No matter what sort of training you’re involved in, training remote workers requires a particular kind of preparation and execution. The dynamics of teaching and learning change when instructor and pupil aren’t in the same room, and with the rise of e-learning, it’s only happening more. If trainees are spread out in different locations, things get even more complicated. So here are some guidelines for trainers looking to optimize the training of remote workers.
Connect with remote trainees
Just because your trainees are far afield doesn’t remove the value of getting to know them — it just makes it more challenging. But it’s a challenge that can be overcome.
- Set course requirements in advance. In the spirit of prerequisite classes in the academic world, ascertain beforehand if all the trainees are prepared for the level of training you are about to provide.
- Use email notifications, invitations, and reminders to make sure participants remember and plan for training time.
- Get to know students outside or before the course. Class introductions have value as more than just ice-breakers. Consider setting up a blog page where trainees can interact before the course starts. Learn personal details that might stimulate discussion later, like where everyone is located or what they like to be called.
Master remote training technologies
Trainees expect the trainer to know what they’re talking about, and that includes knowing how to use the technology used to present the training.
- Only 45 minutes of every hour will go to instruction. Establish a target pace for the presentation — one to three minutes per slide is a common threshold. Question-and-answer periods can happen during breaks or at the end. Include only 45 minutes of slides per hour of training time. The remaining 15 minutes will disappear into class-management time, breaks, Q-and-As, and other class “overhead.”
- Familiarize yourself with tools and commands. Make a few practice runs on the same equipment you intend to use during the training, and familiarize yourself with how to control the volume or post questions. It may be your last chance to notice problems like technology incompatibility or bandwidth troubles.
- Be mindful of students’ technology needs. Likewise, make sure trainees have the right equipment to participate fully. A list of requirements should be included in the earliest communications, so there’s time to plan workarounds before sessions begin.
Use presentation best practices
The standards of organization and behavior for delivering PowerPoint presentations applies to remote trainings, so familiarize yourself with some of the presentation sins to avoid. Beyond that, here are a few simple guidelines:
- Move it along. If you have a slide that can’t be read in its entirety in 15 seconds (from the back of the room), or explained in a minute, then it’s time to break that point into several slides.
- Keep it lively. Savvy trainers mix things up by changing the content, altering their voice, or including audio or video for a change of pace. If you use slide transition animations, consider throwing a new one in here and there.
- Use a variety of tools. PowerPoint has become the technological standard for delivering presentations, but don’t get stuck in a rut of one textual slide after another. Consider using quizzes during breaks, even if only for the trainees to get a review of the material.
Use educational best practices
Among the volume of literature on what constitutes effective teaching and training, a few techniques are particularly important when dealing with trainees who aren’t in the same room:
- Telegraph your actions. Provide a clear outline of the course flow before starting. Continually remind trainees where they are within the course outline. Alert them when break times or question and answer periods are only a few slides away.
- Make it interactive. Penalizing students for non-participation can be an effective technique. This is also a good time to call on the familiarity with trainees that was gained by learning more about them at the start of the course. Phrase questions in specific ways so they actually relate to an individual’s experience.
- Use answers to stimulate discussion. Use trainee responses as the jumping-off point for broader discussion. So long as you can remain within time limits, creating discussion in this way gets students involved, creates ways for them to learn from each other, and helps the time pass more productively.
Remote training promises to add flexibility to training programs while reducing costs, but doing it effectively requires adopting some new techniques. With a little practice, remote training may become as comfortable as having everyone in the room.
Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user photosteve101.