We’re asked all the time about which platform for use for virtual instructor-led training (VILT). With all of the choices out there—Zoom, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, GoToWebinar, On24, etc.—which one is best?
Like any good consultant, my answer to this question is, “It depends.”
There isn't a straightforward answer because different platforms excel at different things. At RAIN Group, we’re platform agnostic and don't promote one platform over another. We partner with our clients to determine which platform is right for them and what they're looking to do.
There are, however, three key considerations for platform selection.
Think Outcomes First
Two key questions will drive your platform selection:
- What outcomes do you want to achieve?
- What types of virtual training do you want to deliver?
Are you doing short knowledge sharing with large groups? If so, a webinar platform could work. Are you doing meetings or virtual coaching? Then you need a virtual meeting platform. Do you want to deliver in-depth instructor-led training similar to a classroom? Then a platform with purpose-built virtual classroom tools such as breakout rooms, virtual whiteboarding, and more is the right pick. (More on tools in the next point.) And is your virtual learning blended into a multi-year, multi-skill, multi-modal education system? Then you’re going to need all this sitting inside a robust learning management system (LMS).
Architect what you're trying to accomplish first. Then, make a plan for how you'll accomplish it and pick your platform(s) to bring it to life. We often use multiple platforms for different outcomes and types of training.
A big mistake we see organizations make is to look at the platforms they’re already using and to build the training for the platform. This is backward.
Think training outcomes and experience first, then select the platform(s) that will get you there.
Identify the Right Tools for the Job
As you investigate platform options and how they operate, consider the toolkits they provide.
Tools matter. Tools support engagement. Tools aid learning. When participants are engaged, they buy into learning. They're much more likely to retain learning and apply it on-the-job, leading to the business outcomes and results you seek.
Tools fall into two categories:
- Participant tools to drive engagement
- Facilitator tools to support delivery and provide reporting
There are a plethora of participant tools to consider that can drive engagement, interaction, and enjoyment, such as:
Caveat: More is not necessarily better. Just because a platform has all the bells and whistles doesn’t mean it’s right for what you want to do. Review your learning objectives, consider how you’ll achieve them, and find the tools you need to make it happen. Don’t use tools without a learning- or business-focused objective.
The second category, facilitator tools, are often overlooked.
What does the facilitator need to drive engagement? Can they change on-screen layouts to capture and drive attention to important concepts? Do they have access to rich multimedia functionality? Can they monitor the engagement levels of individual participants? Can they call out individuals and pull up video feeds one-by-one? Is there reporting? Is it easy to log on and use the tools? What are the requirements to access and set-up the back end?
All are factors in platform selection.
Get Your IT Team on Board
In traditional instructor-led training (ILT), Learning & Development controls the training process from end-to-end. They:
- Identify the need
- Scope the work
- Design the content
- Deliver the content
- Measure results
One of the challenges of VILT is the technology requirement, which typically involves representatives from IT to form your VILT team.
You need your IT team involved early on in the process to support the selection and use of the platform to avoid late-stage headwinds. We worked with one client who had selected their platform and then heard back from IT, “We can’t use that. Our systems don’t integrate with that platform.” After spending weeks evaluating technologies, they had to go back to the drawing board.
The critical technology considerations include:
- Devices: From what devices will participants join? Mobile phones, tablets, computers?
- Software integration and permissions: You need software on the devices that your participants are using and the right permissions set up.
- Data bandwidth/speed: With more people working from home and in remote locations, data connectivity isn't always the same. Bandwidth impacts the multimedia you can run and the types of engagements you can design.
- Microphones and webcams: Think about how you want people to participate. Are they using built-in computer microphones, headsets, mobile phones, earbuds, etc.? Are webcams required?
- Technical support: IT can help set up virtual classrooms, make them functional, and provide tech support during the virtual sessions.
- Security: Each organization and IT group have their own security requirements they must follow. Not every platform will work given security needs. VPNs, firewalls, and other security software can cause slower connections or restrict user access entirely. It’s a very important consideration when selecting the right platform.
When it comes to choosing the right VILT platform for your organization, be sure to attend to these three areas, letting your desired outcomes drive your selection criteria.