7 Habits of Highly Effective Remote Learning Facilitators

Martin Tanner, Danny Norcross, Warren Mara

Facilitating learning in a virtual environment can seem like a daunting or even impossible task, but we’ve been doing it forever and want to share our experience with you. We hope you benefit from this article and enjoy your first remote delivery. 

Note: We’re talking training delivery here. If you’re wanting to broadcast a webinar to 400 people at once, then you already have what you need!

We’ve found that effective remote facilitators do the following.

 

1. fácil – itate (verb).

To facilitate is to 'make easy'. That's your job – to make the learning experience easy for the learners. So, as a first consideration, whatever the learning experience is, you need to ask yourself “Is this an exercise in me telling everyone stuff…or have I asked them to learn through practice, or working in teams?” It also needs to be easy for you, so make sure you have a session plan on a single page for yourself. 


2. Challenge their own experience: Would you want to do this learning experience? 

Ask yourself “Would I want to sit through a two hour pre-recorded PowerPoint with little to no interaction?” If you’ve answered ‘no’, then chances are your learners won’t either. Maximise participation through teamwork. You've got a whiteboard and breakout rooms. Everyone has access to use them simultaneously, so there's a team activity waiting to happen.


3. Follow these four principles (PERL) for any learning experience design. Make it:

  1. Problem-centered – I have to solve a problem with my team and present it back to the group.
  2. Experiential – I am a participant, not a passenger.
  3. Relevant – the skills I learn are applicable in the tasks I need to do.
  4. Learner-led – I get to choose the direction we go in, or what my team works on.


4. Buddy up.

If you can tag team your delivery, then just like a physical classroom, you can split the responsibilities and play different roles. Changing the state is a key part of good facilitation, and you've now also got a ‘plus one’ to manage the technology hiccups and moderate the chat functions too.


5. Know that the best tool is the tool you already have*. (*Mostly).

Enthusiastically jumping to a new web conferencing tool, such as those that are now a fixture of everyday language (Zoom, Big Blue Button, even HouseParty) might feel good in the short term, but like sugar, there's a great chance it’s not the best in the medium to long term (or even the short term). A lot of businesses now run software like Microsoft Office365, providing a wealth of remote facilitation potential. If you already have this, then stay in the IT policy lane (and check out all the integrated apps that MS Teams offers for group work). 

Hint: It’s not about the tool; it’s about the interaction.


6. Practice these rules of thumb.

  • Change the state regularly. Humans can listen with attention for 40 minutes, but only for 20 minutes and retain information…
  • Maximum of 12 learners at a time. Digital platforms allow for huge numbers of participants, but don't confuse scale with a quality learning experience. The same rules apply as for in-person trainer and participant ratios.
  • People can only remember 7 (plus or minus 2) things at any one time. Try it. Does your learning experience list 50 things and then say, “Right let's practice.”?
  • Digital gives great and equal agency to everyone, simultaneously. That's better than normal, use it to your advantage.
  • If you have a longer remote session, break-up the time with a mix of working together, self-study, breaks and separate teamwork time.

 

7. And the biggie…Keep people engaged.

  • Plan. Plan for the session. Plan to engage people before the training with a basic survey asking for their expectations, experience and a little bit of content to engage with.
  • Aim to split who does the speaking: 80% learners, 20% facilitator.
  • Video on, mute off. This is a training session. If you’re running a webinar for 400 people, that’s a different game.
  • Values, expectations, goals and feelings: ask first, ask regularly, and close with a reflection against these.


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If you want help moving your training to a remote or blended delivery model, or feel like your trainers could benefit from a short session with our experts to sharpen their remote delivery skills, get in touch with us

We look forward to hearing from you!

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