4 Virtual Instructor Led Training Best Practices for Max Engagement

As technologies evolve and people become increasingly comfortable connecting virtually, companies are looking for ways to take their existing training content into the digital space. That’s where virtual instructor-led training (vILT) comes in. But what exactly is vILT, what are the benefits, what is its #1 challenge, and what virtual instructor led training best practices can you follow to maximize engagement?

Let’s take a look.

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VILT Benefits

The benefits to business are obvious. By moving existing training content to online or app-based platforms, your company can:

  • Connect learners globally,
  • Reduce training costs, and
  • Complement your blended learning strategy.

Plus, unlike self-paced e-courses, instructors can still interact with learners in real time, facilitating discussions and answering participant questions.

But let’s take a step back. What exactly does a vILT look like?

 

Three parts of a vILT

The three main components of a vILT are:

  1. The platform
  2. The training content
  3. The people

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The platform

Two software platforms commonly used for vILT are the Cisco Webex Training Center and Adobe Connect. Both platforms create an online space where instructors and learners can interact and offer tools to increase engagement, including: virtual whiteboards, polling, “raise hand” and chat functions, and breakout rooms for smaller discussions and activities.

The-Platform-vILT

The content

Then you have your course materials which consist of the audio and visual content the instructor uses to teach the course, including: videos, text, audio clips, and images. Those materials are often contained in a PowerPoint presentation as a convenient way for instructors to organize and share information.

In addition, a facilitator’s guide outlining timing, talking points, discussion prompts, and activities can be very useful in keeping your session on track. Job aids, infographics, and other supplementary materials can be used as takeaways to reinforce learnings.

The-Content-virtual-ILT

The people

You have your learners, of course, and your instructor/facilitator who is teaching the material and/or facilitating discussions and activities.

You may also want a producer—someone who is tech savvy and has in-depth knowledge of the platform you’re using to launch tools, move participants into breakout rooms and help monitor the time.

The-People-live-session-training

So, what is the biggest challenge with vILTs?

The big challenge

The greatest challenge with vILTs is also the greatest challenge with ILTs—keeping learners engaged. But with vILTs it is especially easy for participants to hide in the back of the virtual classroom where no one can see or hear them. Plus, instructors must compete with all the distractions at learners’ fingertips like email, texting, and Internet browsing.

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Which leads us to…

Virtual Instructor Led Training Best Practices

Follow these 4 virtual instructor led training best practices to keep learners focused and engaged.

  1. Make your training part of a larger blended learning journey. One of the advantages of the vILT format is that learners can complete self-paced training and review materials before and after the live session. You don’t need to cram everything into marathon in-person sessions. Micro-learning has been proven to be 50% more engaging and makes the transfer of learning 17% more efficient. Break your content into smaller bite-sized pieces and focus your vILT on interactive discussions and activities
  2. Develop a set of rules and expectations up front. This may include asking participants to close email and browsers and refrain from using their phones. Let them know ahead of time how they are expected to communicate, for example chatting in questions or using the “raise hand” function.
  3. Make sure you utilize platform tools to their greatest advantage. For example, polls can be used as a quick and easy way to keep learners engaged while gathering valuable feedback. Breakout rooms are extremely useful with large groups to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. But don’t make the mistake of using tools just because they’re there. Make sure all aspects of your training are thoughtful and intentional. That’s because.
  4. No technology can replace an enthusiastic, engaging instructor who cares. Think back to school. What were your favorite classes? Most likely they were taught by teachers who kept the content entertaining and expressed a genuine interest in their students. The same goes for virtual classes. The best instructors use storytelling and compelling audio-visual content and, when possible, establish one-on-one relationships with their learners. This can be challenging with large groups, but whether it’s a quick phone call, email, or post on an intranet message board—try to find the time to connect with participants.

“vILTs really benefit from instructors and L&D departments who think outside the box and find ways to connect with participants outside of the live session.”

 

A vILT can be a great, cost-effective addition to your L&D department’s offerings. Participants love the convenience and business loves its low impact to the bottom line. And by following these vILT best practices, you can overcome its greatest challenge—learner engagement—to see positive, measurable results with your training.

