Competencies for Virtual Training Facilitation:

In the last article of this series, I presented a compelling business case for Virtual Training. We discussed why Virtual Training is more effective than classroom training. However, the journey from physical classroom training to virtual classroom training is not just a lift and shift approach. Facilitators who create magic in the physical classroom may not be able to recreate the same magic in the virtual classroom. Virtual classroom is a different format altogether. We need to acquire certain skills to be able to succeed in this format. For example, a Tennis player who is adept in playing on grass courts would need to acquire additional skills to be able to play well on clay courts.

So now let’s talk about the 8 critical skills needed to be effective in the virtual classroom format:-

  1. Meticulous Planning 

While any training program requires good planning, virtual training facilitation requires uncompromising meticulous planning. The facilitator needs to know how to plan all minute details (scheduling, announcement, logistics etc.) for virtual classroom. In the absence of meticulous planning, the actual training session may fall flat. While planning for virtual training, it is always important to have a Plan A and Plan B as well. There are dependencies on network connectivity, systems, tools, platforms etc. If Plan A fails, one can always trigger Plan-B.

2. Virtual Training Design Skills

Designing for Virtual classroom training is very different from designing for physical classroom. This is a specialized skill that Virtual Training Facilitators must work on and master. Key design elements would include lessons, topics, activities, learning checks, assignments, break out discussions, videos, podcasts etc. specially designed or curated for the virtual classroom format. 

3. Technology Savviness

Virtual Training Facilitator needs to be tech-savvy. She needs to be well versed with relevant digital platforms and tools. She should know how to curate content in different formats from various digital sources, repurpose them and deploy them leveraging various digital tools.

4. Ability to multi-task

In physical classroom, a facilitator focuses on one task at a time. In the virtual classroom, the facilitator needs to focus on multiple tasks simultaneously. She has to share her screen, ask questions and switch between tools and different features in these tools at the same time. For example, while she is sharing her slides and explaining them, she also has to keep an eye on the chat window to check if there are any questions from participants. Therefore, multitasking is an important skill essential for virtual facilitation.

5. Ability to grab and retain learners attention

The attention span of human beings is getting shorter and shorter. It is a humongous task for the virtual classroom facilitator to draw and retain the learners’ attention during the session. She has to be at it throughout especially when there are many potential distractions (emails, phone calls, WhatsApp messages, lack of interest etc.) for the learners. 

6. Ability to cater to a diverse audience

Virtual classroom enabled by technology transcends geographical barriers, time zone differences and limitation of space seen in physical classroom setting. In virtual classroom, any number of participants from any part of the globe can log in. While this is a big advantage, this also puts a huge demand on the virtual facilitator to understand various cultural, generational and other nuances and cater to the needs of a large and diverse audience.

7. Time Management

In virtual classroom, how long is too long and how short is too short? A virtual facilitator may be great at grabbing learners’ attention and leading an engaging session, but she would still be ineffective, if she cannot manage her time well. Time Management in virtual sessions is a critical skill every virtual facilitator must master.

8. Making virtual learning an awesome experience

One of the important goals of any learning intervention is to make learning an awesome experience for learners. And this goal is even more critical in case of virtual training. Here a lot depends on the facilitator’s ability to engage the learners with emotions. According to L&D practitioner, Nidhi Datta, a key aspect could be to plan for the emotional journey of the learners, how they should be feeling- challenged, curious etc. 

Please let me know what you think about these skills. Would you like to add another one to these set of skills?

Author : Surya Prakash Mohapatra, Global Head- Talent Transformation and Learning & Development at Wipro Digital Operations and Platforms

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