At first, “Virtual Training” seemed to me to be a confusing phrase that could apply to a lot of activities. But Diana Howles quickly cleared up my misunderstanding. Her new book, Next Level Virtual Training: Advance Your Facilitation, is all about mastering the design and delivery of synchronous learning activities, especially using modern conferencing software such as Zoom.

If you professionally facilitate live online learning or develop materials to lead such activities, this book is written for you, no matter what your job title may be, including online facilitator, instructional designer, or learning experience designer. Clear some space on your shelf for its 500+ pages, or load it onto your Kindle, iPad, or other reader device.

Synchronous learning in 2022 is one half of “hybrid learning” (the other half being asynchronous learning). The entire book is organized around The Virtual Training Capability Model, which Diana has developed through her experience with this way of teaching online since her first exposure to web conferencing platforms in 2000.

Real time collaboration and communication

The Virtual Training Capability Model enables connection of facilitators remotely with field staff, internal staff, external staff, and customers. If this seems like it might be a little complicated, at the beginning of the book Howles presents a case study that clarifies how the Model works. That case study helped me a lot. The Model is The Big Idea we need in order to professionally upskill ourselves.

Upskilling individuals in their current role and reskilling them for a new role exploded in importance in 2020 as many workers found themselves getting their training at home. This remote learning experience continues to be the norm two years later, and facilitators are working hard to get better at leading online classes. In my opinion, Virtual Learning is a groundbreaking textbook for facilitators in this post-pandemic new world of hybrid work. It is a key part of digital transformation, and we in the field of learning and development need to focus on improving our skills in the virtual classroom.

Chunking the story and the practice

Diana chunks the Model down into eight areas of expertise, from beginning to end of the design and delivery processes. She shares the story of how her work between 2000 and 2020 helped her develop and refine the concepts, and how advances in technology enabled and improved co-facilitation, the use of digital whiteboards to increase engagement (to name just two key innovations), as well as facilitator fluency in the use of online tools.

Along the way, Howles provides 101 prescriptive professional tips. She is extremely thorough and always engaging. The result is not a one-time quick read, but I was never bored. I wanted to go out and find new ways to use the gifts she provides in the examples.

Why you need this book

Developers, evaluators, and producers of virtual training or online adult education, as well as facilitators, will benefit from what Diana Howles provides. Spend time with the book, share it with your colleagues, and use it to develop your own fluency in the virtual classroom. You can easily spend a week of lunchtime study on each chapter. In fact, I recommend making a plan to do that, and take notes on what worked for you, and what you need to try in the next virtual training you lead. Write in the margins if you get the paper copy of the book, or use an app such as Readwise if you use a Kindle, to keep notes as you go. But get Virtual Training. You’ll be glad you did!

Get the book

Diana L. Howles (2022) Next Level Virtual Training: Advance Your Facilitation. Association for Talent Development.