5 things that can hinder engagement in your remote training sessions

Which would you prefer? And what do you think you would get more out of in the long run? A training session where you are keen to keep listening and learning because there is interactivity and variety - and you have a clear understanding of what you can expect and why you are there - or one where you realize halfway through a module you have no idea what the trainer is talking about because you had zoned out? The answer may be obvious, but creating engaging training for remote sessions can be challenging. Trainers, coaches, and facilitators need tools and techniques to continue to provide engaging content, especially in a remote classroom. Here, we’ll take you through the 5 things that can hinder engagement in your online training sessions, and show you ways to work around them.

Why is engagement so important for effective training?

Engagement is vital for effective training whether it is being delivered online or in person. Various studies have shown that “more engaged students have higher course satisfaction and achievement of course learning objectives”. This in turn is important for the professional and personal development of the learners attending online sessions for work-related training. Employees value opportunities to learn through workplace training, and employers will see tangible benefits from it too.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report found that wellbeing and engagement go hand in hand: “When employees are engaged and thriving, they experience significantly less stress, anger and health problems. Unfortunately, most employees remain disengaged at work. In fact, low engagement alone costs the global economy $7.8 trillion”. 

Ultimately, one of the ways in which employers invest in their staff is by investing in continuous professional development opportunities for their employees. This in turn helps their profitability. So, it should go without saying that they need the training they are commissioning to fulfill various requirements. And if engagement levels are low, it is unlikely to be doing this.

If you can provide engaging training the trainees benefit, the company benefits, and you, the trainer, benefit. Everyone likes to feel useful and as if they make a positive difference. As the trainer you can make that difference to people’s lives. But all the knowledge in the world will not help if it is not taken in, understood, and applied by the people you are imparting it to.

If your training creates high levels of engagement, you will find time flies by and you’ll feel energised and positive at the end of the session. On the other hand, training sessions that feel like an uphill battle can leave you feeling despondent and tired. And it’s hard: no one ever said offering training opportunities was easy! So, it pays to know what the pitfalls might be and how they can be avoided.

Remote training offers new challenges for trainee engagement levels

The move to online teaching solutions was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. While there was already an appetite and some provision for online training, the rapid shift due to Covid was unexpected and unprecedented. Educational establishments were forced to switch their offerings to an online version overnight

As we know, the result was mixed. But we have all learnt from it! The important thing is to take these lessons and use them going forward. And there is no point assuming that everything you do in a classroom setting will transfer seamlessly to an online one.

While there are disadvantages to delivering training remotely, there are also opportunities and advantages to consider. Trainers need to be flexible and use all the tools at their disposal. If you can be mindful of the potential traps with online training while ensuring you are using all the relevant training and education tools available, you will automatically increase engagement. If you can facilitate workshops and other training sessions that take into consideration the things that can hinder engagement in remote scenarios, you will already be a step ahead.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of remote training compared with in-person?

With remote training no one has to travel anywhere. You have no venue to find for all the participants, and there are no facilities to set up. You won’t have to figure out how to battle with using equipment you are not familiar with. You, and the trainees, should be in a comfortable environment, whether that is in their own homes or in an office workspace. 

On the downside, your trainees may be a little too comfortable! Alternatively, they may happen to work in less-than-ideal circumstances, particularly if their home or their workspace is not designed for it.

Online training means more people can access more information. A digital offering can unlock new activities and types of interactions. Managed properly, online training can be highly effective. Keeping engagement levels high can be harder because you are not in the same room. It’s much easier for people to try to multitask if they think no one can see them checking their emails or talking to their family!

5 things that can hold back engagement in your distant training

1. Lack of motivation

We all need to know our why! Trainees will need to be invested in the training and its potential outcomes to properly engage. Maybe they have been sent on a course because their employer thinks they need it. It might not have been their decision and they may feel resentful or feel they already know everything they need to know about a subject.

Communication, prior to the course and at the beginning of the first session, can help with this. Making sure trainees have a clear understanding of the value the training will provide, along with stated goals and outcomes, sets expectations. The right support and guidance can address motivational issues. Allowing regular, two-way feedback will help ensure that ambiguities and difficulties can be addressed before they become a problem.

