In 2020, we are sharing the lessons we’ve learned about the virtual classroom over the last twenty years, and we’ll link back to our more detailed content around these topics, in case you want to learn more! Take a peek at the entire Lessons Learned series by clicking here.
In 1998, I envisioned that the role of the producer in the virtual classroom would be to “make the talent look good.” My reasoning was, the virtual classroom facilitator lost the ability to take the pulse of the class using body language and eye contact, so the producer added a second set of hands that help manage learner engagement and increase the quality of virtual lessons.
I remember InSync’s first production client. I had convinced a global company of the need for a producer to ensure the success of their five global sessions every week. I woke up at 3 AM to ensure that every class was covered, and peeked in so I could find additional ways for the producer to add value to our client’s initiative. (Now, we support dozens of overnight sessions every week - and I haven’t had to wake up to check on the quality of the service in a very long time!)
Since then, the learning and development community has truly embraced this now critical role.
Who is the Producer?
The Virtual Classroom Producer is always entrusted with ensuring the “behind the scenes” details are managed, and technical problems are minimized. You will hear them referred to as “hosts” or “technical support.” This is a critical role for any online event – Just one person experiencing difficulties can derail the entire experience so it is crucial to have a Producer to manage the technical side and not expect the Facilitator to handle all of those details.
The role has also evolved to more of an instructional partner: the producer is the learner advocate, a delivery partner, and has responsibility not just for the technology, but also for the quality of the instruction.
How does the Producer add value?
The case against using producers is often related to cost - after all, the argument goes, we are trying to save money by using a virtual classroom solution - how does adding another resource to the mix support this cost savings goal?
The case for a Producer is clear. Without a producer, virtual classroom events are largely one-way webinars. It is much more difficult to achieve highly engaging training and education in a virtual environment when the facilitator is flying solo. This rich learner experience makes the producer well worth the investment.
Over the years, we’ve documented many ways the producer can add value, including:
- Providing technical support and avoiding instructional 'disasters.' When learners are having technical difficulties, the problems take over and learning comes to a stop. Producers can use a 4-Step Disaster Recovery process to quickly identify and solve the issue so everyone can get back to learning.
- Assisting with facilitating and managing the content. When a team-teaching approach is adopted, the Producer can actively increase engagement by adding to conversations, offering opinions, and helping to manage exercises.
- Advocating for the learner. Learner advocacy involves a series of small, purposeful actions that focus on personalization, and increases emotional engagement. An active Producer can ensure the learners are well cared for independent of the content being delivered.
- Providing support for multicultural groups. As training functions evolve to support more global audiences, multilingual Producers can serve as interpreter and provide critical cultural awareness to live lessons.
Growing Your Production Capacity: Buy or Build?
As organizations increase their virtual classroom initiatives, they often start to consider outsourcing the production function to an experienced vendor. Several questions to ask when you are creating the business case for external producers include:
- Do you need 24-hour support? Supporting global virtual programs is often something that cannot be supported by a centralized training function.
- Do you require non-English production support? If you have to support, for example, three virtual sessions in Portuguese each month, providing assistance internally might be very difficult.
- How will you support surges in training needs? It’s common for organizations to roll out new global initiatives that surge for a short period of time, then the need goes away.
- Producers allow the organization to run more classes... the Producer takes care of the technical as well as the logistical details, allowing the Facilitator to focus on the content and the learner's experience. With these technical and logistical details cared for, Facilitators can teach back-to-back classes and use the time in between to focus on impacting the class, connecting the dots of content and experience while the Producer focuses on connecting people with the technology.
- Sometimes it makes sense to grow internal capacity for production; sometimes it makes sense to outsource it completely. Often, it is a combination of the two. Plan your virtual training schedule early so you can anticipate what your needs are, and get the right resources in place.
- Don’t just focus on the COST of a producer; make sure you consider how a producer adds value, then make your decision.
- Make the Producer part of the instructional experience, not just background technical support. This makes the investment more valuable for the organization, and the experience more meaningful for the learners.
- The Producer should be involved before the session, in any rehearsals and content walk-throughs. Understanding the environment can truly help shape the direction of the program.
Here is my Key Takeaway: If you want your virtual classroom initiatives to be as valued as face to face training, use a producer. Producers help to create engaging instructional experiences by allowing facilitators to focus on content and learners to focus on the entire experience.
I value the Producer’s contribution every time I teach online. And you will, too!
Whether your organization is looking to outsource production, build internal capacity, or something in between, InSync can help.
- Interested in outsourcing the production function? Consider adding InSync to your global training team.
- Looking to build your internal production capacity? We have programs to help:
- Master Virtual Producer Certificate – Learn the skills needed support virtual facilitators and learners in this hands-on, practical certificate.
- Maximizing Virtual Classroom Technology – Learn the insider’s tips when it comes to supporting training delivered in Adobe Connect, WebEx Training Center, or Zoom. More than point and click – how does this software support true training!