Proactive Steps For Delivering Learning Tomorrow
During 2020/2021, the world has seen significant changes in how we have lived our lives. Most of us have spent a lot more time indoors. Many of us have also spent a lot more time away from friends, family, and colleagues. On the whole, we have been leading a more isolated existence.
Organizations have been supporting employees in these situations through remote working practices and collaborative technologies. There has been a pronounced increase in video calls, replacing face-to-face meetings and even many telephone calls. Chats over messenger solutions have replaced water cooler and cross-desk conversations. Thrust into a new world of remote work, somehow, everyone just about managed to keep up.
Learning And The Pandemic
From the beginning of the pandemic, training activities all too suddenly had to be transferred to online delivery. While many organizations had at least some digital content available, not everything needed was available in a suitable format.
Instructors who had never delivered training outside of a face-to-face classroom scenario suddenly had to get to grips with new video conferencing tools. Learning development teams had to push out new content to help employees learn about areas such as IT security for remote working, how to use the organization’s online collaboration tools, etc.
It generally worked, but it was a very stressful time of reacting quickly to urgent demands and changes for the vast majority of learning professionals in these environments. Over time they were able to develop the skills and resources to operate in this remote mode.
As well as more training being delivered via video, microlearning has also grown in favor. Breaking learning down into smaller chunks helps to address the attention challenges in today’s workforce. It makes on-demand training easier to deliver. It also allows learners who are suffering from digital overload like “Zoom fatigue” to consume and take more from the content than they would in one extended sitting.
But, the world continues to change, and as the global pandemic situation continues to improve slowly, organizations have begun to work on changes to support what comes next. But what does this mean for learning professionals?
Planning Post-Pandemic Learning Delivery
Employees (or even customers) have different expectations now than they did two years ago. They will be different again in a year if things continue to improve. We shifted from local to remote working and are now moving back to utilizing local working again. But, the expectation is that we will not return to the previous model of working. Instead, it will be a hybrid model.
Many people assume that this will be people splitting their work between local and remote. But it is likely to be more nuanced than that. Some people will remain remote, while some people will return to local offices. Others will split their time on a fixed schedule, with others doing it on an ad hoc basis.
In eLearning, we have been able to utilize blended learning delivery for some time. These generally fall into three categories:
- Non-interactive: such as video, audio, graphical, and textual content
- Asynchronous interactive: such as discussion forums
- Synchronous interactive: such as physical or virtual classrooms/one-to-ones
This final point is where I see a new shift coming into play. In hybrid working, there may no longer be a guarantee of either local or remote presence. It could be both simultaneously, with some people attending training in person and others remotely.
While this split-attention environment may seem overwhelmingly challenging at first, there are things we can do to make it easier to manage. The key is to bring a shared experience of the best points together.
Connecting Physical And Virtual Classrooms
First of all, consider how you can bring your remote learners into the physical classroom. All video conferencing software these days allows you to bring up people’s video or avatars on screen, so you should have a screen in the classroom to place them on. This setup will allow the people in the classroom and the instructor to connect with them.
Next, you need to have cameras, microphones, and speakers in the classroom that allow the instructor to broadcast what they want the remote learners to see and hear content-wise and be able to see, hear, and join in with the in-classroom learners. Learning as a shared experience is never something to be underestimated in terms of efficacy.
There are many options for switching audio/visual equipment. With various microphones such as array microphones and wireless microphones and an even more comprehensive range of compatible video cameras, the technology to support this is well established and reliable.
It may even be advisable to have multiple instructors on hand at the start of the transition and for longer sessions. While one instructor teaches, the other can carry out a supporting role, switching cameras, keeping the online learners connected, etc. With practice, this can undoubtedly be achieved by a single instructor, but do not forget that with two instructors, you might be able to facilitate a course with a larger learner population anyway, so this is not necessarily an additional overhead.
Leveraging Digital Tools In The Physical Classroom
With the virtual and physical classrooms connected like this, the second step is to ensure that the advantages of a digital classroom can be brought into the physical classroom. The key to this is to have a setup that allows the instructor to access the same digital tools in a physical space as in the virtual space. Sometimes this can be done sufficiently well by being seated at a computer. Other times, for freehand drawing and writing activities, additional technology makes the difference, specifically interactive boards.
Many instructors will already have access to interactive dry erase boards. Relatively inexpensive technology is available for those who do not have such technology or need to be more mobile for delivery. Equipment is available that, when used in conjunction with a projector or screen, can transform it into an interactive tool.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on society and businesses, but as with any challenge, it has pushed us forward and taught us many lessons. We now need to look to the future. We need to find a way to continue to put into practice what we have learned and look at what challenges and opportunities this presents.
The coming months will provide new opportunities to integrate what we have learned in the pandemic in new and interesting ways. At the start of the pandemic, we responded reactively, but this is your chance to take a more proactive approach to deliver learning in your organization and perhaps beyond.