To learn more about how to think strategically in this digital space and develop custom, design-forward, and engaging content, take a look at our custom vILT solutions and give us a shout! We’re happy to walk you through our process.

Ultraceuticals Launches Award-Winning UltraAcademy With Spoke®

Australia-based skincare company Ultraceuticals had plans to create the UltraAcademy, a scalable, blended learning hub for skincare technicians, nurses, and doctors. To complete the strategy, they needed a learning management system with intuitive, modern capabilities and a great support team. Ultraceuticals found what they were looking for in Spoke®, and the partnership led to Ultraceuticals winning a Platinum LearnX Impact Award for Best Blended Learning Model 2017.

Backstory

Ultraceuticals is the leading Australian cosmeceutical skincare brand offering professional-grade products and in-clinic treatments, formulated to address major skin concerns such as aging, pigmentation and acne to give customers healthy, beautiful skin.

Before the launch of UltraAcademy, Ultraceuticals flew trainers all over the country to educate students about Ultraceuticals products. Unfortunately, the two-day in-person workshops didn’t always energize people about the brand. Global Education Innovator Heather Vounnou described the learning experience as “death by PowerPoint.”

For Ultraceuticals, training engagement and retention of the material is critical. “If someone doesn’t know what they’re doing, they could really damage someone’s skin,” Vounnou explained.

Stakes were high, and she knew they could do better.

Opportunity

So, how could Ultraceuticals engage, certify, and reward skincare technicians, nurses, and doctors in a way that accommodated their busy schedules?

The blended approach Vounnou recommended began with baseline training that could be completed online in short bursts at medical clinics between client visits. Only after baseline training would Ultraceuticals’ students complete the two-day in-person workshops to apply what they learned from their online modules. And no more death by PowerPoint.

After their baseline training and initial in-person workshops, students would be able to unlock intermediate workshops and certify to become Ultraceuticals Experts.

To facilitate Ultraceuticals’ desired learning experience, Vounnou needed a learning platform that would be easy to navigate. “I couldn’t have one of these clunky, unattractive learning management systems that are out there,” she said.

“I couldn’t have one of these clunky, unattractive learning management systems that are out there,” she said.

So, a lynchpin of Vounnou’s strategy was identifying the right LMS for the UltraAcademy—the one-stop-shop to complete online training, participate in ongoing professional development, and hear about medical advances and Ultraceuticals product updates. It would be the place UltraAcademy administrators like Vounnou could track engagement and get learner feedback.

Partnership

Vounnou learned about Spoke® through online research. She was impressed with Spoke’s consistent innovation and upgrades based on client feedback, and features such as prerequisites, Spoke Rewards, and Spoke News.

After her research phase, Vounnou met the Spoke support team. She knew she’d found the right technology partner, one that could provide exceptional customer service and support UltraAcademy’s launch. “Out of all the companies I talked to [Spoke Account Manager] Kiersten never made me feel like I was just a number.”

“Out of all the companies I talked to [Spoke Account Manager] Kiersten never made me feel like I was just a number.”

Throughout each phase of UltraAcademy’s implementation—early analysis, data migration, configuration, testing, and launch—the Spoke support team collaborated with Ultraceuticals and guided Vounnou through the process.

“My Spoke Account Manager was amazing. I never felt like she was telling me ‘Here’s the template, give us what we need.’ Her customer service was extraordinary,” said Vounnou.

Solution

UltraAcademy launched in September 2016 and has over 1700 students across Australia and New Zealand. Plans to expand the availability of Ultraceuticals into other countries are underway.

sales training program - sales methodology

 

Thanks to the blended learning strategy behind UltraAcademy and Spoke’s intuitive LMS platform, engagement has increased exponentially. “In the online space, you can meet students where they are. They can complete training in between client appointments. You can do more with your budget. It’s also a better brand experience,” said Vounnou.

One learner, Kayla Gilligan of Katrina Skinworks, shared this feedback:

“Can I just say I love UltraAcademy? As a therapist working with Ultraceuticals [for nearly three years], you’d think you have the knowledge, and you do, to a degree, but the online learning just explains it in such a different way. Listening to something again and seeing it visually, you learn so much more from it.”

