Future proof your organisation’s development with virtual learning

Are you prepared for the future of work? In this blog series, we address current topics within the Talent Management space and discuss common challenges companies face in an ever-changing working climate. 

In this article, Visma’s experts on learning, Anders Hildingsson and Marcus Johansson, share their tips and best practices on how organisations can succeed in implementing virtual learning.

Through challenging times, workplace learning is inevitable

First things first. When faced with challenging circumstances the value of accessible learning opportunities is imperative for organisations to remain agile and for employees to stay relevant.

In the last few months, how to support and engage a remote workforce, and provide the digital solutions they need for online meetings, webinars and e-learning, has become a top priority for organisations regardless of industry or size. Many companies are already used to working remotely, while others are entirely new to the concept. The good news is that no matter your organisation’s level of remote work experience, transferring your learning to a virtual space is easier than you might think. 

In line with the digital transformation, workplace learning now encompasses a bundle of opportunities, whether you’re considering moving your traditional, face-to-face learning practice to a virtual classroom environment in response to:

  • a fast-changing work environment, reduced travel and increased numbers of home-based employees
  • or, as part of your ongoing strategy to maintain competence and skills that today come with a shorter expiration date than ever before 

What are the main benefits of transferring in-person classrooms to virtual classrooms?

Transferring to virtual learning requires a change of behaviour for the whole organisation, both for instructors and employees. 

“Leadership is essential to encourage a shift in mindset. But when organisations do the transfer and realise the benefits of distance learning, they will continue to develop their new way of work,” Marcus says.

Virtual classrooms are commonly more convenient and flexible than in-person classrooms. Virtual classrooms reduce time and costs that would normally be associated with classroom training, including travel, location, learning materials and catering.

A change from in-person classrooms to virtual classrooms also puts focus on educational pedagogy. Instructors have to reflect on their teaching methods which probably makes learning better in the end. 

“An essential part of the change for successful distance learning is to help the participants take even more control of their own planning and their own goals. It is crucial for the participants to understand what they should learn and why they should learn it. Interesting methods to create engagement can be creating custom surveys to support the individual planning or designing test enhanced learning, where you use the test functionality to create learning materials,” Anders highlights.

How can instructors best adapt their methods and material to the virtual classroom?

Firstly, Anders recommends that instructors analyse their content and break it down into smaller parts, due to the possible risk of multitasking when attending an online session. Instructors should especially think about which parts are suitable to present in the virtual classrooms and which parts can be studied individually? Often it’s a better idea to replace a six-hour-long in-person class with two one-hour virtual classrooms and four hours of self-study. 

“It is important that the instructor plans for as much interaction as possible to maintain engagement and focus. Before each virtual class, instructions should be sent to encourage participants to prepare for the topic in order to be able to participate in discussions, polls, tests and so on. When participants show up prepared, it brings out richer conversations and more interesting discussions,” Anders says.

8 tips on how to engage participants in virtual classrooms

Creating fun and interactive learning experiences virtually can seem a bit tricky and requires instructors to rethink their methods of getting the most important points across. Virtual classrooms commonly offer functionalities to support the instructors in leading the training and keeping the participants focused and engaged. 

Here are Marcus and Anders top tips on how to engage participants attending a virtual learning session:

1. Warm welcome: A personal approach from the instructors when the participants join the virtual session creates a good atmosphere. Use, for example, video or share pictures from your location.

2. Find time for coffee breaks and conversations: Make sure to communicate when the breaks are scheduled at the beginning of the session and open up for informal conversations in between.

3. Ask questions along the way: To maximise learning outcomes, instructors can ask questions throughout the session using polls and text chat in the learning system. 

4. Breakout rooms: Divide the participants into smaller groups to encourage discussions. Appoint a leader per breakout room responsible for sharing to the whole group.

5. Evaluations as learning material: Create evaluations with questions leading towards knowledge. The instructor can see the results live.

6. Tests with open questions: Use tests with where the participants are able to write long answers. The instructor can follow up on the answers during the session.

7. Work together: Participants mark their opinion e.g. in a grid on the whiteboard. The instructor organises the responses.

8. Quick questions: Continuously ask quick questions, answer with icons, text or chat. Perhaps the most important issue for the instructor is to focus on the interaction with the participants.

Watch Anders and Marcus talk about virtual learning in the video above.

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