Why virtual learning might be a better option than traditional learning for your organisation

Today’s article comes from ASK Consultant Rachel Powell:

Much of the L&D industry and traditional workplace learning have been forced to adapt how learning is being delivered since Covid-19 saw us forced to avoid group activities in person – and there are some concerns that virtual training is ‘second best’ – a back-up plan which is ‘better than nothing’, but a poor alternative to in-person activities.

As the first UK Leadership and Management training provider to take proactive steps when the pandemic began, moving our entire offering to virtual learning so that we could continue to support our clients in the most pressing of circumstances, we are industry leading experts in this arena – and we would like to put the myth of ‘second best’ to bed – and clear up some of the misconceptions you may have about virtual learning.

We have seen first-hand that for many businesses, virtual learning is a far more impactful and successful choice for the development of their teams, both in terms of long-term results and as an investment of time and finances.

We know that virtual learning can’t just mean taking the same programme and materials as were being used for in-person group learning and presenting them on a video call; to successfully implement virtual learning we need to design the module specifically for the environment. Our own experience echoes reports from Google, MIT, IBM and the National Science Foundation, who have carried out studies on virtual learning over the last two decades, seeing a significant growth in this area.

This means that we need to create learning programmes which include the following factors:

  • Create a rich learning experience
  • Peer engagement for all learners throughout
  • Interaction with learners every 5-7 minutes
  • Clear purpose and learning objectives for each interaction
  • Varied activities and avoid repetitive action
  • Pair impactful slides with detailed workbooks
  • Combine video presentation with active tasks
  • Practical application of learning
  • Specifically designed for virtual presentation

Designing and delivering successful virtual learning

 Creating a learning programme which engages people is the best way to ensure that the learning is successful – and creating a rich learner experience is vital to ensure that new information is retained, and then put into practice in the workplace beyond the training programme itself.

Virtual training isn’t a new concept, and there have been studies into the success of various models of distance learning for many years which show that active, personal virtual learning – with live communication, interaction, engagement with peer learners and feedback, as well as independent study and application of learning – is not only as good as classroom learning, but in many ways better.

After thorough before-and-after testing of students taking the MITxphysics class 8.MReVx (Mechanics Review) online, and similar testing of those taking the same class in its traditional form, Pritchard and his team found quite the contrary: The study showed that in the MITx course, “the amount learned is somewhat greater than in the traditional lecture-based course,” 

  • David Pritchard, MIT: International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning

 Engaging your learners

 We know, from delivering virtual learning successfully for many clients, that creating a rich experience for learners means following a best practice design methodology. We make sure to include interactions with learners regularly – every five to seven minutes is proven to be the most effective model – and varying these interactions to avoid disengaging the learners with repetitive patterns.

These interactions are designed to have a clear purpose and to link to the learning objectives of each session; our programmes begin by setting out the objectives for the day, and each activity refers back to these outcomes to reinforce what is being learned. Learners need to know “what’s in it for them” in order to engage fully with the activities, so we make sure that each activity reinforces those objectives.

Research supported by Google, the National Science Foundation, MIT and IBM found that participants learn five times more material in online learning courses using multimedia content than in traditional face to face courses.

Don’t lecture or monologue

 Our virtual learning programmes run in a similar way to our classroom learning – with a mix of presentation, activities and personal learning. The programme leader doesn’t ‘lecture’ or simply speak at the learners – instead, information is presented in bite-size modules. The slides present the information in brief, and then discuss it in more detail in small segments  – with planned tasks for the learner which are covered in more detail in the accompanying workbooks, so that the learning is linked to hands-on activities which help to absorb information.

This means that learners can practice what’s being learned, adds multi-faceted input and builds on the information with layers of understanding, with autonomous learning and peer interactions at multiple stages, to break down the learning and present it in a range of ways, allowing for different types of learner to remain engaged and present throughout.

Virtual learning is ‘the new normal’

 This phrase may have been overused in the media in recent weeks – but we know that, when we speak about virtual learning, this really is the new normal. Many businesses have seen such success with their move to virtual learning, seeing more impact and implementation of changes in the workplace from their team, that they have no plans to return to formal classroom learning after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, they see that training their teams remotely is a viable, affordable option which reduces costs for both travel, accommodation and training spaces, and which means the number of learners is never limited by physical space. In fact, larger groups of learners can be trained simultaneously.

These learners can also connect with one another to share ideas, thoughts and learning in a structured and positive way throughout and beyond the programme, with peer reviews and communication adding significant value to the learning.

If you would like more information on our virtual learning programmes call us on 01234 757575 or email [email protected] to request a brochure; we led the move to delivering virtual learning for the UK leadership and management development industry, and our expert consultants will design a programme which will help your team to advance, no matter where they are based, and deliver virtual learning which will help you to achieve your organisation’s goals, reach your targets and surpass your expectations.

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