Pre-coronavirus, virtual training was already being hailed for its scalability, cost-effectiveness and flexibility. Now, more than ever, going digital and getting it right has become the determining factor in whether businesses will survive the COVID-19 slump, as customers go online – or risk irrelevance, and disappear altogether. The good news? It’s not too late to transform the way you work.
In this blog post, we’ll cover virtual training and its benefits, how virtual training can be used across your business, top online corporate training solutions – and of course, how to get started creating content.
Read on to discover how your business can benefit from virtual training!
What is virtual training?
Virtual training is learning delivered electronically, often on a computer, phone or tablet in a simulated or ‘virtual’ environment, as opposed to traditional face-to-face training. We’ll cover the benefits of virtual training below, but one core advantage is when trainers and learners are physically separated, this web-based training overcomes those barriers. This training is also common in corporate e-learning.
While virtual training is often associated with remote training, the two don’t have to go hand in hand. For example, online employee training is often used for mandatory compliance training, which employees may undertake in the office, just like ordinary instructor-led training. Here, the main differences are using a computer and accessing digital resources, instead of learning from someone face-to-face.
Virtual training can be led by instructors live (asynchronous) or on-demand (synchronous), as we’ll see.
Synchronous virtual training
Synchronous training occurs in real time, and is the most like classroom training. An instructor trains you on a set day, time and platform, and you attend as you would an in-person session, only you learn via device.
There are pros and cons specific to synchronous training. Being live, the vibe is generally more exciting and fun than pre-recorded training, which facilitates interaction between trainer and audience e.g. feedback, Q&A. However, you’re more vulnerable to factors like user timezones and technical issues (think internet lag).
Examples of synchronous virtual training include:
- Live-streamed webinars or other video formats
- Video (or phone) conferencing
- Live chats
Asynchronous virtual training
Asynchronous training is driven by learners’ own timeframes. It features video, as before, but also summary notes, presentations PDFs, study guides etc. – as well as tasks and the tried-and-tested course exam.
The pros of asynchronous training are better catering to different learning styles, and flexibility with course timelines. For cons, the main issue is organisations trying to ‘plug and play’ face-to-face techniques on-demand. The problem: disengagement and drop-off happens far quicker with on-demand training. One way to compensate is by offering multiple short videos, for example, rather than a single hour-long session video – so people can pick up (and put down) at their own pace.
Examples of asynchronous virtual training include:
- Self-guided lessons and learning streams
- Multimedia virtual content libraries
- Streamed videos and other supplementary materials
- Plus interaction with other learners e.g. forums, private social groups.
Top 5 benefits of virtual training
Particularly for asynchronous virtual training, but even for synchronous training, convenience and flexibility are key for learners; live virtual classrooms run from the comfort of your own home, for example. At the other end of the virtual scale, learning on-demand can be on the go (e.g. on mobile), helping it better fit into people’s work and personal lives – unlike face-to-face training, which suffers from attendees having to be in the exact same place at the exact same time.
Virtual vs. face-to-face training costs are easy to compare. With traditional classroom training, you’ve got to factor your trainer’s travel / accommodation, as well as catering, possibly a venue, materials etc. With web-based training, the biggest cost is your trainer’s time – in this case, a one-off for planning and creating scalable content. The main other cost for virtual training is content hosting or an online learning platform, if that isn’t already in place.
One of the great (bespoke) things about face-to-face training is no two training sessions are the same. That said, this can also be one of its biggest flaws: a lack of standardisation. Virtual learning course-corrects for this by giving people consistent content delivery. And while, as we’ll see, there’s certainly room for self-directed learner streams, this consistency is key to brand and business alignment – and audience trust.
Personalisation in virtual training is one of its most exciting strengths. The move towards adaptive learning, a model that caters for learners’ different educational needs, means learners can now have the freedom and flexibility to choose – whether that’s individual course modules, to where / when / how they learn. This tailored approach means better engagement and learner investment, as training is perceived as more personally relevant to professional development and growth goals.
