Originally published on LinkedIn
As a Manager of Education Programs for Medavie Health Services, I’ve shifted and re-shifted gears throughout this tumultuous year. It’s not easy to find a lot of positives but there has been a welcomed shift in attitudes toward online training.
I’ve been considering how to best leverage the flexibility of online learning without losing the hands-on experience necessary for adult learning, especially in industries such as mine where hands-on, specialized skills are critical, and this article outlines what I've come up with.
The shift to virtual, online training during COVID-19
In my opinion, employee training has changed forever.
Out of necessity, organizations like mine have been forced to shift to virtual training environments. The evolving restrictions brought on by the pandemic made it almost impossible to plan face-to-face group learning programs.
On top of the shift in logistics, people were also physically and mentally taxed – often having new responsibilities added to their day and therefore less willing to also add lengthy training sessions to their workload. On top of all that, people needed to be rapidly trained to follow new protocols and incorporate new tasks.
In response, we leaned on the power of our digital tools, designing and developing smart virtual solutions that could be successfully implemented at scale to meet a variety of objectives. But is virtual training a permanent part of the employee development framework now or should we all rush back to the classroom as soon as we’re able?
My take is that regardless of the subject, we have an opportunity to move toward a hybrid model of blended learning where we mix the best of in-person and online. Here is an idea of how that could look.
Setting up for success with pre-learning
Before you bake a cake, you preheat the oven. Getting it hot ensures an efficient, even, and hopefully delicious result. That same line of thinking can be applied to training, with something called pre-learning...well maybe not the delicious part.
Pre-learning is a great tool to use to augment baseline knowledge so that the entire audience is prepared for the in-person learning, building a foundation to achieve the learning objectives.
I’m a big proponent of this concept - where training participants are asked to complete prep work before showing up to the in-person training. This can range from evaluations to social learning forums, to micro-learning videos to introduce foundational concepts.
These approaches can even be combined into comprehensive eLearning activities that evaluate knowledge gaps and offer response-based remediation in real-time so that in-person training can focus on hands-on practice.
With the right Learning Management System (we use iTacit), these foundation-building activities can also collect a lot of valuable data for educators to use without conducting yet another company survey. This approach targets information to the people who need it and lets L&D leaders know where the priority areas are, making the best use of everyone’s time and energy.
Maximizing the hands-on learning experience
With this year's rapid shift to virtual learning platforms, I know that many people are eager to get back to hands-on training. Some people just love learning hands-on skills – I'm one of them!
As I’ve talked about, in-person training cannot be replaced altogether - especially in my line of work. But using some of the tools and experience gained through this recent virtual revolution, we can optimize in-person training through the strategic integration of more virtual components. We just have to be smart about it.
There’s no longer a need to have everyone together to hear the standard lecture components of training sessions. You can set up an asynchronous model where people can cover the material at a pace that’s comfortable for them when it fits their schedule. If that course material can be covered outside of the face-to-face environment, then you can host multiple, smaller sessions for more hands-on components.
This has worked wonders to reduce class size and adhere to social distancing rules, throughout COVID-19. It has also reduced the need for live classroom time, which can be costly and disruptive to regular business operations.
The opportunity for blended learning
Before long, we are going to have the choice of how we want to proceed with learning facilitation. Integrating this blended model into your training strategy can help learners be more successful in less time while also reducing cost and monitoring progress toward learning outcomes.
And, it doesn’t have to stop there. These ideas can be expanded to encompass knowledge retention activities and build resource libraries so that employees have just-in-time resource material. This can even be further expanded to become an automated learning path, building sustainability and accessibility for future employees.
All you need are the right tools and imagination.
Added bonus: Moving to this hybrid model with digital activities also creates evidence of learning and retention at every stage of the process, meaning ROI reporting can easily be built right in. Everybody wins.
As iTacit's Business Development & Solutions Expert, Ben has years of learning delivery and leadership experience. He focuses on keeping up with the latest best practices and growing his understanding of them to help iTacit's clients and professionals.