7 Tips For A Strategic Approach To Virtual Learning To Meet Remote Workforce Needs

Meet Remote Workforce Needs With Virtual Learning
Summary: Today’s workforce is to a large extent remote, diverse, and sometimes disconnected. Hence, it’s more important than ever to offer knowledge, skills, and social connection reliably to all employees regardless of location. Meeting your remote employees’ needs is critical to business success.

Virtual Learning Strategy

Organizations have changed significantly both in employees’ work locations and their connection to the organizations’ needs and culture. The need for greater flexibility and resilience has been apparent to all of us. While many organizations have been able to deliver consistent virtual learning programs, some are still struggling through this shift, and some are focused solely on knowledge and skills transfer without the support of social connection. Now is the time to take a more strategic look at virtual learning and ensure it meets your employee training as well as social connection needs. Use these 7 tips to get strategic about how virtual learning can meet your remote workforce needs.

1. Virtual Learning Must Be Active Learning 

If in the past a few passive page-turners slipped into your curriculum, you could compensate with some high-energy in-person training or short engaging interactions. Now, most employees sit in front of the computer for hours at a time. How can these computer-fatigued learners be engaged if all they’re required to do in an eLearning module is click “next”?

Instead, design your virtual learning programs to mimic more natural human behavior online: deliver it in short bursts, with video, animation, and are-you-still-paying-attention quizzes, with opportunities for interaction—forums, Q&As, and storytelling.

2. Virtual Learning Must Reflect Your Company Culture

Incorporating company culture is not just for onboarding. Especially for a distributed workforce, virtual learning is an opportunity to reinforce company identity and core values. This is important for even the most seasoned learners.

Some ways to incorporate your company culture in virtual learning include:

  • Use a visually consistent and engaging approach. Each organization has their own culture and values reflected in the company’s brand. The “look and feel” of your learning programs should align with this. Knowing what the brand stands for will also help you in positioning the learning.
  • Address how the content applies in your organization. What is different about how you do things in your organization, and why? The learning topics may be generic (manufacturing process, procurement process, legal, and compliance topics), but knowing how they are shaped by your company’s values, policies, and procedures could give your training programs an edge.
  • Why is knowing the content important for the organization and for the learner? Lack of employee buy-in and connection will affect motivation and make retention more difficult. As learning professionals, we know how important the “what’s in it for me” aspect of training is. Learning programs should be clearly beneficial to the learner and easily translatable to the impact on the company.

Company culture and identity are important for alignment, and for a sense of pride and belonging, which improve motivation and retention.

3. Make Virtual Learning A Process, Not An Event

Spacing learning content over time—what we call “distributed learning”—has always been a good idea because it reduces overwhelm and increases retention. Applying this concept can take many forms:

  • Simply offer the content in smaller modules, spread over time
  • Offer Just-In-Time support when the need for the specific knowledge or skill arises
  • Use hands-on demonstrations to assess skills learned
  • Involve the learner further by having them coach new learners

4. Virtual Learning Must Include Opportunities For Social Or Soft Interactions

Identify all the learning components that cannot be completed in traditional face-to-face form and create alternative remote activities that will substitute for them. Examples include mentoring sessions, group activities, facilitated sessions, and workshops. Here’s a helpful list for converting activities and adding interaction to virtual learning.

Before each training session, allocate a few minutes for participants to share their personal updates and challenges. This type of check-in helps people put aside distractions, connect with others around common interests and challenges, and feel a sense of belonging, all of which makes them more inclined to be present in the training session.

If you previously started your training sessions with a safety moment, you could broaden that to also address subjects related to remote working or issues associated with isolation.

5. Virtual Learning Must Challenge The Learners

Motivation is a huge concern for remote workers. Smart, attainable challenges can uplift the learners and motivate them, improving the whole team or community. Virtual learning experiences should include:

  • Gamification components since competition and rewards can motivate continued engagement with virtual learning.
  • Content that stimulates creativity and collaboration among learners and offers opportunities for problem-solving. Design these scenarios carefully. Challenges that are too easy can fail to engage or create a false impression of proficiency, while content that is too challenging can create frustration and reduce motivation.

6. Use Virtual Learning To Engage Learners’ Hearts And Minds

Emotional connection is everything for us as human beings. While not every learning program needs to be a tear-jerker or a feel-good movie, finding ways to incorporate emotional connection in learning increases engagement and retention. Human beings almost never make decisions or effect behavioral change without an emotional factor in play.

The most used technique of capturing the learner’s heart? Storytelling. Tell a story whenever possible, there are always case studies, testimonials, successes, and failures in the organization. Use them to craft your story for each learning. This is necessary if your training includes a Call-To-Action. Start by asking what kind of emotion you want to awaken in your audience. Then, follow a classic story structure that has a beginning, middle, and end. Do not forget to tie the story to specific outcomes and learning points, and vary the tone as the story unfolds. Check out this short video about incorporating emotion in learning.

7. Use Proven Design And Development Methodologies When You Expand Your Virtual Learning Offerings

With so many types of learning deliverables and so many ways to offer them to learners, it’s tempting to slap some content together and see what flies. Fast fail can be useful to quickly test and evolve your offering—but it’s best for testing and exploration. For the development of whole courses and curricula, proven design and development methodologies are lifesavers.

Proven design and development methodologies:

  • Focus your work and budget on key outcomes
  • Help you pick the best deliverable for the content and audience
  • Guide you to successful, integrated design decisions for structure, interaction, visual design, sound, and all other aspects
  • Streamline your development with repeatable processes
  • Bake in quality control

For the best results jumpstarting or expanding your virtual learning offering, we recommend using proven design and development processes that are adapted specifically to the remote setting and current technologies. You can learn more in this learning series, which guides employees newly tasked with creating their own training, teaches non-experts how to be successful in developing virtual learning programs, and describes the virtual learning design and development process.

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Obsidian Learning
Obsidian develops custom, interactive learning programs that engage learners, accelerate skills development and boost overall business performance. We're a team of learning professionals with a passion for creating effective learning experiences.