When the online training platform was first introduced more than a decade ago, it created fear and anxiety among instructors. Understandably, they were worried that machines and algorithms would replace them.

Fortunately, that was not the case.

In fact, Deloitte University Press estimates that more than 24 million people have used at least one form of virtual learning—with most having some type of instructor involvement. Virtual learning with instructor involvement is known in the training industry as virtual instructor-led training, or simply VILT.

With the widespread acceptance of VILT, ReadyTech has had a chance to grasp what students like and dislike about it—and what instructors can do to optimize the virtual classroom experience.

Instructors matter for better experiences on online training platforms

Today’s industry trends highlight the fact that instructors are still critical. Online students prefer to take classes led by a live instructor or an instructor in the form of a video.

The best-case scenario is to have a live instructor teach an online, instructor-led course where instructors can respond to questions organically, monitor student progress, and adjust the course content depending on how students respond.

If teaching via a live online instructor is not possible, use a video recording of the instructor giving the course. Using a live instructor or a video recording creates a richer virtual learning experience and makes students feel as if they are in an actual classroom environment.

Deliver small bites of information and offer virtual training labs

With the ubiquity and popularity of 140-character tweets and status updates, we have grown accustomed to receiving information in bite-sized pieces. This trend has spilled over to the training industry. Many students now expect instructors to provide training in organized, bite-sized pieces.

To be clear, instructors don’t have to cram an entire course into a 140-character tweet. However, you should be mindful of the length of your content and how much time you’re spending lecturing students vs. letting students apply the lecture material by doing virtual training labs or other activities that requires their input and engagement.

Avoid long periods of lecture and try to get your point across as efficiently as possible. Student attention can drop-off after 15 minutes of non-stop lecture, so set a timer that reminds you to change your “class mode” every 15 minutes. For example, give a 15-minute lecture then breakout the students into groups for a 3-4 minute discussion, then go back to lecture for another 15 minutes before transitioning to a virtual training lab.

Applicable and actionable content is the name of the game

Like in-person students, online students want to learn about subjects and topics that are relevant, applicable, and immediately actionable to their job. They want information they can take back to work. Their goal: to make a measurable impact the very next day.

Instructors should bring real-life stories from their experience implementing the technology in the field or share real-life stories they have heard from previous students.

Work with your curriculum development team to create learning content that recreates a real-life scenario and designing virtual training labs around those scenarios. Allow students to work in the virtual training lab, then discuss how they solved it or any unique issues they encountered. When it’s appropriate, offer breakout groups so students have an opportunity to discuss the virtual training lab and how it might apply to their job. Then bring the class back together to review actionable solutions, as well as recommendations.

Don’t underestimate the power of feedback

Because online classrooms exist outside of a traditional, brick-and-mortar class, their perceived value is harder to grasp for some students. How do you measure knowledge when you are not walking into a classroom and sitting at a desk all day?

Give your online students post-lecture quizzes and a post-class exam at the end of the course. This helps to validate the learning objectives of each lecture and helps students see the value. The quizzes and exam don’t have to be part of a formal certification process, but rather just a “checkpoint” so students can see if they absorbed the course material properly.

Studies show that an hour after a course ends, most students have already forgotten 50% of the content. That’s a lot of content! As a result, it is important to help students retain knowledge. Try giving quizzes and exams to help your students retain knowledge.

Let your personality show through the online training platform

Online students don’t like when instructors act like robots or are too formal. Instead, online students prefer instructors that have a more conversational tone. This helps students feel as if they are in a traditional, in-person classroom and removes the distraction of the online training platform.

It may sound cliché, but just be yourself. If you are having difficulty relaxing in an online classroom, get comfortable by practicing. Repetition increases comfort, and comfort allows your personality to show through the online training platform.

Find an online training platform that supports mobile

Online students don’t like when e-learning courses force them to use a desktop or a laptop. More and more consumers are migrating towards tablets and mobile phones to do the majority of their “computer time.” In fact, more than 300 million iPads have been sold since 2010.

These consumers expect e-learning courses to be compatible with mobile devices, allowing them to take a course when it’s convenient for them. So be sure that your online training platform can accommodate mobile users.