Are you just about to design or to buy a virtual learning programme? Here are some tips for you based on the experiences of Impact’s Italian team. Impact Italia has developed, designed, sold and delivered a wide range of virtual programmes over the last few years, combining different technologies to create inspirational, experiential and effective learning journeys.
Focus on learning goals, not just on technology
Virtual learning tools and platforms often seem complicated, unusual and far from intuitive to use. Trying to master these unfamiliar tools can easily become a goal in itself, sometimes eclipsing the learning goals that they are there to help you achieve!
Keep yourself focused on your original goal: developing new skills, attitudes and mindsets through powerful learning experiences. Technology is just a new means we can use to achieve that.
Yes, you need to master the technology, but don’t get hung up on it. If the programme was taking place in a conference room, you'd be more concerned about the quality of the facilitation than the colour of the seats, right?
Make it social!
Virtual learning, especially if delivered asynchronously, can feel lonely and isolating. Whilst it is certainly convenient to allow learners to choose when, where and how they log on to learn, it can also lead to a loss of class/team atmosphere, causing disconnect between learners, facilitators and content. This in turn can result in a lack of engagement and a loss of real-time feedback.
In our experience, synchronous virtual learning is more effective. Creating a virtual classroom gives better interaction and a more experiential way of learning. Social learning is powerful and inspiring and - even in a virtual environment - it can add a sense of closeness, presence and excitement. Delivering these synchronous experiences as part of a wider blended learning programme is even more effective.
Keep it functional and timely
Interactions and experiential activities are often rightly considered to be success criteria for learning. They generate engagement and awaken delegates not just cognitively, but also emotionally and behaviourally.
This might be true in a face-to-face environment, but is it exactly the same in a virtual environment? What are the peculiarities?
Time in online classes is different. People do things more slowly; it takes more time to understand tasks or questions, to listen, to answer and to interact - because doing these relies on each person managing the technology.
With this in mind, don’t feel pressured into adding too many activities into a virtual programme. When building the design, ask yourself: is this element worth it? What impact will it have online? Can the technology easily support this idea?
Adding interaction is not about entertainment alone. It should be functional and purposeful. The rule of thumb should be: if it doesn’t add to the learning experience, leave it out.
Make it customised
When engaging people in virtual learning journey, is always important to provide a highly customised product. Ask yourself:
- What is the amount of time needed to complete all the activities (learning platforms, assignments, webinars, mobile app…)? Is it achievable given the participants’ schedules?
- How many different virtual tools are involved? Are they all necessary?
- Are the participants used to the technology? Do they need support? Do they need extra time to adapt to it?
How do YOU feel about virtual learning?
If you are buying, designing, delivering or even just participating in a virtual learning programme, ask yourself: How do I really feel about learning and technology?
If you are too sceptical you may not even engage with the technology or you may fail to see the potential it could offer your company. If you are too enthusiastic about it you could be at risk of making decisions based more on your excitement than on what is really needed in terms of learning. Our beliefs can have a very strong influence on our behaviours and opinions.
Our suggestion is keep it real! Get your hands dirty and experiment tools and technology, but always keep the focus on the learning purposes and objectives.
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