Vounnou loves the ability to measure training results with Spoke Reports. “The reporting is wonderful, particularly being able to pull transcripts for individual users,” she said. “I also love the monthly progress reports.”

Ultraceuticals regularly launches new microlearning videos and podcasts in Spoke to drive continuous learning and keep skincare technicians, nurses, and doctors engaged.

sales training program - sales methodology

They also use Spoke’s rewards and recognition capabilities. For example, when a student becomes certified as an Ultraceuticals Expert, the team takes photos and publishes a Spoke news post with the student’s testimonial to celebrate their achievement.

Results

“The feedback has been overwhelming,” said Vounnou. “The student body as a whole has really embraced it.”

At the LearnX Live 2017 Award Show in Sydney, UltraAcademy was awarded the prestigious Platinum LearnX Impact Award for Best Blended Learning Model 2017. The LearnX Impact Awards recognize and reward individuals, teams, and organizations who have used learning and supporting technologies to deliver value and significantly impact employee performance and business results. Previous winners of the Best Blended Learning Model category include Harvard Business School, National Australia Bank (NAB), and Medibank.

“It’s a delight to have this kind of success,” Vounnou said. “My passion was to use this LMS and the content inside of it to empower people to get better at what they do and help businesses thrive as a result.”

“Working with Heather [Vounnou] has been a joy because of her intelligent feedback on our platform. Ultraceuticals has helped us continue to innovate by challenging us to improve the way Spoke delivers training and ultimately helps people learn,” Spoke Account Manager Kiersten Hoffman said.

Meet Spoke®

Spoke is the modern social learning management system that combines training, communication, collaboration, and gamification to help you train, engage, and reward your teams. To learn more, watch our Meet Spoke video or request a demo.

8 Modern LMS Features That Drive Learner Engagement

On the hunt for a new learning management system and interested in modern LMS features?  Based on our experience, any LMS can host your training content, but an LMS with modern features lets learners take training into their own hands. This list includes 8 modern LMS features that will set you and your team up for success.

 

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1. SOCIAL AND COLLABORATIVE LEARNING

Community functions like discussion boards, content ratings, upvoting, and the ability to follow specific users make it easy for learners to collaborate with peers, instructors, and managers long after the training course has ended.

Educational researchers have been touting the benefits of discussion features in online learning for decades now because they allow participants to mindfully reflect on their peers’ contributions before responding—and this type of thoughtful collaboration may be one of the most important elements of effective online training.

Capturing and encouraging conversations that surround your business’ training content and best practices is a powerful way to help your team learn more efficiently and effectively. It also gives you insight into what training content is working (and what’s not).

 

2. INTEGRATED COMMUNICATION TOOLS

The “If you build it, they will come” approach doesn’t work in L&D. Not only do you need to develop great training—you also need an effective communication strategy to let people know there’s exciting new content in their LMS.

It’s more like: “If you build it, market it internally, give learners multiple ways to engage with it, and reward the effort, they will come.” 

That’s why one modern LMS feature on the rise is integrated communication tools. Integrated communication tools allow you to create training alerts on users’ dashboards, send email notifications and newsletters, display pop-up notifications, and even have a news portal where users can quickly see what’s happening in the company.

 

3. REAL-WORLD GAMIFICATION

Don’t think of gamification as a distraction. Instead, think of it as a way to hook learners and get them excited about training. We’ve seen real-world gamification drive results like a 5.5x increase in course completions and nearly a 2x increase daily logins.

Incentives like points, leaderboards, badges, and levels motivate users to engage with your LMS and increase their social capital. They also create friendly competition.

The concept is simple—show people their progress, reward their performance, and they’ll want to do more. Truly modern LMS platforms go the extra mile and allow users to trade in their points for real-world rewards like apparel and company swag.

 

4. BLENDED LEARNING

Blended learning occurs when the best delivery methodologies available for each specific learning objective are incorporated into a curriculum, according to ATD.

