• Sarah Stone

Can we get the recent uptake virtual training to stick?

Starting my career as an IT trainer in the early noughties just as online training was gaining momentum, I couldn’t help but worry about the longevity of my chosen profession.  So, I did what many of my colleagues did at the time and diversified as many of us thought all computer training would go on-line and face-to-face training would go the way of the fax machine.

But an interesting thing happened. Whilst there’s no doubt on-line training is very popular, face-to-face training is still around and is more popular than ever!  You only need to jump on Google or Linkedin to see how many providers there are to meet the ever-increasing demand. 

Fast forward to 2020 and the meteoric rise of virtual training due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Almost overnight a plethora of virtual training experts and courses appeared.

But do we need to stop and ask ourselves: “can we keep up the momentum and get virtual online training to stick?"

Why hasn’t virtual training been more popular? Why do you hear groans around the office whenever you get an email asking you to do any form of on-line training? Why when I tried to book an IT course last year and despite it not being available for months, did I not even consider an online option?.

Maybe we need to look at how we got here and what we can do to start to turn the tide?

Online or virtual online training shouldn’t be the default “because it’s cheaper”.

Firstly this is not necessarily the case, translating activities and content into a virtual or online format can be time consuming to develop, therefore expensive to produce. This is fine if you’re going to be rolling it out to a large group and it’s a subject that won’t be out of date within months of producing it, but I know teams that have worked for months producing content for an rollout only for it to be obsolete due to changes within a matter of weeks.

Then there’s the question of value, if it’s not going to deliver the value or deliver on the business case, then it’s not cheap … it’s a waste of money.

Don’t assume people know what virtual online training is.

You know what assumption makes us! So it's up to us to ensure people know what it is and why it's great. Before you start your virtual online training rollout, consider approaching team leaders and managers to include something in their toolbox talks or team meetings to communicate:

  • the fact the training is instructor-led - so they can ask questions and get involved

  • the benefits of the session to individuals - in other words "what's in it for them"

  • what you’ve done to make it great

It’s a good idea to include a cheat sheet that can be distributed explaining the tech and accessing the course on the day.

Sorry to say, but any form of online training has a bad reputation for quality.

Rightly or wrongly, online training doesn't have a great reputation for quality. So to maintain the momentum for virtual online training, we need to reverse this negative perception as technology and our ability to integrate instructor led training with online tools has come a long way since Clippy

Also think about your comms and keep the language positive. Whilst the training may be “mandatory” or “compulsory” try not to make it appear like a chore ... rather it's something people will want to do to further their development.

Here's a video that might give you some insight into how perception impacts our reality.

The virtual training revolution could be very positive for organisations, participants and trainers. I know as a trainer I've been on projects that involved weeks on end flying home on a Friday night, only to have to fly out again on Sunday afternoon to continue the training rollout.

It really is up to us as leaning professionals to make the most of this opportunity, albeit that it's come about under such a terrible set of circumstances.

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