By Tricia Heinrich, Senior Director, Strategic Communications, ON24
The big trend in learning continues to be “virtual.” Even as organizations are reducing training and travel budgets, the need to educate and communicate has never been greater.
What Is a Virtual Learning Program?
Virtual learning is the delivery of training in a collaborative virtual environment that engages trainees through the effective utilization of a variety of virtual platform tools, including social media chat, Webcasts, and video. When fully leveraged, these tools encourage interaction and community building.
What Are the Advantages of Virtual Learning?
E-learning can satisfy an enterprise’s need for training while keeping the travel budget in check. According to research firm Gartner, organizations that opt for virtual learning solutions over sending employees to off-site classroom instruction can save about $2,000 per week for each employee trained.
Virtual training allows an organization to reach distributed learners but also, because of its convenience, facilitates participation by trainers and other experts.
And, due to several factors, including economics and convenience, employees, customers, members, and other professionals rely on the Web for information. The growing e-learning trend is actually consistent with what is occurring in our larger world, both professionally and personally. Representing a dramatic paradigm shift in enterprise and social behavior, people are working remotely and limiting travel. Mobile devices are becoming increasingly prevalent. In other words, more than ever before, we are living our lives virtually.
Many professionals actually prefer working, and learning, virtually. ON24 research has shown that participants are more likely to attend a virtual conference than an in-person conference. Interestingly enough, many are also more likely to actively participate in a virtual learning environment. Clearly, there has been a shift, too, in how we learn.
As a result, virtual learning technologies are seen as viable, cost-effective alternatives for satisfying training, continuing education, and professional education requirements. These online solutions are highly interactive and customizable, leveraging evolving 3-D and networking advances to create environments that are ideally suited for meeting attendees’ training and learning needs.
In addition, a virtual environment offers several other advantages, including increased engagement. In fact, research has shown that involvement and attention rates are higher with a virtual e-learning environment than with written material or conference calls.
However, virtual environments for learning and training can lower costs and increase learning only if they focus on trainee engagement and are designed with key best practices in mind.
Successful Teaching in an Online Environment
How, then, is virtual learning success assured?
Sodexo, a leading provider of integrated food and facilities management services, has a robust virtual training program, designed as an innovative delivery system to build interest and capture employee attention. With more than 70,000 employees spread across the country, Sodexo uses virtual training to connect employees in a consistent and cost-effective manner.
Based on a successful track record, Michele Suprunowicz, senior director of Talent Management & Development, developed seven key best practices that “virtually” guarantee virtual learning success:
Other recommended e-learning best practices include the following:
The Result: A Better Learning Experience
While the cost savings made possible by replacing in-person training with virtual training is a primary reason for the recent growth in demand, the quality of the user experience is also a significant factor. Virtual learning programs are proven solutions for connecting with and engaging trainees. People learn and retain more in a rich media, interactive learning environment.
Tricia Heinrich is the senior director of Strategic Communications at ON24, a global leader in Webcasting and virtual events. ON24 provides a full range of applications and services to more than 700 global organizations in publishing, technology, life sciences, government, and financial services. For more information, visit www.on24.com.