I have been asked what advice I would give to businesses who would like to utilize virtual learning solutions in their delivery methods. This is a dangerous question to ask a teacher unless you want the honest answer.
Continuous learning is a phrase heard among professionals of varied roles. Most of the time these experiences tend to be workshops and conferences. But many industries have taken advantage of eLearning initiatives for their staff training materials, but how effective are they? Are they focusing on learning outcomes, or merely just throwing information at their staff? Often the people responsible for instructional design, have no education experience. That can lead to dry training materials that are pushed out in order to check a box of compliance.
In order to be truly effective, however, these virtual learning solutions need to follow the patterns of good teaching practice even in the digital realm. Delivery methods need to be engaging and interactive. There needs to be accountability built into the delivery of content to ensure mastery. Multiple learning modes need to be addressed so it doesn’t become a place for a recorded lecture, or a voice reading a policy manual. Again, we need to empower the learner to take charge of their learning, as opposed to just consuming information.
Just like in a regular classroom, our first question should be, “What do I want people to learn?” and the next one should be, “How will I know they have learned it?” It’s okay to seek help from educational professionals. Many corporations are employing educators as their instructional designers. This is leading to more effective continuous learning experiences for all employees. The reason is simple, educators know how to design learning experiences that work. They know how to design learning experiences that provide meaningful interaction with the material, and ideally include some collaboration with peers. Other companies are taking advantage of learning platforms that offer enough range to their trainings that many, regardless of industry, can benefit from the lessons.
Qi Card gets this. “Instructor-led, that’s boring (to millennials),” Qi Card Organizational Development Leader Ruqayah Omar said. “The way of learning is changing. Millennials want to learn anytime, anywhere.” This company utilized LinkedIn Learning as their learning platform and worked with employees to create goals and personalized learning paths to help them reach their goals. On top of that support, they turned it into a competition to push those who need that extrinsic motivation. As a result, the number of hours their employees completed virtual learning was double that of the industry average. They saw a direct link between the learning and the employee’s work performance. It was the combination of company support and engaging learning materials that employees could complete anytime, anywhere, that led to the overwhelmingly positive results. (This Company’s eLearning Usage is Double the Norm. Here’s Why. Paul Petrone)
The success of any organization lies in the culture. If true learning is at the heart of continuous learning requirements, then every employee at every level will be partaking in learning opportunities. If it’s important enough, leaders will find a way to provide high-quality, engaging eLearning solutions for their employees (and themselves!) to access in order to meet personal professional goals. In reaching for these goals, they better the company as they better themselves. It’s a win-win situation, resulting in higher performances and greater employee retention numbers. When companies understand this and are involved in the learning process, they are able to create a leadership program that utilizes the strengths of their staff members for organizational improvement. People work harder when they are invested in the overall vision. What better way to get them invested than by seeing them as leaders who can share their learning for the benefit of others?
So my answer to that first question is that I think virtual learning options are perfect for today’s workforce. But learners demand and deserve to be offered online learning that is engaging and holds them accountable for actual learning. Oftentimes, eLearning solutions are more cost-efficient, as long as they don’t become boring box-checker experiences. No true learning occurs in these situations, which will cost everyone in the end.