The current crisis changed how teachers all over the world instruct students on the required curriculum. With limited time to pivot to remote learning, teachers scrabbled to gather the right resources to deliver lessons through often unfamiliar online channels and digital formats. School systems achieved varying degrees of success in this transition, from successful technology adoption to outright failure. These results feature valuable lessons for corporate learning. If organizations can master these lessons to build a sustainable remote learning strategy, they’ll start seeing performance and business results from their investments in training and development for employees.
1. Successful learning programs need buy-in from all stakeholders
In the transition to remote learning, the range of adoption in education systems varied across the globe. For the states and districts that were able to continue learning from home, there was one common factor that allowed them to execute online learning: collaboration, preparation, and buy-in from everyone involved in the process between administrators, teachers, the school’s technology team, students and parents.
This is not any different in corporate learning. In order for training to gain traction and receive the desired outcomes, the program needs a cross-functional process if it is to be effective. The program needs buy-in from senior leadership, frontline managers, program managers, instructional designers, and most important the learners. The absence of collaboration between these groups will cause even the best-designed learning experiences and content to fail in producing results. Learning is frequently controlled in a top-down fashion in which programs are created based on what management thinks are the most critical learning topics. The best learning programs understand the needs of the learner but are also tied to personal performance goals and overall business objectives.
2. Getting people engaged in learning is difficult
Inspiring students to become engaged and stay engaged in lessons is a difficult part of the challenge. This challenge is even more daunting in online learning. So how did teachers engage students in a time of social distancing while relying on remote learning technologies?
Making the learning process relevant to the students' own life experiences delivers high engagement levels. Here’s a great lesson that corporate learning can take away from school systems: if training isn’t relevant to an employee’s role and if it isn’t obvious how the learning exercise will help them become better at their job and build their careers, they will disengage from the learning process. Another method that works for engaging students which can also be adopted by corporate learning is using game mechanics to make the experience much more enjoyable. Putting people into teams and having them compete on leaderboards or having them solve real problems that they encounter in their everyday work gets them continuously engaged in learning.
3. There is no right way to deliver learning
School education is synonymous with traditional in-person classroom learning methods. That’s why the move to online learning, for most, was a difficult transition. School systems who successfully got students to continue to go through the curriculum using online learning received good feedback that it was a method of learning that they highly prefer. Regardless if it’s learning through a classroom, a Zoom training session, or asynchronous learning, what we know is that using a blended learning approach adds a variety of different styles of learning for everyone.
Even before the current situation, too many organizations relied heavily on traditional learning methods, including in-person training or SCORM courses through a learning management system (LMS). Exploring blended learning that combines active learning and self-learning helps build people’s knowledge and skill sets more frequently for professional development in their current role and for future career growth. If there is one thing that all learning programs must include is knowledge reinforcement. Training can’t be a one-time event, when materials are first presented they must be continuously reinforced using spaced learning to help people retain information over time. When knowledge reinforcement is positioned as part of the overall learning experience, it makes a blended learning program much more cohesive and keeps people engaged from the start to finish.
4. Learning content and programs need constant tweaking
Remote learning is rarely successful on the first try. Teachers in the current transition failed to get students to login, learn the curriculum, and complete assignments online. Understanding what went wrong with their learning program gave teachers the opportunity to learn from the mistakes and adjust the programs for the next session.
Corporate learning leaders can learn from this approach because frequently the same programs are delivered over and over to employees without the benefit of an analysis of efficacy or feedback from learners. Here’s where analytics comes into play to understand the effectiveness of a remote learning program. Learning data analytics explore questions such as:
- What content or programs saw high engagement rates?
- Which programs were too easy or too hard resulting in learners disengaging?
- What content authors developed courses that saw high improvement on proficiency and received great feedback from the audience?
Giving learners a channel to provide feedback to the course authors helps eliminate a course that didn’t work and continue tweaking courses that saw valuable learning outcomes. It becomes even more valuable when new employees come onboard so trainers have insights into the best learning programs to enroll them in for the best experience.
5. The way learning is assessed and measured doesn't prove people know it
Transitioning from classroom training to remote learning presented teachers with challenges in the efforts to objectively assess and grade students. Many teachers graded students based on their attendance, participation, or completing an assignment while taking online classes. Learning was assessed with a pass or fail versus more granular measurements that demonstrate actual learning gains.
Corporate learning professionals face the same challenges. Employees historically attend traditional classrooms or complete eLearning courses that only measure attendance, participation, or completion of a course. What these learning measurements don’t tell us is:
- Has anyone learned anything?
- Can they remember what they learned down the line?
- And can they apply what they have learned in real-life context?
Usually, school systems assess students the same way, once students attend a lecture they follow-up with a test to answer questions and then receive the results which are an overall score of how many questions they got right. What’s missing is immediate feedback on how you responded to those questions and an explanation of the correct or incorrect response. An explanation gives the learner context and clarity to understand the material for future recollection of information.
When students return to the classroom, a pass or fail score won’t determine if students are ready for the next level. Many students spend less time learning at home, meaning not all curriculum was delivered or it’s uncertain what was delivered or retained. Once schools reopen, teachers will need to develop a baseline understanding of each students’ current proficiency levels to find out what knowledge was lost or to see where they need to begin their curriculum.
Corporate training faces the same challenge. When training courses are being developed, content is created based on what training teams think people know or what they want them to learn. It’s much more effective to get an understanding of what the learner currently knows and develop training around the specific areas people have weak proficiency in. Given the changes businesses experienced during the pandemic, it will require training departments to do an assessment of people’s current knowledge levels to refresh their learning or to upskill and reskill them so they are prepared for the future.
Above shows a proficiency improvement graph on how the learner responded to a learning exercise the first time and then how they improved overtime on the same material after reviewing and reinforcing the content.
6. Rely on the learning technology experts
The schools that had a smooth transition moving from the classroom to remote learning and saw high adoption had the resources and expertise in using learning technology. Teachers who had no experience using Zoom or Google Classroom relied on internal resources like computer teachers and IT teams to help them roll out remote learning to students. If those resources weren’t available, schools had to outsource learning technology experts to bring in the proper tools and resources to set up students with remote learning. Many organizations faced the same obstacles when launching remote learning programs for employees. It’s common that they don’t have the in-house resources or tools for scaling learning programs to a large audience of employees or their current learning systems aren’t supporting the needs of the business or the learner. A lot goes into delivering a good learning program from setting up the technology, content development, and planning the programs so that it's aligned with business objectives.
Qstream is a microlearning platform that is used to deliver learning programs at scale using an engaging experience to help reinforce learning and increase proficiency. Qstream’s client services team are experts running thousands of microlearning programs with some of the world’s largest organizations. Our professional services include: content development best practices, instructional design services, content review, program setup and launch, reporting and analytics, and strategic consulting.
Are you looking for a remote learning solution that’s proven to work? Watch this 2-minute video of how Qstream microlearning is used.