The current pandemic has forced HR departments into what sounds like a movie. An international emergency (COVID-19), a dire need (maintain corporate learning), and a potential but less-explored solution (virtual and digital tools). The situation is unprecedented, with businesses striving to learn new ways of working while also figuring out how to keep their now-remote workforce engaged.
Maintaining business continuity is critical, yet this means leaders cannot afford to put capability-building on hold. McKinsey found that roughly one-half of in-person programs in North America through June 30, 2020, were postponed or canceled, with parts of Asia and Europe nearing 100 percent. How can businesses continue to teach and reskill employees while ensuring their teams’ safety?
Online and Virtual Learning to the Rescue
With the onset of the pandemic, organizations have rapidly deployed work-from-home or remote-working policies to ensure social distancing and employee safety. Ideas such as e-learning, online training, and virtual communication have seen a massive surge in demand to address workforce learning needs and gaps.
Microsoft revealed that it saw a 70% increase in daily Skype activity during just a single month. The Zoom application saw a 378% increase in daily users and a 168% increase in monthly users as of March 22, 2020. Organizations and workforces are equipped to take on the massive task of transitioning from face-to-face to online learning, but being “technologically prudent” does not necessarily ensure learning effectiveness.
Companies that are unfamiliar with eLearning and virtual training methods can use this time to acquaint their workforce with these approaches, initiate ideas, and make use of online-training methods. They can also look at what companies like Wipro, which already operates in the space of eLearning and virtual training, have done to develop creative approaches to overcome face-to-face training limitations.
Learning and Development (L&D) professionals have proposed a variety of new approaches to virtual training programs, including:
- Leveraging virtual facilitation tools to facilitate engagement, such as chat and polling
- Utilizing features such as virtual breakout rooms and post-session feedback to simulate the in-person experience as much as possible
- Including group activities and ice-breakers to simulate a sense of community learning
While new methods are being tried and tested to make virtual learning as consumable as possible for the workforce, it’s important to acknowledge that eLearning is still one of the most effective ways to keep the workforce connected. eLearning, which has been around since the onset of digital learning, is a more formal and self-paced learning format, making it easy for users of all ages and backgrounds to utilize it effectively. By comparison, virtual learning has historically been less explored but is gaining traction as organizations grapple with the current remote-working conditions.
By using unique learning concepts such as micro-learning nuggets, gamification, and game-based learning programs, L&D professionals can help companies reach out to employees who prefer a more self-directed learning approach.
Is Virtual Learning the New Normal?
The pandemic has created immediate online and virtual training needs, but they shouldn’t be considered one-and-done solutions. The strategies, which we help clients embrace, not only offer solutions that help manage the current crisis, but that also pave the way for organizations to begin embracing their new normal. Even if virtual learning isn’t the only way corporate learning happens in the future, it will certainly be an important element in those plans.