The End of the (Training) World as We Know It
During the two years of the global COVID-induced lock-down, the world went virtual: Virtual reality, virtual training, virtual workplaces, virtual live performances. At first, the world wondered, “Would it work?” Clearly, the answer is yes. Two years into the pandemic and the question has evolved to “Will it remain?” In the world of training, the related big question is “Will face-to-face training return when we reach herd immunity?” The answer to both questions is the same: Yes, somewhat.
Virtual learning has become a reality in a way that technologists and corporate CFOs had only dreamed of thirty years ago. It has been a cost-efficient way to transmit information at a time when any distance was too far to warrant getting together. But “virtual,” by definition, is not the same as the real thing, and the more complex the content, the more in-person training shines.
The most complex content is that which either involves highly sophisticated technical skills or using judgment to interact with other people. When we speak, we use three communications systems simultaneously: our words, body language, and voice. The brain processes all three systems’ outputs simultaneously to derive meaning. Shaping the outputs just right so the interpretation is consistent with the original intent is among the most complex tasks we humans do. Teaching this over a computer is possible, but not as effective because we cannot see the subtleties of the body language nor hear the voice in quite the same way.
What does the future of training look like? As with the work world, training likely is going to take a more hybrid approach in the future. Flipped learning is going to become more of the norm. Developed in the early 2000s, flipped learning inverts the traditional balance between in-class and at-home learning. Participants learn the basics at home and use classroom time to deepen understanding through facilitated discussions and collaborative problem-solving activities. Training programs will continue to use online learning for the basics and in-person events for the capstone events like brainstorming, discussions, or final practices on the most complex scenarios.
Taking such an approach brings the best benefits of all types of training. It:
- Requires people to take more ownership of their own learning
- Encourages interpersonal networking
- Encourages collaborative learning
- Enables trainers to provide more meaningful feedback to learners.
- Reduces training costs