Humanizing the Virtual Classroom: Using Tools to Drive Real-Time Connection

Every day more companies make the switch to virtual classrooms to save time and money on things like airfare, lodging, and meals. While the shift to virtual eliminates these expenses, some worry it comes at the cost of face-to-face, real-time human connection, but it doesn’t have to.

You can have a similar level of interaction in a virtual classroom using software like Adobe Connect or WebEx Training Center, but you have to use them wisely for your training to be effective. According to ATD, 80 percent of online presenters use fewer than 25% of the interactive features available in these type of platforms. This somewhat disconcerting statistic is how virtual classrooms got the reputation of being less human. Because let’s face it, learners don’t like to be talked at, they like to be engaged.

 

Tools to Use in a Virtual Classroom

Here are the tools you can use to create a sense of human connection and boost engagement in your virtual classroom.

Foster Personal Connections with Webcams

To help boost that face-to-face connection, have the facilitator use their webcam to introduce themselves at the beginning of the session. To boost credibility, start out with who they are, an explanation of their role, and how long they’ve been with the company. Then, dive into something more fun. Have them share a joke, their greatest success, or an anecdote about the training topic.

Using the webcam functionality builds trust, drives connection, and humanizes the facilitator.

Then, take it to the next level by asking any guest presenters, or even learners, to use their webcams too. If it’s a smaller training session, you could use the webcams for the duration. If it’s a larger group, use it strategically when someone needs to share something with everyone in attendance.

 

Encourage Groupwork in Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms allow you to divide participants into smaller groups and give them their own private virtual space to collaborate on an assigned activity. The word private here is key. Think about an in-person session where there are multiple groups in a classroom. Each group can hear the chatter from the others and may be inclined to copy their answers rather than come up with their own.

The independent thinking that virtual group work requires boosts participation, engagement, and retention.

In a virtual classroom, the option to copy other groups disappears, pushing your learners to come up with their own unique answers. Once the activity’s time is up, just pull everyone back in the main room and have each group share what they discussed. You’ll be surprised by what each group is able to come up with.

 

Garner Participation with Polls

Polls are a great way to build human connection. Just send out a question, set a timer, and wait for the responses to start pouring in. As you close a poll, it’ll generate group-wide results you can share with your learners. From there, invite the group to discuss their reaction to the results. This open conversation helps learners forge connections with each other, but also form a sense of belonging in the larger group.

You can ask all sorts of questions with this functionality. One of our favorites is using the polls to gauge comfort level with some of the training topics. Use the poll to check comprehension of a topic you just taught or start the session by sending out a poll to gauge how much learners know about a topic upfront. That way you know what content to review and what you can skim over if everyone’s already got it down.

 

Gauge Emotion with Emojis

We use emojis on our phones every day to show people how we feel. Maybe we’re sending the cry-laughing face in response to a joke or a heart to someone we love. The same principle applies here, but it has powerful learning implications.

At the beginning of a session, give a few emojis a designated purpose. For example, in WebEx you can use the green check and the red “X” for a variety of purposes. It could be how they respond when you pose a True/False question (check for “true”, “x” for “false”), based on comprehension (check means they understand, “x” means they don’t), and so much more. Emojis provide powerful, yet fun, visual cues for how people are feeling.

 

Facilitate Conversation Through Chat

Use the chat functionality to send a message to individuals, all participants, or just the session leader. Again, this comes in handy when someone has a question or needs help, but learners can also use it to submit responses.

Say you want your sales leaders in attendance to share the greatest opportunity for their respective sales teams – why not ask them to send in their responses via chat? If a response comes in and you want to hear more about it, just call on that learner, unmute their line, and ask them to tell you more. By engaging with the responses you see, you’re bridging the gap and forming a human connection by acknowledging someone’s point of view.

When you’re building out instruction for a virtual classroom, keep all of these tools in mind and do your best to use as many of these interactions as possible. Whether it’s chat, webcams, polls, or emojis, these little touch points go a long way to making your virtual classroom feel more authentic, and most importantly, more human.

 

Need help?

If you need a hand with the writing or strategy piece of your virtual training, reach out to us. We geek out over this sort of stuff and would love to partner with you.

 

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How to Avoid Immersive Learning Pitfalls

Immersive training (augmented and virtual reality) is changing fast. It wasn’t long ago that most people thought of these mediums as sparsely- and strictly-used by gamers and tech geeks. Times have changed. Video games, marketing, training, movies, TV shows… you name it and you can probably access some form of it in AR/VR.