And based on our experience, to create a perfectly blended learning experience, you need to let the subject matter inform your modality, embrace learners’ constraints, and choose a learning platform that supports blended learning.

If a learning platform has modern capabilities, its LMS features should supports and encourage blended learning. How? Its user interface should make it easy to upload and complete courses across a variety of modalities—from ILT and VILT to eLearning and interactive learning guides.

 

5. GREAT CONTENT

You can have a platform with every learning management system feature available, but if you fill it with boring, uninspiring content, you’re not going to get very far.

Boring PowerPoint presentations don’t cut it anymore. Your employees can’t learn if they’re sleeping through their training. Training content that gets results is short, personalized, and engaging.

 

6. EASY TO USE

A modern user interface isn’t enough. An LMS with nice visuals can still be a nightmare for learners and administrators to use.

You want an eLearning platform that not only looks great, but is also well organized, easy to access and navigate, and just makes sense for users.

 

7. Integrations

From CRM tools like Salesforce to HR and recruiting systems, you have many software products you already use to manage your day-to-day. Who wants to remember another username and password?

That’s where integrations come in.

When choosing an LMS, consider features like APIs (application program interface) and SSO (single sign-on). APIs, SSO, and other integrations can help you work your eLearning platform into your workflow seamlessly.

 

8. Analytics to prove roi

It’s time to look beyond baseline reporting to help determine ROI. Course completion and pass/fail rates are a good start, but your LMS should deliver other valuable data and insights.

For example, track how popular and helpful discussion threads and resources are. Track course ratings and reviews. And merge your LMS data with other business results like VOC scores (Voice of the Customer), sales, revenue, how long it takes to get new employees up to speed, etc.

Armed with these analytics, you can identify training gaps. You can also see what content and formats resonate most with learners, and use all of these insights to inform how you design your next training module.

 

Put Them All Together

Think finding a single platform with all these LMS features is a pipe dream? It’s not. In fact, we call it Spoke®.

Spoke is a modern learning platform that combines personalized, social, and collaborative learning with real-world gamification and built-in communication tools to keep learners engaged.

How much more engaged? Compared to other leading platforms, companies using Spoke have seen up to:

  • a 5.5X increase in course completions,
  • 3.5x increase in logins, and
  • 2.5x increase in non-required activity

If you’re not seeing those results with your current learning platform, check out Spoke LMS.

 

What LMS Features Matter To Your users?

If you’ve completed your LMS requirements checklist, let us know which of these 8 modern LMS features made it to the top of your must-haves list. What other items did you prioritize? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

How Much Does Custom Training Cost? It Depends!

So, you’ve decided off-the-shelf training no longer meets your company’s needs. Maybe you need to teach your employees about a complex system or product, or maybe you have specific customer service behaviors you need to demonstrate. Or, maybe it’s time for your training to match your company culture. In each of these examples, custom training solutions are definitely the right move. So, how much does custom training cost?

Well, it depends!

Something that’s custom-built for you rarely comes with a standard price tag. It all depends on what you want and need.

It’s a bit like remodeling a kitchen.

Let’s say you want new floors, appliances, cabinets, and countertops. When you ask the contractor for an estimate, two things probably happen next:

  • The contractor doesn’t give you an exact figure right away.
  • Instead, he or she asks you a few more questions.

While this might slow you down in the short-term, it’s a sign the contractor cares about your vision. After all, there are countless options for customization. Do you want tile floors? Linoleum? Do you need top-of-the-line appliances? What type of wood do you want for the cabinets? Are you interested in granite counter tops?

When you talk with a custom training partner, it’s no different, and if you can bring some key specs to the table, the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Use the framework outlined below to break down your vision and get an accurate custom training estimate.

