The COVID-19 pandemic has caused quite a few changes in the way we do business during 2020. Some of those changes are, likely, here to stay.
UNESCO estimates that more than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries have been affected by school closures as a result of the pandemic. Similarly, the world of professional training and development will likely remain in a state of flux for quite some time as we try to mix and match virtual solutions.
At Apex Food Consultants, we’ve had to revisit our training approach to adapt to a virtual world in order to create meaningful learning experiences and to be mindful of our learners’ needs. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned thus far, along with some industry best practices.
Condense—Don’t Expand—the Virtual Program
According to a 2015 study from Microscoft, the average attention span of an adult is eight seconds. For a brain that subconsciously receives millions of bits of information and only consciously processes 40 to 50 bits of said information, that is a very small radius of focus. As we have entered the digital age, it’s quite normal to be exposed to a lot of data. However, to assimilate the data and synthesize relatable and quality information requires energy, and we all know that our energy is finite.
Be mindful about your audience and remember that they wear many hats in their lives, aside from being participants in your training program. Where possible, condense your program into “just in time” learning bites that participants can apply at work with ease. We’re all trying to cope with with various challenges that have stemmed from COVID-19, so tailor your program to remain flexible.
Keep Up With the Times, and Your Learners’ Needs
For some organizations, introducing training that incorporates augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) within the learning environment may be an upgrade to an existing program. However, just because a program is tech-savvy doesn’t necessarily indicate that it provides a meaningful learning experience. Both professional trainers and learners are adjusting to the world of virtual learning; this transition might take a bit longer for those who signed up for a course to learn from an expert in person and to interact with peers face to face.
Invest in the Right Technology, and Maintain a Back Up
“I think you’re on mute,” has become the new “Hello.” Virtual learning experiences certainly come with a generous helping of technical glitches. In an ideal world, everything is pre-tested, the technology works perfectly, participants and speakers sign in on time, there isn’t an echo chamber, and a cat doesn’t pounce out of nowhere. But, life happens. Invest in a webinar or conference platform that not only works for you, but that is also compatible with your audience’s preference. Certain regions come with their telecommunications restrictions.
Learning that sparks curiosity is learning that works well. Various studies have illustrated the positive effects of gamification on a learner’s ability to grasp new concepts and theories. Consider dividing the audience into groups to solve puzzles as a team or even as individuals who piece together their solutions. Gamification is an area worth exploring if you’re looking to develop long-term virtual training programs.
As with most things, we learn through trial and error. Let perfect not be the enemy of good. Craft virtual training experiences that engage not just your audience members, but also you, as a program facilitator.
No amount of technical hiccups will be able to mask low energy levels that a facilitator may be experiencing. Whenever I schedule virtual programs, especially intense ones, I also schedule a buffer day to recharge myself so that I am fully present for the next group.