THE WORLD BANK USES VIRTUAL TECHNOLOGY TO TRAIN GLOBAL KNOWLEDGE WORKERS.
BY DARLENE CHRISTOPHER, CPLP
The World Bank provides financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. Like many organizations in today’s increasingly global marketplace, the World Bank faces the daunting task of training globally dispersed staff efficiently. With a diverse staff of 10,000 in more than 120 countries that span a wide range of time zones and a rapidly evolving operational environment, the organization’s training needs are challenging.
We realized we needed to transform the way we delivered training. Our traditional classroom training is costly due to the dispersed nature of the organization, and it’s difficult to scale. Meanwhile, the self-paced e-learning we offer provides introductory information; however, the one-way flow of information often left learners with unanswered questions. To fill the gap between multiday workshops and selfpaced e-learning, we developed a program of live virtual classroom training on key operations topics that reaches frontline staff around the world via an efficient and effective delivery mode.
The virtual classroom program, known as the Global Operational Clinics Program, consists of 90-minute virtual classroom sessions on 28 different operations topics. The program targets operations staff at all levels and focuses on practical information and common challenges.
To reach staff in Washington D.C. and around the world, topics are offered at different times of day. For example, we offer sessions at 7, 9 and 11 a.m. (Washington, D.C. time) to reach staff in various time zones. When sessions are offered during business hours in Washington, D.C., staff members who are based there have the option of joining the session face-to-face or virtually.
Last year, we expanded the program by training an auxiliary team in Asia to run Operational Clinics during the middle of day in Asia when it’s the middle of the night in Washington, D.C. By varying the delivery time of Operational Clinics, we are able to reach everyone, no matter where they are based.
Our busy frontline operations staff is often hardpressed to attend a multi-day training session. However, staffers embraced the shortened format on targeted topics. In 2016, we delivered 126 Operational Clinics reaching more 5,000 participants. In 2017, we are on track to expand the program by approximately 20 percent by offering 150 Operational Clinics reaching 6,000 participants.
Each Operational Clinic is also recorded and posted online, with slides and other materials from the session. This allows staffers who couldn’t attend the live delivery to watch it at their convenience. It also allows participants to review sections of the recording as needed. On average, we offer a topic once a quarter, so we are continuously replacing our recordings with an updated version. This means that our content is always current. The recorded sessions are surprisingly popular with staff. In 2016, more than 1,000 hours of recordings were viewed by staff.
SEVEN ELEMENTS OF VIRTUAL CLASSROOM
A key aspect of the success of the program is the structure of the team that runs the program and clearly defined roles. We identified seven core roles needed for a successful virtual classroom program. After we clearly defined the tasks for each role, we provided coaching and guidance where needed to fill skill gaps. The core roles include:
>> Producer: The virtual classroom expert who provides technical expertise.
>> Facilitator: The host in charge of leading the session.
>> Subject Matter Expert: The team member with the session’s relevant content knowledge.
>> Instructional Designer: The virtual classroom content designer.
>> Administrator: The person who provides administrative support.
>> Information Technology (I.T.) Support: The person who provides technical support.
>> Participants: Those enrolled in a session to gain knowledge, skills and abilities.
THE VIRTUAL CLASSROOM TEAM
Producer – Like a producer on a movie set, a nightly newscast, or a stage production, the virtual classroom producer works behind the scenes during a live session to support the event’s flawless delivery. As illustrated above, the producer role is central to virtual classroom training, as this person orchestrates all the elements.
The producer works with the facilitator(s) and subject matter expert(s) in advance of a session, rehearsing and fine-tuning the various technical features, such as polls and online exercises.
The producer troubleshoots technical issues during a session in real time and ensures minimal disruption due to technical glitches. The producer understands the virtual classroom’s technical aspects — how the features work — and partners with the instructional designer to determine how to best design a session and incorporate interactive features. He or she also engages with the administrator and I.T. support to plan the logistics of a session. Finally, the producer interacts with participants in support of the facilitator and is ready to step in and troubleshoot any problems that participants experience during the live session. After a session ends, the producer reviews and edits the recording and shares it with the administrator for posting online.
Facilitator – Like the facilitator in a traditional classroom, the facilitator in a virtual classroom is the class leader. The facilitator opens the session, welcomes participants and trainers, and closes the session. The facilitator ensures that the live session runs smoothly including starting and ending on time. He or she helps monitor the chat area and relays questions for the subject-matter expert to address, often summarizing and determining how to best group questions together. He or she partners with the subject-matter expert as described below.
Subject-Matter Expert – The subject-matter expert is the content expert, but is not expected to have any particular expertise with the virtual classroom. The content is technical, so the subject-matter expert is our lead trainer. Similar to face-to-face classroom training, the subject-matter expert works with the instructional designer to adjust content as described below. He or she also works with the facilitator to fine-tune delivery techniques.
Instructional Designer – The instructional designer’s role in face-to-face classroom training mirrors the designer’s role in virtual classroom training. The designer uses adult learning principles and builds appropriate virtual interactions required to accomplish learning objectives and keep participants engaged in the session. Since our audience is global, he or she also checks for culturally appropriate content.
Administrator – Virtual classrooms in particular require well-coordinated logistics and communication support. The administrator manages enrollment in the learning management system (LMS), sends class materials, and provides log-in instructions. He or she carries out post- session tasks, such as sending a follow-up email with instructions on how to view the session recording and marking attendance in the LMS.
Participants – Participants are World Bank staffers who join a session that is relevant to their role and work program. Approximately half of the participants join physically in the actual meeting room and half join virtually using a computer or mobile device. Participants are given instructions on how to participate remotely and tips for staying focused on the virtual classroom in an environment with multiple distractions.
Information Technology (I.T.) Support – The I.T. person works with the producer in the physical meeting room to test audio settings, check the audio-visual feed, microphones and audio input levels. The I.T. person also works with the team to oversee upgrades of computer equipment and virtual classroom software.
In some cases, a team member plays more than one role, but we always make sure that each role is covered. These well-defined roles not only ensure the smooth execution of our virtual training sessions, but also maximize the efficient transfer of knowledge.
The operating environment of the World Bank continues to change rapidly to ensure that we offer developing countries the best global expertise and solutions. As the saying goes, “Nothing remains constant except change itself ” and the Global Operational Clinics Program will undoubtedly change and adjust, so that we can continue to meet the evolving learning needs of our global workforce.