The COVID-19 pandemic has changed daily business operations globally. We shifted our processes using digital technologies from in-office work to remote virtual offices. With this comes the transition of learning within the company.
Shifting learning into virtually facilitated formats is not an easy task. For one, delivering modules in a face-to-face environment is different from a virtual environment. The work-from-home (WFH) experience is also varied and unique for everyone. Everyone also has their own learning style and preferences.
So, with these as some of the many challenges of remote learning, what can we do to ensure our virtual learning program works in the time of the pandemic?
We sat down with Nick Velevski, Head of Learning and Operations at Guild Group to discuss how learning in the company has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Velevski gave three things to do in implementing virtual learning programs.
Prepare and motivate your learners
Before designing virtual learning programs, it is important to recognise the preferred learning styles of your team members during the design phase of a learning program and strive to provide modalities that will cater to these different styles. This will drive greater levels of engagement with your learners and ultimately foster an enhanced learning experience.
Next, when you are ready to implement your learning programs, make sure that your learners understand that majority of the time, they will be learning on their own. Share some tips and best practices on how to prepare themselves as they start on their learning.
Give them encouragement and motivation so they can feel supported. Velevski suggested using short clips or video trailers presenting tips on gearing up for learning sessions that could help motivate and prepare the learners in their virtual learning.
Implement self-paced learning
According to Velevski, self-paced modules are the best option for most people in a WFH setup because of competing priorities at home or even at work. They also empower people by giving them the control on their learning such as the time and pace.
“We each have our own personalities and preferences for how we live our lives and we each as well have a way that we like to learn,” said Velevski. “We realised that team members were going to have varied experiences and varied challenges based on their individual circumstances.”
On generating self-paced learning content, Velevski advises to make use of available content online to save company time and resources.
“We knew that there was a huge amount of content online from reputable providers, so we didn’t feel as though we always had to develop our own. We tried to leverage what was already there.”
Thus, Velevski suggests collecting learning resources from irrefutable and reliable sources and placing them in an online library of content accessible by learners at their own time and pace.
Hold bite sized learning sessions
“Individuals learn just as much from each other as what they did from any of the formal or official content released,” said Velevski.
Hence, to complement self-paced modules, holding 30-minute bite sized learning sessions where learners can come together virtually to discuss their learnings from their self-paced modules is another suggestion by Velevski.
He argued that bite sized, or short learning sessions are more effective than full day training programs, particular in a virtual format. It allows for discussions to take place over a period and assists in the retention and application of learning as the learners have time to reflect and practice their learnings in their work after each session and “bring these realisations to the next discussions”. Ultimately, a short sharp session does not take too much of people’s time and fosters greater levels of collaboration from participants in a virtual format.
Things to keep in mind
While these recommendations for a virtual learning program can be effective, you must consider the challenges that comes with it. Here are a few reminders from Velevski when you implement virtual learning:
Blended modalities are best. Understanding and catering to each of the individual learning styles and preferences is important. This would ensure that each of the learners is learning and motivated to learn.
Before designing a learning plan, a learning needs analysis should be done to understand your learners. This is to make sure that the content is fit for purpose and delivered on the right medium.
Virtually facilitated learning sessions should not be longer than 90 minutes. Be wary of your people’s time and priorities and their capacity to learn. Maintaining motivation and engagement during a virtual training session can be difficult, and based on Velevski’s experience, 90 minutes is generally the recommended upper limit for duration. Staggered learning sessions are better than a full day training so instead of holding full day learning sessions, segment the modules per topic and deliver them in short learning sessions.
Leverage technology. Use technologies to your advantage. In virtual sessions, make use of reactions, comments, chats, and polls to stimulate engagement from the learners – the more engagement, the more they will learn, not only from the facilitator, but each other as well.
With the current pandemic situation, learning has shifted from traditional methods to virtually facilitated sessions and modules. Motivating your people to learn, developing self-paced modules, and holding bite size sessions are some of the most effective methods to ensure your people continue to develop themselves despite everything else going on around them.
In designing virtual learning programs, the principles of learning should be kept in mind. The different learning styles and preferences and even the competing priorities of the learners should also be considered.