With the lockdowns and mass shift to remote work in 2020, companies around the world had to quickly adjust. The move to new technologies, tools and methods has only increased the importance of corporate learning and training. But much like we’ve seen with other aspects of working remotely, switching from in-person to virtual instruction comes with its own set of challenges that must be overcome.
By making the proper adjustments for online learning rather than just trying to do the exact same thing in a different venue, making sure you truly understand the nuances and different requirements of virtual learning, you’ll go a long way toward ensuring your training is effective and that your own time and effort is maximized.
Automate the Mundane
When shifting from doing something the way that you always have (in this case, teaching in person) to a new way of doing things (i.e., providing instruction remotely/virtually) there is always going to be a learning curve.
The trick, however, is to figure out which things you really need to be spending your time on and what would be better dealt with using technology. For example, an instructor shouldn’t be spending time and energy dealing with things like setting up meetings or sending calendar invitations; that time can be better spent on creating and preparing curriculum. These administrative tasks are perfect examples of things that need to be automated.
Use the Right Tools
It bears repeating that all the money you spend on new technology or solutions won’t mean a thing if they aren’t being used – let alone used effectively. When it comes to online learning, there are many tools available to help with making learning engaging and interesting. This includes everything from whiteboards to quizzes and gamification tools that help measure and enforce lessons in real time.
But remember that these tools aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution – you’re always going to need do some trial-and-error experimentation to determine what the right tool for your organization and your training is. Making sure you are using the right tool and not just any tool is important.
Overcoming Distraction and Isolation with Interaction
Engagement is a huge success factor in all aspects of work. In fact, Gallup estimates that the cost of poor management and lost productivity from employees in the U.S. who are not engaged or actively disengaged is between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year. Engagement is the key to making the most of technology and training investments. At the same time, it’s hands-down one of the biggest challenges when it comes to any kind of learning – but especially virtual learning, where you can’t rely on body language or on being able to see people’s facial expressions.
Engagement involves both the trainees and the trainers, and both parties face challenges in a virtual learning environment. For trainers, creating meaningful and successful connection online can be difficult. Add to that the slight chaos and distraction that can arise in large virtual classes with multiple speakers or hosts, and engagement is difficult to establish and maintain.
In addition, working remotely offers a plethora of distractions, from email to chats to Wi-Fi connectivity issues and much more. Combatting these distractions and increasing engagement makes interactivity essential. A major way to help increase engagement is to make use of breakout rooms. Most video collaboration platforms, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, have an option for breakout rooms. These are like the virtual version of a study group, in which smaller teams of learners are grouped together to discuss the information they’ve just heard or talk about a specific lesson or assignment in real time.
Breakout rooms provide a way to foster not only engagement with the materials but also with fellow students – something that’s far more difficult when they’re not physically sitting in the same room. There’s a lot to be gained from this kind of social learning. For instance, a fellow student might be able to help their peer understand things in a different way or help provide additional clarification for something they were unsure of. And there’s a more personal connection that makes people feel part of their group.
Maximizing Virtual Instruction
It’s no secret that virtual instruction isn’t merely the same physical instruction but just transmitted via video. It’s a lot more nuanced than that, but it can be tricky to navigate – especially when learning has shifted so quickly to remote venues in the case of the pandemic. It requires a lot of concerted thought and effort to achieve the same levels of success, but too often, companies have taken a lift-and-shift approach that results in frustration and lack of engagement. Instead, use the interactive tools at your disposal to create a more engaging and fulfilling learning experience, no matter where your learners may be.
Travis Damgaard Campbell is senior business manager for LMS365.