten up your next virtual training session.
Everything is more fun in groups. In the reality of the workplace, your clients will have to use your product or service as a team. Why not give them a little practice? In collaborative (or cooperative) learning, students work together to solve a problem, complete a task, or create a finished product. This is a great opportunity for businesses training clients on software or processes to get their clients to apply what they’ve learned.
Much of the learning in a collaborative learning exercise happens as the team members talk their way through finding a solution. It’s said that social interactions are one of the ways that people absorb information best, because it forms a distinct memory. They will also learn from each other, as they’ll be exposed to diverse opinions within their group. Clients will appreciate this opportunity to be challenged and they’ll start to see how the product or service can be used to their advantage.
What a student wants to get out of a class, or what your client wants to get out of a training, ultimately depends on them. This is the philosophy behind learner-centered teaching – it places the responsibility for learning on the student (which is really how it works, anyway). Rather than hand-feeding your clients information and hand-holding their way through the training, have them develop some of their own curriculum. This could be as simple as posing a provocative question and giving them 1-2 minutes to come up with their answer. Then, lead into the lesson. Another idea is to show them examples of the “right” and “wrong” way to use a product and have them identify which is which.
Just because your clients will be taking the wheel doesn’t take you out of the picture. You’ll be in the passenger seat instructing them on the right turns to take and brakes to make. A key part of learner-centered training is that the clients are given explicit instructions on the skills needed to do the work. Whether you’re getting them to do a free writing exercise about a topic before going more in depth, or asking them to come up with a list of information based on what they’ve just learned, you’re still an integral part of the process.
Teaching With Case Studies
Case studies are essential in the business world for showing examples of best practices and demonstrating how to replicate that success. Teachers in the classroom show case studies to demonstrate how a concept works or can be applied. In your virtual trainings with clients, you can do both. Show them how other companies have used your product or service in the field, and how they were successful because of it. Then present them with a scenario in which they – individually or groups – have to apply the product or service to solve a particular problem.
Your clients likely already have good logic and problem-solving skills, but haven’t yet used those skills with your product or service in mind. The case studies you give them are a gift of “thinking outside the box” – the box being their preconceptions of the product or service, and their past experiences with similar concepts. With some examples and practical exercises, they can start to think both idealistically and rationally about what your business has to offer.
As a virtual trainer, you’re always looking for ways to add value to your training sessions. Add interdisciplinary teaching to your trainer’s toolkit. This teaching strategy combines two or more topics into one lesson. In training sessions, this can be applied by offering the practical skills to make use of a product or service, combined with new information about the client’s industry. Think combining a tutorial on video editing software with a short presentation on new trends in the film industry for a documentary company.
At first it may seem that combining two topics into one virtual training session might be information overload. And it can be, if the topics are too unrelated or you present too much information at once. Give just enough information on both – and make sure to tie them together – and you will have clients who truly understand the value of your product or service.