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Exploring Virtual Instruction Outside of the Box

Why choose virtual instruction?

Having the ability to teach and give demonstrations in the virtual environment can give companies, organizations, and individual instructors a number of significant advantages. The ability to include interactive elements and multimedia, provide classes that can be watched and re-watched at your audience’s convenience, and teach in varied modalities in order to best match your student’s individual learning styles, are all excellent reasons to enter the virtual world of instruction.

One of the primary pitfalls of traditional instructor-led training (ILT) structures is the amount of time it takes – both in the set-up of the program, associated travel, etc., and the time it takes away from the employee’s job. Self-paced online training allows learners more flexibility to learn when and where they want but lacks social interaction. Virtual learning, however, can provide value that neither self-paced nor in-person training provides.

Many businesses and organizations are moving from the classroom to the virtual world, as well as creating new courses and workshops from scratch. If virtual teaching is new to you, converting your current training content may very well be the easiest first step.

Course Modules

Converted Training Content (CTC)

Creating converted training content (CTC) requires some thought and planning. It takes much more than simply copying and pasting from an instructor’s script to an e-learning module in order to create an enhanced learning experience for your learners.

The first step is to analyze your existing content. Some training topics – such as IT training, onboarding, product/service knowledge, soft skills, certifications, and HR-related training – make better candidates for conversion than others. When considering converting your content, ask yourself:

  • Does the content need to be updated regularly? Digital formats can offer greater agility when updating is required;
  • Does the content serve a large number of learners? If so, CTC will allow greater flexibility in delivering the content to more employees;
  • Will the content be accessed frequently? If the content is referenced regularly throughout the work cycle it will be more accessible if made available virtually;
  • Can the content be learned in smaller pieces? Content that can be broken down into discrete modules can more easily be adapted to CTC. Microlearning is a teaching approach that has come to the forefront in the virtual world. Microlearning lessons typically focus on a single objective, narrowing the training to prioritize the most important concepts which are delivered in short – usually between 5 and 10 minutes – modules. Each micro lesson can function as a building block within a bigger instructional program. This nonlinear approach to learning reflects how adult learners seek out new information to solve everyday challenges.

Once you have chosen your topics for CTC, you can begin to explore the possibilities of introducing multi-media to create a more enriching learning experience than is offered by purely text-based content. Text and written descriptions can be converted into graphics, images, or video clips. “Mouse over” functionality – or hotspots – can focus the flow of information to the learner when pop-up text is combined with the use of the mouse.

Flight Simulator

Simulations

Simulation training puts theory into practice in the virtual world and can include disaster scenarios that allow trainees to react to and solve problems, without exposing their organization or personnel to risk. Some examples include:

  • Flight simulations – which reproduce real-world flight scenarios such as runway takeoffs, landings, and weather conditions;
  • Driving simulations – involve reproducing realistic driving, traffic, parking, and weather conditions;
  • Healthcare simulations – involve replicating real-life medical scenarios with the use of dummy models; and
  • Business simulations – use real-world business scenarios to enhance soft skills development, such as adaptability, teamwork, conflict resolution, critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving.

Studies have shown that failing in a business simulation actually improves learning, as participants are more likely to think about and analyze their decisions when faced with problems in the real world.

Hybrid Teaching

Blended or Hybrid Learning

Blended learning experiences combine in-person, instructor-led training with virtual elements – such as online materials, simulations, or gamification. Providing these additional interactive, digital materials alongside instructor-led training will allow learners to review and experience the material at any time. It can also provide strong visuals for concepts that could be difficult to convey with words alone. The use of multiple modalities will allow you to reach more learners and can help improve training outcomes when facing a diverse audience. Incorporating blended learning also enables instructors to focus on key topics during face-to-face interactions. Classroom time is freed up for more complex topics requiring interaction with the instructor, as learners can study other parts of the curriculum on their own.

Blended learning has been shown to work well with science and engineering lab coursework, where the equipment used can often be expensive and immobile, and labs and group projects often require collaboration. For example, during the 2020-21 academic year Harvard University was required to follow a plan that required all undergraduates to complete all their coursework remotely without access to labs, and graduate students currently only have limited lab access to minimize in-person interaction. The engineering department was able to create a number of ways to compensate for these challenges, such as conducting labs at home using equipment mailed to students and remote-controlled technology. This approach to hands-on learning can be adapted to the workplace in a number of ways:

  • By identifying which sections of the training can be easily delivered online, such as orientation/pre-lectures and demonstrations of techniques;
  • By demonstrating a data collection process and then providing the students with the collected data to analyze; and
  • By scheduling online training sessions at specific times to promote direct student interaction.
Augmented Learning

The Future – Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is an enhanced version of the real physical world that superimposes sound, videos, images, animations, and more to create a holographic effect. Using an AR device, you can manipulate the computer-generated objects in a 3D space, seeing everything as if it were in front of you – and even be able to see inside objects or manipulate the object size. At this time, however, start-up costs for augmented reality training programs can be higher than the alternatives.

There are a number of ways to use Augmented Reality (AR) for training within an organization. Some examples include:

  • Onboarding new employees – a virtual tour of your organization can be created with AR. The new employee can wear AR glasses which allow images, texts, and interactive media to pop up with the relevant information;
  • Experiential Learning – AR can emulate hands-on training for new employees – or current employees requiring training on new equipment or techniques – by giving step-by-step instructions and the opportunity to practice;
  • Heavy Equipment Training – AR is an ideal tool for heavy machinery and equipment training as it can greatly reduce the safety risks and be free of consequences. A simulation of operations, safety checks, equipment failure scenarios, etc. can be created, allowing new employees to gain expertise without any negative consequences in the real world
  • Quality Assessment Training – employees can easily be trained in quality assessment using AR, as they can learn what to check for far more quickly and accurately than just using guide books or manuals;
  • Employee Safety Training – you can dramatically reduce operational costs and training risks by creating safe simulations of unsafe situations with AR;
  • Technical Skills – employees can learn about the parts of a product or piece of equipment by allowing them to see inside and click on the elements for explanations; and
    Multi-Step Tasks – learners will be able to work through troubleshooting products and repair equipment on a step-by-step basis.

Given the inherent advantages of virtual learning, we are certain to see its continued use in the workplace. As technology advances, we can expect great strides in how we provide learners with the knowledge and abilities they need to perform at their best – whether at work or at home.

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