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The Year of Zoom!

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As far as education is concerned, the year 2020 will no doubt go down as a wake-up call and as the great disrupter that changed everything. The year that shutdown face-to-face instruction. The year that made Virtual Instructor-Led Training the hot topic of the year.

A VILT is an instructor-led training that participants attend virtually, online, and in real-time using video conferencing software. It is not the same thing as a self-paced eLearning course. As many educators learned in 2020, pulling off successful VILTs is not easy.

In 2020, we worked with the Southern California Regional Transit Training Consortium (SCRTTC) to help them respond to the educational pivot of the decade. The SCRTTC trains the employees of consortium members. Course participants are from transit agencies spread throughout California as well as Colorado and increasingly, from agencies in other states.

Prior to 2020, the SCRTTC had been utilizing a combination of eLearning and instructor-led courses in their curriculum. For nearly a decade we have worked with the SCRTTC to design, develop, and implement eLearning courses as well as to provide them with instructors for their face-to-face courses. Our instructors consistently fill their classes and receive positive feedback from participants. From the get-go, it has been a winning situation.

Nothing was expected to change in 2020. But then the pandemic happened, and face-to-face learning came to a halt. The initial response was to stop ILTs and to focus on enrolling more learners in eLearning courses until things went back to normal. It was not an ideal situation because ILT courses are important. They include content that currently is best taught and learned in face-to-face hands-on environments. Their learners need the information and skills that are taught in the ILTs.

The SCRTTC made the decision to create additional eLearning courses and to review ILTs for potential renewal as VILTs. However, they wanted to do more than simply put the instructor in front of their computer camera to talk and to screen share a slide deck of text and images. They asked Immersed Technologies to participate in a small committee to identify which of their existing ILT courses could best transition to Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) using available video conferencing apps.

The identification step was crucial because not everything easily transitions to effective VILTs. Teaching technical content in a virtual format presents a certain set of challenges. When we looked at content taught in SCRTTC’s face-to-face classes, we were looking for specific material that could be adapted using cost-effective available technology. We were not looking for content to adapt simply because it could feasibly and technologically be done. Adapting the content would need to enhance and promote learning experiences and outcomes. After identifying courses for VILT development, the Immersed Technologies team got to work to design engaging learning experiences to include in the reimagined ILTs. We then worked with the SCRTTC to implement the courses using our instructors. The result has been SCRTTC’s first successful and effective maintenance Virtual Instructor-Led Training courses.