It may be the flashy new thing, but we’re starting to see real benefits from immersive learning. According to a recent study that compared mobile VR learning to reading a text document, when tested on learning objectives, learners who used VR scored an average of 94.5, while those who learned using the text document scored an 87.

Still, as with all fairly new technologies, AR/VR are not without pitfalls. We’ve seen that plenty want to use this tech primarily because it’s trendy – and they move to incorporate it without proper planning.

Let’s look at some of the most common immersive training pitfalls to ensure your use of this tech adds value from a learning perspective.

 

Lack of Measurement

Pitfall:

AR/VR by itself doesn’t typically contain a way to measure success or learning outcomes. Unless the software is built by a training company with analytics in mind, success and learning outcomes are probably an afterthought.

The measurement of learning outcomes is critical for any training technology. Without that measurability, it’s extremely difficult to calculate ROI, determine where learners are struggling and succeeding, or provide constructive feedback.

How to Avoid:

Before opting-in to immersive learning, put a measurement strategy in place. Start with the end in mind. Before you can begin building an immersive training experience, how will you know if it’s successful? One way is by having a training technology company build the software from the ground up with the end-goal of outcome collection and measurement as a requirement.

For example, we can measure if learners’ behavior changed and see if training had a measurable impact on performance by looking at qualitative data (like interviews) and quantitative data (customer satisfaction, sales metrics, etc.) With immersive learning, scenarios and environments can be built requiring specific behaviors to satisfy virtual customers, make virtual sales, or accomplish any other goal.

Then, to measure ROI, simply compare upfront development cost to the training’s impact on behavior change and performance.

 

It’s All the Rage!

Pitfall:

Make no mistake about it, AR/VR is cool and trendy. That’s reason enough for many to want to include it in their training repertoire. The fact that it just happens to be awesome technology isn’t the pitfall – the urge to use it solely because it’s cool.

How to Avoid:

If you want to build an AR/VR experience, ensure you have learning objectives that are best accomplished via immersive learning. Could you do the same thing in a video or eLearning? If you could, maybe immersive training isn’t your best option.

How can you determine if your learning objectives are well-suited to AR/VR?

Do you have something that needs to be seen or demonstrated without your learner being there?

Maybe you’re training pilots while they’re spread across multiple cities without access to the same type of aircraft. Or perhaps you need to show workers in different parts of the country a process that’s used in a single factory so they can replicate it.

These examples lend themselves well to immersive learning because your learners are spread out and it’s incredibly costly to bring them all together. Save time and money by having them learn together virtually instead.

Need to learn something dangerous, risky, or particularly stressful?

Performing surgery or mixing chemicals in the making of medicines are two examples that could be taught and practiced through AR/VR with all of the learning benefit and none of the physical risk.

Immersive training allows for safe practice and exposure to situations that would be too dangerous otherwise.

Perhaps your workforce is spread far and wide, yet they need to collaborate to learn best.

How about a team that needs to work together to solve a problem? Maybe a team that needs to disassemble a jet engine and each have certain parts to dissect and fix.

In the factory, a team has to work on an assembly line to improve efficiency. With immersive training, learners could experience the same environment, while physically in different places, and practice virtually.

This is also applicable for a disperse sales team . Immersive learning can help these teams collaborate and learn from their counterparts in a real-world scenario, no matter where they are.

The ability to learn and work collaboratively without having to be physically together or even having all of the requisite physical equipment is a training dream brought to life by AR/VR.

 

Hardware?

Pitfall:

Though the cool software is what really makes immersive learning, this training modality requires some pretty particular hardware. Getting too excited and investing in software is all for nothing if you don’t figure out the hardware first.

How to Avoid:

Make sure you have a plan for equipment in place prior to launch. Much of that equipment is rapidly changing, so what do you need – and how much? In general, the price of AR/VR hardware is coming down, but did you factor that into the money you’ll have to spend? Where can you get it? Will it work right for what you want to accomplish? There is an ever-growing number of options in the industry.

It’s okay if you don’t know where to begin. When designing an immersive experience partnering with an expert can help you consider which, and how much, hardware you’ll support. Plan first – buy second.

Immersive learning can enhance your training by making it more efficient… if you can avoid the pitfalls. At the rate this technology is emerging, now’s the time to start exploring its potential. Depending on your needs, it could change the way your learners learn for the better.