IDENTIFY SPECIFICS

To get a better idea of how much your custom training project may cost, start thinking about the specifics. A custom training partner will ask you questions like this:

  1. How many topics do you need to cover? Will you focus on just a few topics, or do you need to create an entirely new program?
  2. Are you teaching knowledge, skills, or behaviors? If you’re teaching knowledge, a self-paced format could be the right approach. If you want learners to build new skills, they need a way to practice and get feedback. If you’re changing behaviors, your strategy will need a leadership component.
  3. How complex is the subject matter? Some custom training projects require more up-front analysis than others. Do you need a quick, fun hype video to encourage participation, or do you need to train employees on a highly complex product or system?
  4. What’s the right level of fidelity? Not all videos can be shot on an iPhone or a GoPro. Sometimes you need a full production crew, equipment rentals, and professional actors. Think about the ROI you’re after, and invest your dollars in your most high-impact content. The right training partner can produce a polished, exciting video that has that wow factor.
  5. How evergreen will the training be? Is this project “one and done,” or will it require ongoing maintenance? And, who do you want to be responsible for the maintenance–your internal training team or your training partner?
  6. What interactivity will you include? Should your content be highly interactive and immersive–with simulations, games, or even virtual reality? The more interactive the content, the more you’ll want to budget.

Consider Different Modalities

A major driver of cost is the modality–or training format–you’re interested in. In most cases, the subject matter will determine the best modality.

Make sure your training partner has a reputation for making helpful, strategic recommendations about your options. Here are some thought-starters you can use to identify benefits and costs of different modalities:

FACILITATED training

  • What type of seat time do you envision? A few hours? Two days? Three weeks?
  • Will the training be facilitated in-person or virtually?
  • Will you need any videos to support your facilitated content?
  • Do you need any quiz or assessment content to confirm learning?
  • Will pre-work and/or refresher training be part of your strategy?

eLearning

  • Are you interested in using any live action video content or animation in your eLearning modules?
  • Does your LMS support the type of eLearning experience you want?

Animation

  • Are you planning any systems training that requires a screencast?
  • Do you prefer a simple animation style, or something higher-fidelity like 3D?

Live action video

  • Do you have a general sense of the video length you’re interested in?
  • Would you rather use professional actors or your own employees?
  • Do you need to shoot the video in a specific location?

Custom training is personalized, engaging, and it gets results. In the end, the up-front time you spend to find the right custom training partner and articulate your vision will pay off.

It’s just like any great home improvement project. You have countless options, but the right contractor can turn your dream into a reality–and help you budget along the way.

So, how much does custom training cost? It depends! Use our framework to identify some specifics, then work with your training partner to choose the best modality and put together an estimate.

Infographic: Is Your Sales Training Program Good, or Great?

Your organization has a sales training program, and it’s working, right? Your sales reps are learning to position your products and services and close enough deals to at least keep the lights on for another month.

And maybe, you schedule training two or three times per year, probably in conjunction with a regional sales meeting when everyone is together to compare notes.

While your sales training program might not be brand new, you’re patching holes with updated content to keep it as fresh as you can.

So it’s good, right? Or at least adequate?

Well, maybe. If your organization has a good sales training program and you’re stuck in chronic mediocrity, imagine the results of a great sales training program that empowers your sales team to knock it out of the park with every customer interaction.

How can you tell whether your sales training program is good or great? Let’s take a quiz.

Is your sales training program good or great?

1. What is your sales methodology?

At the heart of every good sales training program is a good sales methodology. And there are plenty to choose from: Challenger, SPIN, SNAP, Customer Centric, Sandler Selling, and Conceptual … the list goes on.

It’s good to have a sales methodology because it helps your organization identify certain key needs. It probably provides insight into how your organization qualifies buyers, positions products, and helps reps overcome objections.

But, while it’s good to adopt a sales methodology, they all have one thing in common: lots of other organizations ―including your direct competitors―are using the exact same methodology.

To differentiate your organization in a crowded marketplace, you have to customize, personalize, and make your sales methodology your own so you can woo customers with a uniquely compelling customer experience – resulting in more deals closed.

A great sales training program is built off a sales methodology that’s contextual and customized for your specific products and services. One that enables reps to ideally position the solutions you offer, helps develop the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that empower your reps to shine more brightly than competitors, and matches your culture.

We’re often asked, “Hey Unboxed, what’s your sales methodology?”

