Yes, the learners you serve are getting increasingly global in nature. Whether they work in Beijing, Berlin, Boston or Buenos Aries, providing teams with the needed skills and knowledge takes time and is expensive in both real and opportunity costs. Your clients may have asked for virtual and you feel a bit awkward because you don't currently have the capability to check that box. Based on our experience in helping clients add virtual training capabilities, here are some virtual learning pros and cons that you'll want to consider before moving in that direction.
1. More time in class to practice and apply - The average two-day in-person workshop requires the participant to travel the day before and be away from their clients for more that two days. That can be a deterrent for many participants. In addition, they need to take all of what they have learned over those two days and begin to apply that knowledge. After two days out of the office? May not be a priority. This is not the case with virtual learning.
In a virtual session, learners experience 90 minute to 2 hours of focused learning. In a multi-module course, it may be offered as 90 minute modules over a series of weeks. This allows the participants time to reflect on and apply what they have learned. In addition to the application of small chunks of learning, participants can discuss and get feedback on victories and challenges of real life application during the next session.
2. Reduced total training costs - Let me clear up one misconception right away, virtual training costs are about the same as in-person from the content creation and instructor perspective. The cost saving is in elimination of travel expenses for people either attending or instructing a training program. Meals, planes, trains and lodging disappear! This is a solid number that you can calculate! A less tangible, but a savings still worthy of consideration is that two full days aren't removed from their time with clients. Only 3 to 3.5 hours a session for a few weeks. This includes the time for inter-session work between sessions.
3. Efficiencies in both training staff and training facilities - Last year, one of our global clients remarked that utilizing virtual learning reduced the need to have a physical trainer in each geographical region. In addition, he was excited that the best trainers could now easily be utilized over a broader geographic area and could touch more learners. After three years using virtual delivery they were also able to identify where they could make reductions in regional training facilities.
1. Learners may not have the needed technology - Recently in a learning session, a skills demonstration video was utilized and many of the participants didn't have the computer audio required to listen to the example. While a work around enabled everyone to hear using a different method, end user technology and bandwidth should be a consideration.
2. Your current learning team may lack instructional designers trained in virtual to transition the content - The blending of adult learning principles and a virtual classroom require an instructional design that is quite different from an in-person design. Many organizations mistakenly think that they can simply divide up the current in-person design into smaller modules with a few tweaks utilizing tools offered by the virtual platform. For numerous reasons that we discuss in another article, virtual workshop modules must utilize specific virtual design principles for maximum engagement and learning transfer. I've seen when this doesn't happen and it's not pretty.
3. Your current instructor staff may not be ready for the engagement challenge of virtual delivery - Can an everyday driver like you and me transition to driving for NASCAR or Formula One racing overnight? Obviously not. My point is that while they are both using driving skills to operate a vehicle, the complexity of the environment requires a different skill set. The same applies with virtual instruction. As with anything that requires a specialized skill set, some instructors will thrive and some will fail to make the cut. You'll also find that some may have no interest in trying virtual. From our experience, the bell curve applies where 20% will thrive and 20% will fail. This means that if you have 10 instructors interested in virtual, two probably won't be able to make the transition and two will be solid instructors.