 

As with other newly emerging technologies, AR/VR may seem overwhelming at its face. Work with a trusted partner who can help you maximize the benefits of this modality and ease your mind.

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3 Things to Consider for Voice Over in eLearning

There’s a lot to consider when creating an effective eLearning course. Which platform do you want to use to build it? Does it need to be mobile responsive? What type of interactivity do you need? Do you need eLearning voice over? The list goes on and on.

When it comes to deciding if you should use eLearning voice over, consider what are the goals you want to achieve and if audio will enhance the learning experience. Voice over is an important element that can help your training feel inclusive and boost engagement and retention.

When you’re ready to think over whether or not you need voice over in your eLearning, consider the following.

 

1. Think About Accessibility

Arguably the most important piece of the puzzle is whether or not your training needs to be accessible.  If accessibility is a consideration, eLearning voice over is a must. Consider this, roughly 19 percent of the U.S. population has a disability according to the U.S. Census Bureau – that’s nearly 1 in 5 people.

That means, when you consider your workforce, you’ll want to take special care when developing your training to make sure it’s as effective and inclusive of different learning styles and needs as possible. Having narration or eLearning voice-over for learners who have vision loss or dyslexia can help ensure everyone has access to the training in a way that’s best for them. For this audience, the audio is exceptionally important because it could be the primary way they’ll consume the information.

Not just that, it’s also required by law in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Even though this law only applies to U.S. Federal Agencies, it is becoming a standard consideration across the L&D industry. So while creating accessible content entails a lot more than just adding audio, it is an important part of the process and one you can’t ignore.

 

2. Consider Modern Learning Trends

Today’s average learner consumes more information than ever before, using all sorts of technologies and platforms. (think curated news feeds,  AirPods, Google Assistants, etc.). But what does that mean for training?

Your training needs to cater to how the modern learner prefers to consume information.

Consider how many of your friends and colleagues listen to podcasts. How does that compare to the number who read newspapers or watch the news regularly? Chances are, podcasts are way more popular. Why is that?

The landscape is changing. The modern learner is tired of old school methods of consuming information. Instead, they prefer to multi-task and consume information on-the-go. By incorporating eLearning voice-over or narration, you’re catering to those who prefer to consume information by listening.

If you can, weave short podcasts or other engaging voice over into your eLearning to help it feel sleek, contemporary, and engaging. Your learners will be able to listen to the training during the morning commute or when they’re driving from site to site. It’ll be more efficient for their schedules, more effective, and much more memorable—and being memorable is how you boost retention.

 

3. Using eLearning Voice Over to Simplify the Complex

The last thing to consider is the complexity of the information you’re teaching. If you’re covering complicated topics or providing detailed directions, using audio can help to simplify and humanize your content.

Think about it. Would you rather read a long drawn-out paragraph about a complicated topic or would you prefer to hear it explained while looking at a visual? Reading long chunks of content is exhausting and the modern learner just isn’t going to do it.

Instead, consider creating a visual to convey part of the information and using voice over as an added layer of detail. It will seem a lot less daunting to your learners than a big paragraph and we guarantee, if the voice over is written well, it will boost retention.

The more ways you use to convey information, the more likely it is to stick.

Don’t believe us? Read this article about a study where learners were divided into groups: those who watched a silent animation, then heard the narration, those who heard the narration, then watched the animation and those who watched both at the same time. As you can imagine,  the group who did both simultaneously did best.

Is accessibility important in your training? Do you need your training to be easy to access on-the-go? Do you need to convey complex information? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, eLearning voice over is a must.

Need help strategizing or building the training itself? We can help. With over a decade of experience, we can help identify the perfect blend of modalities for your training needs. We even have relationships with professional voice over artists who can bring your content to life. Give us a call!

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How the Rise of AI Changes Sales Training

According to Forbes, 62% of executives believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2030 due to digitization. Most employees won’t join your company with the skills to lead your team into the future of automation, which is why it’s critical that you’re ready to train your employees on emergent technologies.

There are plenty of upsides to automation: many companies have begun to leverage AI to better understand their customer’s behaviors and preferences so they can sell more personalized products, more accurately predict revenue, and even optimize pricing options for customers. Some companies have started to utilize AI assistants in the sales process to free up their salespeople from having to deal with mundane or repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on increasing revenue through building relationships.

