Software training can be tricky because everyone learns at a different pace and not everyone can become a tech-savvy user overnight. The following tips will help instructors make their virtual instructor-led training (VILT) classroom efforts a success.
- Tailor training specifically to students: Instructors must understand an audience’s needs, so they can adapt the curriculum accordingly. For example, using the same training curriculum for end users, tech-savvy users, management and systems administrators is not recommended. Instead, understand the needs of each user and design a course specifically to their learning needs.
- Develop a strong curriculum: Begin with the basics and move into the details. Create training materials that complement the VILT curriculum. Always provide students reference materials they can use after leaving the classroom like guides, manuals or checklists. Also be sure to reinforce the content with virtual training labs (also known as "hosted labs" or "hands-on labs"), which is key to giving students an actual skillset.
- Use real-life examples: When students learn any new software, the key is to understand exactly how they will apply it in the real world. Successful software training requires the learner to see and use the features of a program in real-world contexts. To accomplish this, give hands-on exercises (via virtual training labs) that show real-life uses of the features being taught. And as an instructor, bring examples of how the software is used in the real-world and discuss those use cases in class.
- Demonstrate the process: Many students try to follow along with the instructor. While these students may be focused on keeping up, this method doesn’t work well because it is too difficult to watch two screens at the same time -- particularly in a VILT classroom. Students need to first listen to the explanation of the features, watch the instructor and see the step-by-step process. After the instructor is finished demoing or explaining the feature, only then should students try it on their own (via virtual training labs). This method helps students stay focused and provides them with time to perform the steps on their own and get acquainted with the program’s user interface and navigation.
- Highlight mistakes: Nobody likes to make mistakes, but slip-ups are a helpful learning tool. If students make mistakes, use it as a learning opportunity to teach the class what went wrong and how to fix it. Mistakes allow students to gain a deeper understanding of the features being taught. When students fix their own mistakes, they grasp how features should and should not be used, further enhancing the VILT experience.
The key to any successful training program is understanding students and their needs. Creating a positive learning environment, offering consistent feedback and providing virtual training labs will ensure the success of any training program.