Article published in CEdMA by Joe Schulz: VP Emerging Technology at Orasi Software.
The number of ways we can learn was on the rise long before the pandemic, but COVID served as a catalyst to speed the adoption of online virtual enterprise training models. As social distancing and remote-work became the foreseeable norm, the value of online learning with anyone, from anywhere, at any time increased exponentially.
A 2020 workplace report from LinkedIn found that 57 percent of learning and development professionals expect a jump in spending on online learning. For the third year in a row, more than 37 percent of learning and development professionals expect an increase in their budget.
Students, professionals, employees and managers are now embracing the power of virtual learning. New virtual learning models, like the following, help employers reduce costs, expand reach and speed knowledge transfer for learners across all remote environments.
- Online learning enables learning through virtual tools and internet-based platforms. Learning can be self-paced, with multiple courses being taken simultaneously.
- Distance learning involves taking a course from an organization or employer in another geographical region. The learner benefits from experts regardless of location, thereby achieving the most valued certifications without being at a designated spot on the map.
- Remote learning integrates online and distance learning. The learner can sign up for a course from anywhere and use technology to stay engaged real-time. Unlike traditional online courses, the learner can be in the same virtual room or session as the instructor, and students can interact and collaborate with each other.
A cloud-native model helps augment a course’s cost-effectiveness, as well as engagement. In addition, tech-savvy virtual labs serve diverse learning models. Those worth the investment:
- Make remote learning fun and flexible for the learner and instructor,
- Work well for various learner styles whether doing distance, online and/or remote learning,
- Increase engagement levels with smart tools that support metrics and accountability,
- Add to time management, scheduling and agility aspects in positive ways, and
- Work well for professional learning and development courses (i.e. hard and/or soft skills).
However, be wary of a critical mistake companies often make — incorrectly assuming that audio, video and/or chat collaboration tools are sufficient platforms to execute quality, virtual eLearning training and development programs. Zoom, WebEx, Google Meet, Slack and others aren’t comprehensive enough to support those five ROI objectives.
Engagement Requires More Than Typical Team Collaboration Tools
The aforementioned LinkedIn workplace report also highlighted a new challenge, given this modern world of enterprise training — standards for measuring learner engagement have not been well established. It also noted that not everyone actually measures the effectiveness and engagement of online learning initiatives.
Instructors and organizations must put parameters in place to ensure expectations of the trainers/instructors (employers) and learners/students (employees) are being met. It’s critical to address the gaps in the way online learning is being delivered, as well as assess where, how and how much they can enrich these sessions with greater engagement. As a starting point, consider these strategies:
- Involve the learner: Make sessions as engaging, interactive and learner-centric as possible (e.g. polls, break-out sessions, practical exercises, hands-on projects).
- Give personalized attention: Be sure the training and development platform allows for over-the-shoulder instruction methodologies and customization tools. This empowers instructors to address unique needs in an individual and public forum, which will have a positive effect on involvement and engagement.
- Honor people’s time, as well as your own: Plan sessions with a balance of goals, structure and flexibility, and convey expectations at every outset. Make sessions productive using smart scheduling and time-management tools.
- Enable self-paced learning: Use hands-on virtual labs and tools to empower learners to plan and pace their sessions and get the real world practice they need.
- Application-oriented learning: Every learner should understand how what’s being taught will have an impact on their life, career, job, mindset and skills.
- Open communication lines: Use the right mix of synchronous and asynchronous mediums to enable the instructor to connect with learners, and learners to connect themselves.
Now that most are coming around to the idea of virtual training, it’s time to take things to the next level and focus on how engagement can drive better experiences, performance and overall results. Keeping these concepts in mind gives companies and trainees a strong start.