On the other side of the artificial intelligence coin is the notion that robots are taking over the world (and taking our jobs). Not everyone is excited to welcome AI into the workplace; There is a real fear about AI taking over jobs that humans can do and making certain skillsets obsolete. AI is capable of carrying out tasks within carefully delineated boundaries like recognizing certain email as spam, offering you Netflix movie recommendations, or identifying which books you might like to read according to your recent purchases – but there are things it can’t do that you can, like create human connections.

As certain sales activities have been handed over to machines, skills like empathy, decision-making, and collaboration are more important than ever. Where AI can construe predictable customer questions through an assistive chat feature, it cannot make quick judgments on gray-area situations or understand the nuances of emotions – and these are key skills when it comes to selling.

Saleshacker says that, “the more a salesperson understands the emotions invested in a sales interaction, the better her chances of successfully making the sale.”

Unboxed-blog-AI-sales-desk

 

If you’re a salesperson, you can’t succeed without the ability to talk to new people, overcome objections, build strong relationships, and make personal connections. At the end of the day, buying something is an emotional experience for both the seller and the customer and these skills are the things that separate salespeople from sales machines.

As technology continues to advance and improve, it’s important to focus on upskilling your workforce with the emotional intelligence skills they need to succeed while capitalizing on emerging technologies. Here are a couple of ways you can upskill your team:

• Offer personalized training programs that build sales and people skills to bridge the gap between automation and the emotional connection needed to make a sale.

Implement the usage of intelligent apps, AI programs, and other emerging technologies to improve efficiency and empower team members to spend more time on revenue-generating tasks than on busy work.

• Use time-tracking programs to measure each employee output. This way, your employees will be getting trained on a new program, while you pick up on their patterns, strengths, and weakness. This data can determine where an employee needs to be retrained or paired with a mentor who can help.

The future is here! Your employees should know that artificial intelligence isn’t out to hurt them, it’s here to help them work more efficiently and creatively.  Are you ready to see how personalized sales training programs can help your team build better customer relationships and generate more revenue?
Reach out today.

 

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Video Challenges for Sales Teams: Uncover the Possibilities

When an organization rolls out a new product, it can take a while for the sales team to get on board. Even if they’re excited about the product itself, learning another set of features, benefits, and messaging can feel like just another thing they don’t have time for.

So, what can you do to increase speed to competency and drive excitement for a new product?

Recently, Unboxed partnered with a pharmaceutical organization rolling out a new product at a nation-wide launch. They’d been working hard for months to build marketing collateral and training to support the sales team, and they were looking to do something special to increase excitement and sustain learning beyond the launch event. They needed a creative way to prove that the sales team could execute what they’d learned in the intensive in-person and online training.

Together, we landed on what we called a “Show What You Know” video challenge. The goal was to engage the sales team’s naturally competitive drive by giving them a chance to show what they knew in a public setting—and get rewarded for it.

Here’s how it would work:

1. Learners would record a video of themselves demonstrating the training techniques they learned during training.

2. Learners would upload their best pitch to the training portal (LMS).

3. Training leaders would review each video, selecting the best pitches to share live on the portal, and sharing feedback with those that need improvement.

4. Learners would earn coins and accolades from peers and leaders.

Prior to rolling out “Show What You Know”, we created a dedicated space for the challenge inside the learning portal and even released a hype video to explain the video challenge.

Upon implementation, we saw high rates of engagement from the start, but the results were what was most surprising. The training team found that no one, not even the top performers on the sales team, was able to execute on all of the required messaging they’d learned in training. These results uncovered gaps in the training and gave leaders an opportunity to directly address those gaps, provide more practice sessions, and continue moving the team toward excellence.

As a bonus, we spliced together highlights from the best-uploaded videos to emphasize key skill areas. We bookended the videos with a skills overview, giving learners several examples of what good looks like so they could continue to practice. The challenge was a great success.

We gathered a few key takeaways from “Show What You Know”  that you may be able to apply to your own program:

• Learners may know less than they think they do. Going into the challenge, most learners reported being confident with the new product info they had learned in training. The video challenge revealed what we know to be true: that knowledge acquisition is entirely different than practical application.

• Learners love learning from their peers. After the challenge, releasing the spliced videos allowed learners to see several examples of how they could implement key skills and build a more natural approach to their sales pitch. Because these examples were from their peers, they felt authentic, relevant, and timely.

• Sustainment is key. Be strategic about when to roll out a post-training challenge. Gather your initial results, and continue to refine as you go in order to have the most impact.

Have questions about your own sustainment plan?

Need a sustainment strategy that will allow your team to identify learning gaps? Contact Unboxed today for a strategy that works for your learners.

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