Choose virtual platforms wisely
We are frequently asked which platform is best for virtual instructor-led training (VILT). With so many options available, it can be difficult to determine the best choice. Our answer is “it depends”. Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, and not all are suitable for all uses. Different platforms have their areas of expertise. So, your decision should be made thoughtfully and aligned with your specific goals.
We maintain a platform neutral stance and do not favor any specific platform. Our approach involves working with customers to identify the platform that meets their needs and goals. Nonetheless, there are three fundamental factors to consider when selecting a platform.
3 fundamental factors to consider when selecting a platform
Putting results first
Two questions will determine your platform:
- What are the expected results?
- What types of virtual training do you want to offer?
Are you engaged in a brief dissemination of knowledge to a large audience? If so, a webinar-oriented platform might be suitable. Are you organizing meetings or virtual coaching sessions? In this scenario, a platform geared towards virtual meetings is essential. Is your goal to provide comprehensive instructor-led training (ILT) comparable to a traditional classroom setting? Then, a platform equipped with specific tools such as breakout rooms and a virtual whiteboard is the optimal choice. Additionally, if your virtual learning is part of a multi-year, multi-skill, multi-modal educational framework, you will need all of these components integrated into a robust LMS.
Start by designing the desired achievements. Then, develop a strategy on the means to achieve them and select the appropriate platform(s) to realize your vision. It is common for us to leverage various platforms to address distinct training types and outcomes.
One mistake we see in organizations is the tendency to shape training content around existing platforms. This approach is counterproductive. Prioritize thinking about training objectives and user experience (UX) above all else, then identify the platform(s) that will facilitate your path to success.
Select the right tools
As you explore the platform’s possibilities and their features, think about the toolkits they offer. The importance of tools cannot be underestimated. Tools play a central role in driving engagement and facilitating learning. When participants are actively engaged, they not only adhere to the learning process, but also improve their ability to retain and apply acquired knowledge in their professional roles. This ultimately results in the desired business outcomes and achievements.
Tools can be classified into two main categories:
- Tools for participants
These are designed to build engagement.
- Facilitator tools
These are intended to strengthen delivery and provide reporting.
In the area of attendee tools, there is a wide range of options that can impact engagement, interaction and enjoyment. Some of them include:
Quantity does not necessarily equal quality. If a platform has an abundance of features and functionality, this does not guarantee that it will be suitable for your specific needs. It is crucial to evaluate your goals, chart the path to achieve them, and identify the tools that match your goals.
The other category, that of facilitation tools, often goes unnoticed. What does a facilitator need to build engagement? Can they manipulate on-screen layouts to emphasize crucial concepts and maintain audience attention? Are they equipped with extensive multimedia capabilities? Can they track participant engagement levels? Can they spotlight specific individuals and display video feeds individually? Are full reports available? Is the toolset login and application friendly? What prerequisites are needed to access and establish the backend infrastructure? All of these factors contribute significantly to the platform selection process.
Involve your IT team
In traditional ILT, learning and development (L&D) oversees the entire training process, encompassing the following stages:
- Identify training needs
- Define the scope of work
- Create the content
- Deliver the content
- Evaluate and measure results
A major barrier to VILT is technology prerequisites, which often require collaboration with IT representatives. Involve them from the start to ensure seamless platform selection and use, avoiding last-minute challenges. One example we encountered involved a customer who chose a platform only to later discover that their IT systems were incompatible, leading them to restart the evaluation process. Key technology considerations include the following:
Determine what devices participants will use to join: computers, cell phones, tablets, etc.
- Software integration and permissions
Make sure participants’ devices have the necessary software and permissions.
- Data Bandwidth/Speed
Recognize different data connectivities in remote locations, impacting media capabilities and engagement design.
- Microphones and webcams
Define participation arrangements (built-in microphones, headsets, cell phones, headphones, etc.) and check if webcams are required.
- Technical support
Leverage IT support to configure virtual classrooms, ensure functionality, and provide technical assistance during sessions.
Adhere to specific organizational and IT security prerequisites. Some platforms may not meet security needs due to factors such as VPNs, firewalls, or other software constraints.
When selecting the appropriate VILT platform, focus on these three main areas, allowing the desired outcomes to guide your selection criteria.