You can use surveys, interviews, and assessments before and/or after a training session to help you stay in touch with the motivations, expectations, and goals of the people you are interacting with.

2. Lack of interaction

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had (at least) one teacher who loved the sound of their own voice a little too much. When you are expected to sit and listen to someone talking for hours, on end it can be difficult to concentrate and remain fully engaged. 

And this is not just restricted to listening to someone talking: if you are not an active participant it can be hard to stay alert – and it is also tempting to think you might as well do something else at the same time. This is obviously much easier to ‘get away with’ in an e-training session.

Making sure there is plenty of interaction will help increase engagement levels: if you know you might need to contribute you have to pay attention. Whether this is direct interaction between you and the trainees, or by setting team tasks for groups to collaborate on, you will be fostering greater levels of engagement. Online collaborative tools are perfectly designed to encourage team activities and participation by all trainees.

Hands-on training might not be possible in a literal sense, but if it is something that can be recreated virtually, why not include it in your session?

3. Poor design

Poor design – of the course or the materials used – can lead to lower levels of engagement. Sessions that are long and boring will not keep the interest of course participants. Training facilitators can take advantage of the technology at their disposal to make sure their sessions are visually appealing and make use of the different media available to mix things up and keep it fresh.

Ensuring that the course material is pitched at the right level for the audience is also vital. Making sure you have gleaned all the information you need ahead of time, either from your participants themselves or the person that has commissioned the course, will help you with this.

Use all the online tools that are appropriate to make your training sessions feel up to date and relevant, particularly if they can increase engagement levels too. Digital whiteboards, for example, facilitate teamwork and participation.

4. Uninspiring material

One of the advantages of online training is that it lends itself to all the different ways of teaching and assimilating information. Not all learners respond to the traditional teaching methods. While some people thrive on the old-school style of being lectured to, many do not. 

Introducing different types of media such as video, images and digital activities can help those who need to be able to see visual aids to process information. Online whiteboards are much more versatile than their real counterparts, as videos and pictures can also be shared on them. They can be easily saved and referred to in later sessions.

Quizzes will promote active learning and help people get a better sense of what they have already learnt. Relating what is being taught to real-life situations will help students understand and apply the knowledge they are receiving. Looking at relevant case studies and using role play to act out real-world scenarios will help with engagement and learning outcomes.

5. Ignoring internal and external influences

The needs and preferences of different audiences cannot be ignored. You may have a course you deliver all the time, but no two audiences will be the same. Make sure you can adapt accordingly. 

In an in-person training setting it can become quickly evident that you need to change tack in some way. A lack of engagement can become obvious very quickly. It is much harder to ‘read the room’ in a virtual training session. However, making sure you have a backup plan for when things do not go as smoothly as you would have hoped will pay dividends.

There will always be outside influences beyond your control that can have an adverse effect. For example, technical issues can leave people feeling frustrated at best and unable to participate at worst: and the fallout from these sorts of issues can impact other learners too. 

People may be distracted by family members or other things they think they can do at the same time as your course. Engaging, interactive content will make this harder to manage: you want to win the battle against any distractions. But remember, there are some things you just can’t control, so don’t be disheartened by these.

Increase engagement by taking an active approach to it

Increased engagement leads to better learning outcomes and a general sense of greater wellbeing. More interaction means learners have to pay more attention. Paying more attention to what is being taught makes it easier to assimilate and retain information. And it will make the participants feel more positive and successful.

We know there are many criteria that have an impact on engagement levels: the subject, audience, and class size all matter, and so does whether you are teaching in person or remotely. Creating content that is relevant to your learners and that makes full use of all the collaborative tools and media available when teaching online will help create great results for everyone involved. And the more engaged the class is, the more successful it is likely to be.

Employee training and education tools are available to help training facilitators increase engagement and create better learning outcomes. Why not visit our resources page to see how we can help you create training and workshop materials that will make a difference?

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