Digital learning has taken on a whole new meaning during the pandemic. Increased usage of this medium is significant, in certain cases more then 70% increase in digital learning initiatives. With the advent of this increased activity online, there are some challenges that may not be evident off hand, but, create a daunting landscape indeed. Issues faced by online training providers include:
Creating custom material in limited time
Improving completion rates
Integrating content into existing LMS’s
Expanding their training catalog
Providing access from any device
Effectively communicating new courses
Generating relevant reports
Adapting content to many profiles
Keeping the attention of the delegates
Finding ways to involve everyone, not only the visible / active delegates
Ensuring movement, to keep the delegates awake instead of stuck in one position
In one particular incident a client put 73 delegates onto a training workshop being run on Zoom, without warning. Challenges, apart from the above listed ones, included:
Managing such a large number, including prep time for activities / engagement etc.
Being able to see only 6 delegates and all the others were not visible.
No sound was heard from any of the delegates since everyone was told to put their mics on mute to ensure no background noise disturbed the meeting.
With that number, getting involvement is actually more dangerous than not. Risk of losing control: If even 30% of them start asking questions or talking, it becomes unmanageable.
- Material download times and activity management was out the window
The understanding deficit between providers of training and the buyers for their services is clear.
Top of the agenda for providers is Engagement. Media mix takes on new meaning and multiple avenues require utilization and adaptation. These could include:
- Group activities
- AR / VR
- Individual Assessments / Questionnaires
- Tests / Quizzes
- Online simulations
- Real life simulations
- Experiential (Hands on) Activities
- Brainstorming sessions
- Questions to be responded to on chat
- Riddles / puzzles / Energizers
- Team coaching
- Self / Team evaluations
- Templates / Best practices / Handouts etc.
These challenges become more intense if one considers the blended learning model, or virtual or digital options or even dual facilitators in different locations dealing with delegates based out of multiple locations. Managing connectivity, cultural sensitivities, relevant examples etc. becomes a formidable undertaking.
Keeping people engaged, interested, involved and participating was always key, but now is a whole new discipline in itself. The focus is squarely on ensuring people stay connected, engaged and present. The deluge of marketing emails one receives for products / approaches / services on the subject is laborious to go through and mostly the same old thing, but re-packaged / re-positioned.
On top of all the above aspects, Self-discipline plays a part since accountability, presence, connection is more difficult to ensure then in a classroom. Sitting on your bed, in pajamas, is not really pushing one to focus and remain engaged. Technological challenges (Sound quality / Connectivity / WIFI Bandwidth or data plans / printing handouts via downloads from the session etc.) all play their part. Additionally, lack of physical connection / contact with peers or the facilitator limits the healthy exchange and flow of thoughts. Instant and visually communicated aspects always take precedence in terms of their importance over a digital connection.
All of this is not to say digital learning does not have a place or does not add value. It surely does, and has played its part in times that did not provide the luxury of physical presence. But, given the opportunity, I would choose the physical realm any day, over possible digital options.
For all its ingenuity, progress and technical prowess, online training cannot replace the human touch / connections one makes with peers/facilitators in a classroom environment. The classroom provides a more conducive environment to engage. Every nuance, eye contact, body movement/language provides insight to the facilitator as to the energy levels, engagement, interest, confusion etc. that people may be experiencing at any given time in a session/workshop.
For all the challenges mentioned above, there are certainly opportunities / Possible fixes / Mitigation strategies etc. etc. It is the future and the logical way forward. Just highlighting complexities in this genre that people need to keep in mind when assessing its viability and effectiveness.
The digital revolution was thrust upon us far too suddenly and adaptation of the digital world had to be rapid and instant, to survive. Although impressive in its success, its adaptation is on-going and may take several innovations/iterations before we become fully comfortable and engaged, to gain optimal benefits from it. It is the future nonetheless, and embrace it we must, albeit, with awareness and certain provisos.
Author: Uzair Hassan CEO 3H Solutions Group (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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