This was originally published on Forbes
By Ron Zamir
Are you suffering from Zoom fatigue? Maybe it’s even gotten to the point that you dread the next Microsoft Teams meeting popping up on your schedule. For many of us, it will come as no surprise that the rapid and enthusiastic transition to virtual work — with seemingly endless rounds of videoconferences, virtual chats, presentations and instant messages — has overloaded our attention span for digital learning.
The move from the classroom to the virtual meeting space has become the norm within corporate training. There’s also been an increase in available technology that enables videoconferencing and mobile interactions. As a result, many organizations are taking another look at the way they do things. However, at AllenComm, a corporate training solutions company, we’re seeing that the danger in this rapid transition is that organizations are forgetting the reason they’re training and degrading the learning experience in the process.
The Power Of Instructor-Led Training (ILT)
In-person training is still one of the most common training modalities across topic areas. Besides the tradition of instructor-led lecture formats in higher education, there are several unique components of ILT that make it successful as a training modality. The most notable of those include the collaborative nature of social learning, immediate personalized feedback and experiential learning. Unfortunately, all these can be difficult to reproduce in a virtual environment.
Transforming Your Training Content
There are several approaches to transforming your training into a new digital learning modality. On one end of the spectrum, there is the conversion of ILT into a virtual lecture format: virtual instructor-led training. On the other hand, a training consultant can redesign the learning experience, assets and modalities to reflect the challenges of performance gaps and the new virtual environment. It’s in the latter of these two cases in which you can maintain the benefits of ILT activities and assets.
Challenges For Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT)
Though it may be the easier learning solution to implement, VILT can be the wrong choice for your training. Transforming ILT content into a virtual lecture causes many of the benefits of ILT to be lost because of the limitations of technology.
Research into digital learning has found that students have better recall when reading on paper compared to reading on a screen. Essentially, using technology for learning can affect learning outcomes. In the case of VILT, many of the challenges are based on the loss of social engagement. Learners can’t easily interact with peers in social cohorts, which has been shown to improve learning outcomes through mirroring and modeling. Moreover, many platforms can’t easily replicate real-time feedback or experiential learning.
Learners may also suffer from fatigue as training delivery efforts mesh into the noise of day-to-day work interactions. Research by Robert Half found that 38% of workers have experienced video call fatigue in 2020. Consequentially, many organizations I’m familiar with have seen a decrease in motivation for learners to attend VILT and video training, and that’s a problem we can’t ignore.
A Better Approach To ILT Redesign
The better approach to transforming your ILT content into digital learning activities is usually a redesign that addresses the employees’ new environment. As your training environment changes, so do the respective benefits and challenges of a specific modality. Your redesign should be a learning solution with the optimal blend of VILT, web-based training and experiential learning targeted at the unique needs of your learners.
Although it may be tempting, don’t skip steps in the process because of an urgency to deliver training. Start with an analysis to determine the performance gaps and challenges that need to be addressed through remote learning. As with any training initiative, an ILT redesign should be a strategic effort that drives employees closer to an underlying business goal. It is best to construct the training design methods around these objectives and your available training technology to create the best remote learning experience.
Learning and development consultants have more power in their hands than ever before. For that reason, digital learning assets should go well beyond the limited experience that is VILT. For example, it is possible to make use of engaging digital assets for activities before and after training to avoid overuse of VILT and cut through the noise of day-to-day virtual meetings.
The Training Delivery Experience
To take a lesson from marketing theory, it’s evident that organizations need to create a complete learning experience with finesse, rather than zero in on the production of a single event or class. Training must engage the employee throughout the experience for the learning to stand out. Many of our customers are investing in learning experience platforms or employee learning portals to share and recommend training content. However, for the material to be interactive, we need to encourage the use of technology platforms that promote collaboration and sharing across the organization.
Many of the skills learned in ILT modalities can be developed with a bit of training technology. For example, simulations made with interactive videos or 3D models can promote the same mirroring, modeling and repetition that enable social learning. PDF documents can be made interactive, and other company communication systems such as chat and email can be used to promote collaboration and learning engagement.
Though it might seem simple to transform your ILT content into a VILT modality, taking that approach would be detrimental to your employees' learning outcomes. The apparent ease of VILT content conversion is outweighed by the challenges associated with VILT platforms, employee motivation and employee engagement. Instead, it is important to differentiate the learning experience from the overall virtual communication mediums.
Successful outcomes from a content conversion are most often generated when you approach your training with a strategic redesign in mind. By first assessing the unique needs of the remote learner and then building a learning experience around specific performance goals, you can ensure your employees are better equipped to be successful.