COVID19 has brought the future of work to here and how. The ‘trends to watch out for’ predicted by global surveys had to be adopted overnight. And as organizations regroup and remap their strategy, virtual learning has taken center stage in helping teams charge towards new goals and challenges.
At a simplistic level, virtual learning could consist of a compilation of reading from the internet, some webinars or self-paced programs on platforms like Coursera and Skillshare. This is useful, but is it enough?
Years of research on effective learning methodologies is telling us that the best programs incorporate experiential learning with reflection and discussion. So, if you’re looking to embark on this journey of virtual learning, start with the best principles and weave them into your program design, don’t just sign to something because its easily available.
Metis has been delivering virtual learning interventions for a few years now. We have tried different approaches, platforms, program duration, etc. We are answering many questions from clients and friends about incorporating the best learnings into their virtual interventions. We are sharing some of our experiences here to help you build a virtual learning intervention for your teams:
1. The right technology – There are many tools available in the market and each has its own USP. Identify the learning outcomes and the best tool that would support you to achieve it. Do you want to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing among teams? MS Teams has great features like channels with shared repositories, instant messaging and discussion space. But it gets difficult when you need to collaborate outside of the organization, and platforms like Zoom and Google Meet surge ahead there. Cisco’s Webex has an interesting range of tools too. Pricing models of these tools are in a big spread so get a good understanding of your budget and key product features before zeroing in on a tool.
Metis Recommends: The cost effectiveness and a seamless training experience of Zoom beats all other tools for us. They have also stepped up their system security in recent times. And it is super easy to onboard users outside your organization like trainers & coaches.
2. Relevance – Don’t create learning calendars as a check-off list to keep your employees busy. Identify what programs will help them the most at this time. It could be a life-skill like building resilience, developing learning agility since we are living in such uncertainty, or it could be future-proof like introducing a new technology to upskill them when the organisation decides to pivot. Alignment of business needs and skill gaps is the first step to determine any learning journey. You can also let them choose & learn at their own pace, by providing subscriptions to some learning platforms.
Metis recommends: Challenging times are not yet over. Focus on programs that build agility, increase resilience and impart new skills of working in the virtual workplace. These will help your employees deal with the current situation and look ahead more effectively.
3. Practical facilitation – Understand the type of learning you can impart on a virtual platform. Customise the intervention by being cognizant of the fact that your audience isn’t able to physically interact with each other. That means substituting Lego building games for creative virtual games. Again, there are several (free!) tools that can help you effectively do this. You could start small, say even a simple whiteboard makes for a great collaborative canvas and can be stored & shared easily. It is important to define learning outcomes and then orient them to these tools.
Metis recommends: Harvest creativity through gamification in Kahoot, poll-taking & consensus in Zoom and Storyboardthat for virtual storyboarding.
4. Experiential learning – Days of one-sided training are long over. Borrowing from adult learning principles, effective learning happens when learners are able to apply their learnings to real-life situations. Include as many experiential activities as you can in your trainings. Create scenarios that relate to business, their work, or role so that the learnings are easily assimilated. Make use of innovative technology like virtual break-out rooms to group participants into smaller teams where they can engage in experiential activities. Such exercises help create tangible takeaways.
Metis recommends – A 2:1 ratio of the time spent on experiential v/s conceptual content is best suited for a virtual session.
5. Time-efficient sessions – Attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter, and they are even more crunched right now with most of us working from home and dealing with several other distractions simultaneously. A day-long virtual session is totally impractical and will fail to capture the learner’s attention, let alone imbibe any skills. A day-long conference was doable earlier when we could take coffee breaks, chat with fellow colleagues and stretch our legs, but now ‘Zoom fatigue’ is slowly creeping in. And a 30 minute program on the other hand, may introduce a subject but doesn’t allow for any in-depth learning and skill building. Find the balance that works with your business.
Metis recommends – A 2 hour session interspersed with activities & dialogue would be ideal taking into account shorter attention spans and the time required for in-depth exploration of a topic.
We hope these insights provide you with some direction while designing your learning programs.
If you need further guidance on how to design virtual experiential interventions, or just want to bounce off ideas, we are just an email away! Please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org