The past 12 months have taught us a lot about how – and how not – to deliver virtual training. Taking a training session designed for the classroom and simply putting it online definitely doesn’t work. As life begins to return to normal in the wake of the pandemic, our next challenge is going to be taking the best of what works in a virtual environment and combining it with in-the-room delivery for the greatest impact.
We have all learned a lot from the sudden shift to remote working – and therefore remote learning – when Covid-19 struck last year. Everyone now knows a lot more about the various platforms available for the delivery of virtual training, for example. And it soon became clear that every minute of online training needs to be thought through and designed so that the user experience is engaging. Online training became interactive, interesting, challenging – and fun.
With no time wasted on travel to training sessions, we’ve got used to having more time for effective learning and development – with no restrictions on who can attend, as geographical location has become almost irrelevant. People from different regions could suddenly be brought together easily to learn from each other, as well as from their trainers. The virtual training world has also proved more cost-effective – with more content packed into training sessions, no travel costs, and less time away from fee-earning work.
But that’s not the whole story – the virtual experience can’t match the level of engagement, interaction, and relationship building offered by in-the-room training. Networking is a valuable learning and development experience in itself. And nothing beats the energy that comes from fun exercises that get people on their feet and out of the comfort zones – or the conversations that develop and help participants share their stories and experiences. Some introverts, for example, can be more reticent when it comes to online training and find the online experience harder to fully embrace.
As pandemic restrictions are slowly lifted, blended learning is set to become the norm. The idea of blended learning has been around for some time – but the past year has highlighted just what elements of the ‘blend’ work best. So how can you ensure your organization gets the best of both worlds and sees a healthy return on its investment in training?
The perfect blend is going to come down to factoring in things like required outputs, the location of participants, budget, and the training content – practical, game-playing, role-playing, teamwork, etc. Most compliance training can be done online, for example, even without facilitators – whereas most skills and behavior training needs at least an element of being in the room.
To really get the best of both worlds, you need to think harder about instructional design. Business leaders commissioning training need to think about why it’s being done and what will change as a result. This will inform the training provider and allow them to design how it should be delivered.
Combining the positives of effective online training with tailored in-person interactions can enhance the learning journey and give people the human fix that we so often need. A blended approach can massively improve the outcomes from training programs, while keeping them cost-effective and efficiently delivered – and allowing for the human/social elements. A win/win for businesses and teams.