By: Karen Spencer, OrasiLabs Product Manager

The pandemic has served as a catalyst for online virtual learning to explode, putting the industry on a fast growth path. Now, students, professionals, employees, managers – everyone is embracing the power of online learning. And why not? As organizations continue to train customers, partners and employees on essential software systems and applications, a new hands-on virtual way of delivering training is necessary. This learning model helps the instructors reduce costs, expand the reach, and speed up learning. It also allows students to keep pace, coverage, simplicity, and convenience while learning in a remote environment.

As social distancing and remote work become new norms, the value of online learning has increased exponentially. In fact, as per a recent LinkedIn report, 57 percent of learning and development professionals expect a jump in spending on online learning. For the third year in a row, over 37 percent of learning and development professionals expect an increase in their budget. However, the same report also notes that the standards for measuring learner engagement are still not established. It points out that not everyone measures the effectiveness and engagement of online learning. As much as 24 percent of learning and development professionals do not currently measure learning engagement.

Instructors and organizations need to address the gaps in the way they are delivering these online sessions. They need to assess where, how, and how much they can enrich these sessions with more engagement. Ensuring there is a “hands-on” element to your virtual training platform is key to driving engagement. When training on software applications, instructors can incorporate meaningful exercises for students to actually engage with the content and practice real world scenarios.

Can you make online learning more engaging? The answer is yes. Here are the 6 ways that can help you make online learning more engaging:

1. Involve the learner: Try to make the sessions as actively engaging, as interactive, and as learner centric as you can. You can use polls, break-out sessions, practical exercises, and hands-on projects to let the learner immerse deeply into the course. These are readily available in some good quality virtual labs.

2. Personalized attention: Over-the-shoulder instruction methodologies and customization tools offered by some virtual labs are great choices. They can help you be individually centric with some sessions. This will empower you to address unique needs, doubts, and learning-paths. This will, hence, create more involvement and engagement.

3. Cut-out timewasters: Plan your sessions with an adequate balance of goals, structure, and flexibility. The sessions should have a purpose, and the learners should be informed-plus-aligned to that. Make the sessions productive and be smart about scheduling and time-management to deliver good-quality, engaging virtual labs.

4. Self-paced learning: Allow the learners to be in the driving seat for a change. Use hands-on virtual labs and tools to let them have the power to plan and pace their sessions and get the real-world practice they need. This will drive engagement. The emergence of cloud-based models also gives simplicity and convenience without adding costs for the learners. That advantage motivates them too.

5. Application-oriented learning: Every learner should know why and where a lesson will affect his/her life, career, job, mindset, and skills. This should be well laid-out. But the instructors should also use ways to empower learners with ways to experiment, apply, use feedback, relearn, and show practical applications of any concept. Any good hands-on virtual lab would be an excellent choice to avail of these features.

6. Collaboration is key: Use the right mix of both synchronous and asynchronous mediums to use the power of collaboration with the instructor and other learners. You can design projects, assignments, and tasks through some really simple ways that some expert virtual labs provide.

Online learning is gaining traction and it will only continue to grow to meet organizational training needs. The cost-advantage and the application-centricity of these tools are unprecedented. You can amplify these models’ ROI and impact by using some robust features and solutions available in the industry today. Now that everyone can use it, an online model’s actual value lies in how well it is designed, conducted, and delivered to the last mile. If it doesn’t address learner-engagement and instructor flexibility, it will not be a worthwhile change. So, invest in useful solutions that meet your specific needs leveraging hands-on virtual labs, and gain a unique competitive advantage in the market.