Well, we have frameworks to create custom sales methodologies for our clients, but whether we create one or start with your existing one, the answer is simple: our methodology is to take your methodology and contextualize it to transform your training from hu-hum to BAM!

sales training program - sales methodology

2. What does your sales training program teach your reps?

Reps require knowledge and skills to sell successfully. They need specific, detailed information to explain how your products solve a customer’s issues and add value. Reps must also know how to qualify customers, build relationships, upsell, gain referrals and repeat sales. If your training achieves all of that, then you have a good program.

In addition to teaching knowledge and skills, a great sales training program also focuses on developing consistent behaviors that reps must master to position your products and services at the top of the market, making them irresistible to customers.

So, how do you take a knowledge- and skills-based training program to the next level?

At Unboxed, we start by partnering with our clients to identify the behaviors that drive success, then build training around those behaviors. PowerPoints won’t do here. Reps need to experience what these behaviors look like in action. We use simulations, choose-your-own adventure, and adaptive learning models so reps make a choice and then get to see the impact of their decisions, even if they’re incorrect.

By changing behaviors, you change overall results. Great sales training materials improve selling behaviors for your entire bench, driving increased sales and higher customer satisfaction.

sales training program - training for reps

3. What does your sales training program offer sales leaders?

Great sales managers aren’t born―they’re trained. They’re the pillars reps look to for guidance on closing critical deals. And, contrary to popular belief, when a top rep is promoted to sales manager, savvy management skills don’t magically materialize.

A coaching model supports the knowledge, skills, and behaviors your sales management and leadership team require to guide reps to the next level. They’ll learn to build their bench, set goals, develop strategy, understand drivers and drainers, evaluate ROI―and coach their team in developing these skills. Teaching managers how to foster increased sales productivity and efficiency improves the overall vitality of your sales organization.

sales training program - training for leaders

4. How do you deliver your sales training program?

Modality of learning is key to making knowledge stick. In years past, that meant in-person training and stacks of binders. Today’s reps are more visually oriented, so videos and interactive technologies are a smarter way to engage them to maximize retention.

If you currently mix up the delivery of your training using PowerPoints, self-paced workbooks, and the occasional video, you have a good training delivery system.

But why not make it great?

Reps are busy. Lengthy training sessions lower their overall selling time. And don’t forget about the forgetting curve. But by using modern, on-demand modalities, reps can train anywhere, anytime. Delivering training in short, bite-sized chunks also makes it more digestible and easier to retain. (It’s called microlearning, and it’s great for sales training.)

Modern sales reps respond to modern training methods. They increase engagement and knowledge retention. So, while it’s good to have 25-minute videos and training every six months, it’s great to use more modern sales training techniques including eLearning (simulations, interactive learning guides, and high-fidelity training videos), social learning, and gamification that keep reps engaged.

sales training program - training delivery

Are you good, great, or in the middle?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, your organization likely has a good sales training program.

But what if parts of your program are good while other aspects are already great? In that case does your entire sales program need a complete overhaul, or does it just need a facelift to make it more modern and engaging?

Here’s the thing: transforming from good to great has tangible benefits for your sales team and sales leaders, but the overarching reason to revamp your sales training is to provide your customers with an extraordinary experience.

This begs one last question:

5. Does your sales training elevate the customer experience?

In our modern, crowded sales landscape, companies compete on the playing field of customer experience.

And while it’s good to deliver training that benefits your reps, it’s great if that training also elevates the customer experience.

When customers experience the wow-factor of customized, contextual product positioning from sales reps whose consistent behaviors focus on solving their individual challenges, it tips the balance in your organization’s favor.

sales training program - results

By transforming your sales training program from good to great, you increase rep engagement, enhance management and leadership skills, and amp-up your customer experience to previously unimagined heights. Who wouldn’t choose great?

Here’s the complete infographic.

sales training program - Infographic

Want to Move from Good to Great?

At Unboxed, we specialize in creating custom sales training programs that help organizations transform from good to great, from mediocre to phenomenal, from off the shelf or “boxed” to, well … Unboxed.

Ready to kick it up a notch? Reach out. We’d love to talk sales training with you.