If there is one thing the coronavirus has taught us, it’s that training as we know it is neither resilient nor flexible. In-person, instructor-led training that requires facilitators and participants to travel and pack into a classroom is no longer an option.
But as organizational leaders consider replacing current programs with virtual training, do they understand that simply “converting” existing materials is not effective or efficient? Organizations have never faced a crisis like this one. We can’t simply convert, but must instead “transform” the classroom for effective virtual distribution.
Classroom conversion vs. classroom transformation
What is a training conversion, and why is it not the answer to our current challenges? Conversion means trying to duplicate what you previously did in the classroom. If you used slides, convert those for use in WebEx. If facilitators lectured, have them lecture virtually or record them for learners to watch. Companies convert because it’s fast and efficient. But it’s both boring and ineffective.
Another conversion approach is to teach facilitators “tips and tricks” for virtual facilitation. Although facilitators need to understand the capabilities of their particular software, true learning effectiveness requires redesigning the content for virtual distribution.
Transformation means improving the learning outcomes. It takes existing content and uses a blended approach to produce effective virtual learning. The new blend involves four major components:
- Digital self-paced micro-modules — for foundational knowledge.
- Interactive learning activities — redesigning content for engaging, highly effective learning.
- Performance support tools — providing learners with tools that support self-paced learning activities while promoting application of knowledge.
- Learning communities — allowing participant collaboration for learning and applying skills and knowledge.
Blending for effective virtual learning
The key to effective virtual learning is creating the right blend of components. Although you should attempt to utilize all four, content will drive the percentage of each you should incorporate.
The first component is digital self-paced micro-modules. Not the old e-learning “page-turners” where learners read, then take a test; rather, an engaging learning component. Digital self-paced modules should be short and contain foundational knowledge. They can be incorporated at the outset of a virtual program and prior to introducing new content segments.
Classroom content must be redesigned as interactive learning activities to maximize effectiveness for virtual distribution. Using a problem-based approach to virtual learning activities promotes engagement and interactivity. Performance support tools should be created for learners to apply knowledge and skills. These tools can be used for interactive learning activities. For example, you could have an evaluation tool that participants could use when watching a sales presentation video. Allowing learners to collaborate and complete designated learning activities within a learning community results in higher levels of learning: application and correlation rather than rote memorization of facts. Completion of activities within a community can be done collaboratively or as guided by a facilitator.
It is my belief that virtual learning is here to stay. When designed correctly, it can be as effective, if not more effective, than traditional classroom instruction. In addition, virtual learning provides resiliency and flexibility for unforeseen future events.