Rising Demand For Virtual Leadership Development
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Virtual Leadership Development Programs: The Rising Demand

Interest in leadership development in the corporate training sector is at an all-time high. State of the industry reports, research, and other industry publications identify leadership development as the most critical aspect of corporate Learning and Development (Day, 2000). Private and public sector organizations are spending increasing amounts of capital on in-house leadership development programs, professional leadership consulting, seminar registration fees, and the cost of travel for what has historically consisted of live, Instructor-Led Training. However, COVID-19 and ensuing travel restrictions, social distancing, and cost-control efforts have turned the leadership development industry on its head.

Instructional Designers and eLearning developers are scrambling to convert content specifically designed for in-person delivery to equally effective remote learning experiences. Fortunately, the application of adult learning theory, evidence-based research, and solid design principles coupled with web conferencing technology allow for the rapid adoption of virtual leadership development programs without sacrificing the integrity of the curricula.

Instructional Designers And Adult Learning

Instructional Designers are experts in the field of adult learning and incorporate learning theories proven effective by evidence-based research when designing content, regardless of the delivery format. The curriculum is created specifically to appeal to the unique needs and various learning styles of adult learners. Appealing to adult learners' motivational sources, incorporating a social learning component, and providing a range of learning activities are all key design elements that when coupled with the learning environment and educational content provide engaging and dynamic experiences for learners while maximizing knowledge retention and transfer and minimizing knowledge loss. Educational experiences designed around these elements and proven effective in one format do not require a full re-design and can provide the same impact to organizations and individuals when converted to another delivery format through the application of quick-thinking and creative re-imagining.

Incorporating AGILE Design And Rapid Prototyping

The incorporation of AGILE design and rapid prototyping allows eLearning professionals to maintain design quality while streamlining development processes and significantly reducing production time. Traditional Instructional Design models such as ADDIE drag out the design and development period. ADDIE's five-step development process (analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate) often requires approvals for each phase in order to verify content accuracy and relevance. Converting Instructor-Led Training to eLearning does not require an extensive Analyze or Design phase, as the project underwent a thorough design process when it was originally developed. The conversion does require fast, focused development, which AGILE delivers, placing an emphasis on speed and adopting an interactive and iterative approach to design on pace with business needs.

AGILE learning design is particularly effective when existing courses and learning content require re-purposing for virtual environments, using rapid development tools and techniques such as rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping demonstrates design, function, and User Experience upfront during the development process. eLearning can be implemented immediately and tested with the target audience, avoiding a lengthy assessment and design process. Combined with an AGILE design approach, development leverages user feedback and ongoing evaluation to assess the quality of the eLearning. Incorporating small changes and launching more frequent iterations of the deliverable can ultimately lead to a better course, increase efficiency, and conserve valuable time.

Streamlining The Conversion Process For Leadership Development Offerings

Learning organizations have been known to spend months or even years creating their leadership development offerings, painstakingly designed for the traditional, in-person delivery format. While it may seem unlikely that such programs would lend themselves to a virtual format at all, much less the practice of rapid prototyping, following some simple guidelines helps streamline the conversion process without creating time-consuming design challenges.

  • Change the delivery, not the design
    Well-designed leadership development experiences should lend themselves to any learning modality. Focus on the format and avoid being sidetracked by time-consuming and unnecessary changes to content.
  • Don't overthink it
    The fastest path from Point A to Point B is a straight line, so don't add any avoidable detours to the design or development processes.
  • Leverage technology with restraint
    Identify the eLearning technology required to accomplish learning objectives. Avoid incorporating technology for technology's sake. If a well-designed PDF or PowerPoint has the same impact as a Storyline module, conserve resources, and develop the least labor-intensive option.
  • Know your audience
    Provide the best possible User Experience for learners. Consider accessibility and technological know-how. Anticipate challenges and create resources to answer FAQs, troubleshoot, and ease the transition to the virtual environment.
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