5. Interactivity and engagement
With the rise of gamification in online learning comes interactivity and engagement benefits, for both organisations and learners. Active learning helps retention, making content more ‘sticky’, which can be in stark contrast with long presentation-based seminars where it’s easy for people to disengage. A great example of gamified content is Deloitte’s ‘choose your own adventure’-type video for new hires, which explores Deloitte’s company values, and how employees live them.
How virtual training can be used across your business
Employee onboarding videos
Employee onboarding videos are self-explanatory, in that they onboard new hires by imparting organisational knowledge and context (like company values and culture, as well as HR processes / policies), so people can thrive in their new roles. These videos often form an employee’s first internal brand experience, and set expectations for behaviour in the workplace.
Here’s an example of an employee onboarding video:
Soft skills training videos
Teaching soft skills for talent development is a key area for modern businesses, particularly as younger workforces tend to not only value, but also actively pursue these opportunities for growth and career advancement. As a result, most enterprise HR teams offer virtual training on everything from written and verbal communication, to influencing and persuading others in order to nurture high-priority relationships. This soft skills training can prove fundamental to effective succession planning decisions.
Compliance training videos
Compliance training videos are typically HR-driven, covering workplace safety and security, or policies and programs for diversity, bullying and harassment, sustainability etc. While content is often considered ‘dry’ (sometimes even boring!), these training videos are fundamental to ensuring a safe, professional and ethical work environment.
Here’s an example of a compliance training video:
Sales and customer service training videos
When it comes to sales and customer service / customer support roles – where industries may experience high staff turnover – video is a smart, scalable way to train employees so they can hit the ground running. Web-based training examples can be internally-facing video resources focused on role-playing sales conversations, even navigating customer feedback and complaints – which can be invaluable in the real world.
What about online corporate training solutions?
Between e-learning platforms, learning management systems (LMS) and learning experience platforms (LXP / LEP), the right corporate e-learning solution often depends on your target audience and learning objectives. Let’s take a look:
1. E-learning platforms
E-learning is electronic learning and uses web-based training tools to deliver a course syllabus online. E-learning platforms can be free or paid, simple or complex, with all the benefits you’d expect of asynchronous virtual training. Check out our platform, Shootsta Learn, for an example of how to do e-learning that structures course materials, while keeping content free and simple for audiences to access. E-learning platforms are the easiest execution of the three online corporate training solutions.
E-learning platform examples include:
- LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Skillshare, Udemy for Business
2. Learning management systems
Learning management systems (LMS) are, like e-learning platforms, a way to deliver asynchronous training, with two main differences: often used by HR, they also house content for onboarding or compliance training – and as a result, contain explicit completion and / or assessment processes to track employee learning. LMS tools are also used by learning and development teams to manage not only hard upskilling, but other soft skills like leadership, conflict resolution for tough conversations, innovation etc.
Learning management system examples include:
- Absorb LMS, Mindflash, SAP Litmos LMS, Docebo, Instructure Bridge LMS, Moodle, Harvard ManageMentor, Adobe Captivate Prime
3. Learning experience platforms
Learning experience platforms (LXP) are different from an LMS in that they’re learner-directed vs. trainer-mandated. Whereas an LMS can be rigid and lack freedom of choice (fine for compulsory training), an LXP as a tool for professional development is far more personalised. Training is goal-based and focused on impact, specific to an employee’s role, development areas and interests. This learning is dynamic, forgoing traditional chronological methods of sequential modules, encouraging users to jump in and out of subjects in the moment as they arise i.e. learning by doing. By tailoring individual learning experiences, these flexible learning paths offer far better engagement. On top of these benefits, LXPs also tend to leverage gamification, with leaderboards, points, badges and certifications – which all make learning more interactive and fun.
Learning experience platform examples include:
- Degreed, Howspace, Valamis, Docebo