While we may have settled into a new way of working, connecting, and learning, it’s still not without challenges. Transforming instructor-led classroom workshops to virtual training sessions means anticipating and addressing the new needs of virtual learners, many of whom are balancing work, family, and education all from home. To help them be as successful as possible, it’s important to help learners prepare and engage before the class starts. One way to do this is by mailing learning kits to your participants.
A Rise in Pre-Course Mailings to Virtual Participants
In a typical year, we would be working with customers to print, kit, and mail a bundle of course books and other learning materials to a single training site. Over the past several months, however, we’ve seen a substantial number of associations, corporations, and other organizations send participant kits to the homes of their learners.
In-person workshops and training sessions are a rare occurrence these days due to gathering restrictions and safety concerns. The mailing of materials to individual learners becomes a logistical necessity. But what’s most interesting is how these organizations are using this as an opportunity not just to distribute printed training materials, but to support and enhance the overall learning experience.
Three reasons to send a pre-course participant kit to learners.
- Warm-up the audience
The success of your class is only partially driven by the quality of the content. Your participants need to be actively engaged in the learning process, too. They may not know how to participate in a virtual format, nor feel as comfortable doing so. Your participant kit can include instructions that set expectations, make it clear what their role is in the learning process, and provide guidance on how they will participate. From a practical standpoint, it also gives them time to become more familiar with the tools and technology being used. You can also use this as an opportunity to get them excited about participating by including fun, branded “swag” items that serve as icebreakers, facilitate introductions, and get learners talking. This can include:
- Laptop stickers
- Temporary tattoos
- Learning objectives bingo card
- Support learning and retention
As you make the pivot from in-person to virtual instruction, the subject matter may be the same but the way it needs to be delivered has changed. We can’t expect participants to engage for the same length of time in front of a screen (and from home) as they would in a physical classroom. But this does leave room for more independent work and study time outside of the class. In addition to using a participant kit to send the standard course materials (which, according to research, increases learning retention), you can also send materials that help learners come to the class more prepared, such as:
- Supplemental reading materials
- Pre-tests or pre-course self-assessments
- Self-reflection worksheets
You can also include supplemental reading materials, workbooks, and other exercises to help them apply learning after the class.
- Support the virtual learning environment
In a classroom or workshop setting, we have more control over the environment—including noise levels, how well the technology functions, the temperature of the room, and the time and duration of breaks. In a virtual environment, there is now so much that is outside of our control, yet directly affects whether participants learn and absorb the material. A physical participant kit can include branded items that help participants remove distractions, reduce screen fatigue, and have all the essentials they need for their learning space, including:
- Pens and highlighters
- Notepad and Post-It® Notes
- Water bottle or coffee mug
- “Do Not Disturb” sign or door hanger
- Fidget toy
Mailed participant kits also support your instructors
Making the transition from an in-person workshop to a virtual course creates a learning curve for everyone involved—from the program creators to participants and instructors. A mailed kit can be used several ways to support your trainers:
- Provide all learning and support materials, neatly wrapped and bundled for easy use
- Support logistical needs with items such as internet stabilizers, a green screen or branded backdrop
- Thank your instructors for making the transition to virtual training
When our instructor-led courses and workshops shifted from in-person to online, we lost some amount of control over the learning process which ultimately affects the success of our programs. Education professionals should consider a physical mailing to virtual participants to enhance the learning experience.