Virtual Learning Environments: Staying Ahead of the Curve

If your organization has not embraced virtual learning, you are behind the curve. No less than 60 percent of business professionals in a national survey plan to increase spending on

If your organization has not embraced virtual learning, you are behind the curve. No less than 60 percent of business professionals in a national survey plan to increase spending on virtual events and environments. Most (42 percent) will be for training and learning purposes.

Admittedly, professional learning communities have been slow to adopt virtual learning environments (VLEs). Their reasons include:

>> The hesitation to adopt a new technology without really understanding its capabilities, and an awareness that it cannot be or do everything right away.
>> The fact that too many technologies are rolled out in existing processes, and VLEs necessitate architectures that their organizations cannot (or in some cases will not) support.

BENEFICIAL COMPONENTS

Yet, a survey conducted last year by a major technology provider indicated that professional trainers feel VLEs do offer significant benefits. For instance:
>> 88 percent of respondents said they appreciate virtual training because it lowers overall training costs;
>> 85 percent felt that corporate training is more efficient when conducted virtually;
>> 77 percent agreed that the travel required to attend physical training sessions is cumbersome and a waste of time.

When another major technology provider surveyed 112 senior learning leaders (all directors and above), the features they most requested in a virtual learning environment were:

>> a virtual classroom inside the environment;
>> assessments;
>> a means to connect to the corporate LMS; and
>> Webcasting with video. Other benefits include:
>> drastically reducing not only overall costs, but also reducing cost per trainee;
>> providing easy access to content, subject-matter experts and peers;
>> blending formal and informal learning;
>> increasing productivity by reducing employees’ time away from their desks; and
>> energizing audiences through online engagement.
>> tracking more than people in seats and assessments, but actually tracking learning behavior and interactions inside the environment.

BASIC DIFFERENCES

Though the uninitiated might not be able to discern a difference between virtual environments and virtual classrooms, there are. Virtual classrooms are makeshift environments that are very limited in scope and are composed of a variety of elements taken from different sources. For instance, they often are placed on corporate intranets like Altus and Connex, and they might look like Web pages but do not allow users any interactions.

Virtual environments, on the other hand, are more complete with fully integrated components that provide a seamless experience for learners.

These latter environments can be purchased in many forms. Some are proprietary
and some are “open-source”; some require downloading a client app; some require passing data back and forth; some are in the cloud; and some are inside the firewall (each creating its own set of security, standards and policies requirements).

What learning professionals should be looking for is an environment that is configurable, flexible, and runs on any device, providing the learner with an incredibly intuitive set of services used to solve business problems.

VLE BEST PRACTICES

1) Offer training or guidance for employees who might be hesitant to use such new technology.

2) Be sure that the conference venue is crisp, spotless and effective, and easily aligned with branding requirements. Use custom visuals and a warm/inviting look and feel, all of which helps learners engage.

3) Schedule in-house subject matter experts to field attendee questions in real time.

4) Offer participants a means (like a local idea management portal or system) into
which they can directly submit ideas from the event.

5) Offer participants a means with which to launch courses hosted on the enterprise LMS to supplement symposia offered within your learning event.

6) After the live event ends, offer the recording of it, so that all employees can access all content whenever it is convenient for them.

7) Update and refresh content weekly, if possible.

—More info: www.intercall.com/services/virtual-environments/

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