7 Ways To Boost Virtual Learning Retention
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Getting Employees To Apply What They've Learned

Think back. You just facilitated an amazing webinar or launched a great eLearning module. You have incredible evaluation scores and your learners were very appreciative. But will they use what you taught them? Unfortunately, the odds are against you. Research shows that 70% of new information learned is lost within 24 hours. And the culprit is almost always a lack of practical application.

Why Practical Application Matters For Learning Retention

While eLearning itself can boost retention rates compared to in-person training, whether a learner retains the information often lies with how well they are able to apply what they learn. Recent Gartner research has found that only 54% of employees are applying newly learned skills. But why? The short answer is, we learn by doing.

With virtual learning, this can be even more challenging because we don’t have the same kinesthetic learning opportunities that face-to-face classes provide. But there are meaningful things we can do to increase learning retention in our remote training sessions.

How To Boost Virtual Learning Retention

If we want to increase our employees’ learning retention, we need to give our learners opportunities to try out the skills they are learning during the training. We also need to provide the tools they need to apply what they’ve learned.

Here are 7 practical ways to increase learning retention in virtual training:

1. Practice Skills During The Training Season

Whether you are hosting a webinar or developing an eLearning module, repetition is key. By giving your learners the opportunity to try out what they are learning, you can increase their retention. Show them how what they are learning can be used on the job. For eLearning modules, try to incorporate simulations where they can try out the technology they are creating. Give them a chance to demonstrate the skills they have learned by offering scenario-based learning opportunities.

Webinars are a little more difficult to provide skill practice, but breakout groups can help you give your learners the practice they need. Separate your learners into groups of 3-5 employees and provide them with a scenario where they can apply the skills they’ve used.

Often with breakout groups, many employees feel lost or uncertain. Be sure the instructions are clear and give them prompts to direct the conversation. If you can, try to have facilitators checking in periodically with each group.

2. Use Learning Journals During Your Training

Learning journals are often used in school and for good reason. By writing down information you are much more likely to retain it. It also helps you synthesize what you are learning and make meaningful connections between different modules or sessions.

Creating a learning journal can help your participants better focus their attention on key points and ensures they are paying attention to your course or webinar. To get started with creating your own learning journal, take a look at your key objectives. What do your learners absolutely need to know? By identifying the “key facts” from your training, you can create a “fill-in-the-blank” or open-ended question journal that can help your learners better understand your material.

3. Facilitate Group Discussions

A common thing with webinars is a present then ask for questions format. What if there was a better way? Instead of sharing the information you want your learners to know and then having a Q&A session, what if you had a meaningful dialogue about the information presented?

There are several ways to do this, but the easiest is to flip the Q&A around and ask your learners the questions. For example, “What do you think may be most challenging about this for you?” If you don’t get a response (which can be common with online formats), ask a more generic question, such as “Who thinks this may be useful?” Once you get that initial engagement, you can build off of it and ask questions that will facilitate retention.

4. Incorporate Social Learning Into Your Training

When we think of social learning, we often think of learning on the job and those informal interactions that help grow knowledge. But we also have the opportunity to facilitate those interactions in a virtual environment.

By using social software and platforms, we can create discussion boards for employees to engage after the training ends. Software like Facebook’s Workplace even lets you create your own groups that only your organization can view. The key is to make it easy for your employees to engage.

You can also have your learners select accountability partners. They can then schedule follow-up sessions with each other to further explore your topic or check in via email at set times.

5. Have Learners Create An Action Plan

Quizzes are a common way to end an eLearning and assess learner knowledge. While quizzes do have their place in gauging how well your learners understand content, they don’t ensure your learners will apply what they’ve learned.

Instead of a quiz, it may be useful to have your learner create an “action plan” of how they plan to use the information they learned. By asking meaningful questions, you can get them thinking of how the information is relevant to them and increase the likelihood that they will apply their newly learned skills.

6. Provide Supplemental Job Aids

Even the best training doesn’t guarantee that your learners will remember everything they’ve learned. With webinars in particular, there seems to be a trend toward providing participants with a copy of the presentation. While this is often requested, why not go a step further?

Job aids can help supplement your training and give your learners a resource they can use to apply the information on the job. Consider the key points your learners need to know then use this to create a checklist, quick reference guide, or another type of job aid your learners can refer to.

Even better, give them the opportunity to use this job aid during the training with scenario-based learning.

7. Send A Follow-Up Survey Right After Your Virtual Training

Are you currently sending post-training surveys to your employees? If so, what are you asking them? If your training is like most, you probably send out an evaluation, but it may be time for a different approach.

Instead of the traditional post-training evaluation survey, why not ask your employees how they plan to use the skills they’ve learned? You can still send out an evaluation survey a few days later, but this will get them thinking about how to apply the information they’ve learned. In a couple of weeks, you can then check in with a pulse survey to find out if they have applied the information and why or why not.

How Do You Ensure Your Learners Retain Information?

There are many factors that influence whether your employees will retain what they’ve learned. Providing an opportunity to practice the skills they are learning in a virtual environment is just one piece of the puzzle.

We also need to ensure our employees understand how they can use the skills they are learning and that we provide a sense of accountability. By supporting practical application, we can increase the likeliness that our employees retain what they’ve learned. What strategies are you using to ensure your employees will use the skills they learn?

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