The global Covid-19 pandemic may have hastened the uptake of virtual learning technology for many companies. However, these programs have been growing in popularity for years. E-learning has been around for a long time now, and while effective, people still long for face-to-face contact and facilitated the training.
That’s where virtual classrooms come in, bringing together the best of both worlds. Virtual training for employees certainly looks a lot different now than it did 10 years ago, and here’s why the newer methods are so versatile and effective.
What are virtual classrooms?
Virtual classrooms are a learning method that combines e-learning and face-to-face training in one neat, easily accessible package. Participants log on to a collaborative training platform, and everything is done online. This means no matter where you are, as long as you have a reliable internet connection, you can join in.
Virtual courses such as these are facilitated by a trainer who has already prepared engaging and interactive course content for participants to enjoy. In some instances, digital reference material is sent to participants before the session. Alternatively, course content is shown as part of the course and shared with users at a later stage.
Best of all, participants have the opportunity to interact with the facilitator, ask questions, or collaborate with others. Naturally, the quality of the technology plays a big role in how interactive the virtual learning courses can be. So, overall, virtual classrooms combine the flexibility and accessibility of e-learning with the engagement and interactivity of face-to-face training. It’s the best of both worlds.
Here are just some of the reasons why organisations are turning to virtual classrooms as their preferred training method.
Shorter learning sessions
In theory, virtual courses can be as long as you need them to be. Every training provider does things differently, however one of the things people love about online training is that courses are shorter. Most virtual classroom sessions only go for around 90 minutes, meaning staff don’t lose a whole day to training.
By making training sessions short and sharp, participants are more engaged, don’t get distracted, and retain more information as a result. Plus, they can get back to work quickly and not stress about tasks building up while they’re at training.
Learn from anywhere
Accessibility is a key benefit when it comes to virtual courses. We’ve seen organisations move to flexible working arrangements, working from home, remote work in smaller serviced offices and hybrid workplaces. All of these changes are a far cry from the traditional office environment where everybody is in the same place from 9-5 each day. So, ensuring that everybody has access to the same learning opportunities can be a challenge.
With virtual courses, however, it doesn’t matter where the participant is. If they have an internet connection and laptop, they can join their colleagues. This is not only extremely convenient, but it also fosters a culture of togetherness, even when working apart.
The global pandemic has certainly sped up these changes for many organisations, but many were looking at different working models well before Covid-19 struck. So, if your working arrangements have changed, but you still need staff participating in training, virtual classrooms are a great solution.
Engaging and interactive sessions
One of the complaints about older eLearning programs is the lack of engagement. While modern eLearning often includes things like quizzes and consolidation activities, many people still don’t find the process very engaging. Virtual classrooms address this problem by bringing a facilitator into the mix.
Obviously, even with a facilitator, training courses are only as engaging and interactive as the course designers and facilitators allow. But virtual courses give you the chance to choose quality training providers and deliver engaging course content online.
Plan a virtual schedule in advance
In larger organisations and even smaller ones to an extent, planning training can be difficult. With so many competing priorities, it’s often tough to fit training into a schedule. With virtual courses, you can do this well in advance, ensuring that staff have calendar invites to remind them about the course.
All you need to do is work with your training provider, schedule staff in for regular training, and block out the time in employee schedules. Whether it’s because of accessibility or the shorter course time, virtual courses typically have a much lower cancellation rate than longer face-to-face training programs
Ask questions while learning
Another complaint about more basic eLearning packages is the inability to ask questions. That’s one of the things people love about face-to-face training – the opportunity to ask questions as you learn, because it helps to really bed down your understanding of topics and concepts. Most virtual classroom technology has a function where you can ask questions of the trainer.
While it’s not always practical to have everybody’s mic turned on, many virtual training platforms have a function where participants can ‘raise their hand’, or similar, giving the facilitator a chance to unmute them and take questions.
Design learning pathways for staff
Another great part of virtual classroom learning is the ability to build genuine learning pathways for staff. Many organisations take a pretty casual approach to learning and development, meaning staff aren’t always participating in courses that are valuable for their careers or even current role. Because there are so many virtual courses out there, training coordinators can now tailor pathways for different departments, teams or even individuals.
If your training provider has an extensive catalogue of available courses, you can make the learning and development process much more personalised. Work with staff to choose the right courses for them, and plan in advance. You can even create certain learning pathways for different jobs. For example, if sales staff frequently want to move into marketing roles, choose the relevant courses that are helpful, and create the pathway that several staff members can follow.
Increase employee engagement
Learning and development have great potential to increase employee engagement. However, it needs to be done right. Most people who are disengaged at work cite a lack of development or advancement opportunities. Therefore, providing learning opportunities and pathways is a great way to make people feel more valued.
You do, however, need to make sure training opportunities are relevant. If people are being forced to attend mandatory training on topics they’re not interested in, engagement decreases. Being able to personalise your people’s training program is a great way to show you’re actually invested in growing their career.
Increases familiarity with virtual collaboration systems
Finally, we can’t go past the fact that virtual classrooms are a great introduction to other virtual collaboration tools. In the modern world, we have more people working from home or in different offices. But technology has helped us stay connected, remain collaborative and achieve great results even from a distance. The problem is, many people struggle with new technology and such tools aren’t always effective because people lack confidence.
By introducing virtual classroom technology, staff can see that online collaboration really does work. It’s not as scary as they first thought, and it can actually be a lot of fun. To take this a step further, you can even help your staff deal with technological change by enrolling them in digital readiness programs.
META: Virtual courses give you the best of both worlds. The convenience and flexibility of eLearning, and with the interactivity and engagement of face-to-face training.