By Travis Damgaard Campbell, Senior Business Manager
Travis Damgaard Campbell is a Microsoft 365 specialist focused on turning Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online into an integrated platform for corporate training. Travis strives to maintain a growth mindset and loves working with the Learning & Development community in his role as Senior Business Manager at LMS365.
As the world continues to adjust to flexible work styles and hybrid business environments, companies have been forced to find new ways of operating. These moves towards new technologies, tools and methods have only increased the importance of corporate learning and training. But much like we’ve seen with other aspects of working remotely, switching from in-person to virtual instruction comes with its own set of challenges that must be overcome.
By making the proper adjustments for online learning rather than just trying to do the exact same thing in a different venue, ensuring you truly understand the nuances and various requirements of virtual learning, you’ll go a long way toward assuring your training is effective and that your own time and effort is maximized.
When shifting from doing something the way that you always have—in this case, teaching in person—to a new way of doing things— such as providing instruction remotely or virtually—there will always be a learning curve.
The trick, however, is to figure out which things you really need to be spending your time on and what would be better handled through technology. For example, an instructor shouldn’t be spending time and energy dealing with things like setting up meetings or sending calendar invitations; that time can be better spent on creating and preparing curriculum. These administrative tasks are perfect examples of things that need to be automated in order to stay efficient in this agile workspace.
It bears repeating that all the money you spend on new technology or solutions won’t mean a thing if they aren’t being used – let alone used effectively. When it comes to online learning, there are many tools available to help with making learning engaging and exciting. This includes everything from whiteboards to quizzes to gamification tools that help measure and enforce lessons in real time.
But remember that these tools aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution—you’re always going to need do some trial-and-error experimentation to determine what the right tool for your organization and your training is. This is why it’s key to ensure you are using the right tool for your organizational needs, which can best be determined by mapping out your company’s training requirements before going technology shopping.
Engagement is a huge success factor in all aspects of work. In fact, Gallup estimates that the cost of poor management and lost productivity from employees in the U.S. who are not engaged or actively disengaged is between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year. And these numbers are reflected in organizations worldwide as well. Engagement is the key to making the most of technology and training investments. At the same time, it’s hands-down one of the biggest challenges when it comes to any kind of learning – but especially virtual learning, where you can’t rely on body language or on being able to see people’s facial expressions.
Engagement involves both the trainees and the trainers, and both parties face challenges in a virtual learning environment. For trainers, creating meaningful and successful connection online can be difficult. Add to that the slight chaos and distraction that can arise in large virtual classes with multiple speakers or hosts, and engagement is difficult to establish and maintain.
In addition to employee disengagement risks, working remotely can also offer a plethora of distractions, from email to chats to Wi-Fi connectivity issues and much more. Combatting these distractions and increasing engagement makes interactivity essential. A major way to help increase engagement is to make use of breakout room technology. Most video collaboration platforms, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, have an option for breakout rooms. These are like the virtual version of a study group, in which smaller teams of learners are grouped together to discuss the information they’ve just heard or talk about a specific lesson or assignment in real time.
Breakout rooms provide a way to foster not only engagement with the materials but also with fellow students—something that’s far more difficult when they’re not physically sitting in the same room. There’s a lot to be gained from this kind of social learning. For instance, a fellow student might be able to help their peer understand a subject in a different way or help provide additional clarification for something they were unsure of. And there’s a more personal connection that makes people feel part of their group; an aspect that people are craving more than ever.
It’s no secret that virtual instruction isn’t merely the same physical instruction but just transmitted via video; it’s substantially more nuanced than that, but it can be tricky to navigate – especially when learning has shifted so quickly to remote venues in the case of the pandemic and emerging hybrid work environments. It requires a lot of concerted thought and effort to achieve the same levels of success, but too often, companies have taken a lift-and-shift approach that results in frustration and lack of engagement. Instead, use the interactive tools at your disposal to create a more engaging and fulfilling learning experience, no matter where your learners may find themselves. Your employees—and your organization as a whole—will thank you.