For learning and development teams, the current crisis was less of a future shock than a “what now?” shock. It isn’t a question of considering upcoming trends and taking the time to find the right solution to particular circumstances. The question facing them is, “what system can we use now to keep our training going?”.
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Companies that had invested in mixed training were better placed, for three main reasons:
- They kept a competitive advantage by keeping their partners and customers in learning mode using topical virtual learning sessions on the company’s value propositions
- They could facilitate redeployment of staff as their training capacity was fit for purpose
- They could continue upskilling and reskilling their workforce and onboarding newly hired people.
The lesson being learned is that any solution must be sustainable, as the investment should cover the different scenarios that businesses currently face. From its own experience, Barco has identified a number of criteria when it comes to distance learning. The ideal solution should be:
- Synchronous, real-time for maximum inclusion and connection
- Easy deployable, with all the benefits of an SaaS solution
- Purpose-built to be able to focus on student engagement and interactivity
- A natural environment for trainers where they stand in front of their audience to present their usual content.
The case for remote learning
Barco is a technology company with offices and R&D/manufacturing facilities in 29 countries. So streamlining the communication and training is important. Everyone must be catered for, from workers learning soft skills to global R&D teams being trained in the latest technologies and customer service teams receiving updates on sometimes very technical issues as new products or updates are rolled out. The time constraints on senior management also meant that any training platform would have to offer very high value. Another upside is that remote learning can significantly reduce travel – and therefore improve sustainability – by reducing a company’s carbon footprint. The improved time management also reduces the pressure that travel puts on travelers and their family life.
Four years ago, Barco put their minds to developing a solution that offers all the benefits of in-class training without the need to be in the same room. This was the impetus behind weConnect, the learning platform that turns distance into a benefit.
According to Piet Vandenheede, Director Global Training, Barco University, “We had a number of HQ learning and development initiatives that were pretty good but limited in time. This restricted people from joining in the HQ, and even more outside HQ. We needed some way to include more people - particularly from the regional offices. We wanted something synchronous in real time and online. weConnect answers that.”
Peter Liu, Barco University, Shanghai was facing a similar situation. “In the Asian Pacific operations, our people are spread across different regions. It’s challenging - and not cost-effective – to always organize training in one location. Our employees are also requesting bite-sized learning to get knowledge and learning in a continuous way. So we needed a platform that can deliver training that is similar to a classroom experience. weConnect provides a perfect fit.”
Getting distance learning up to speed
In the current situation, being able to start adopting a solution fast is important. “weConnect was developed so as not to be complex from an implementation point of view,” says Liu. “It requires a minimum amount of hardware to get going. In our case, we used our existing Barco LCD displays, for example.”
Vandenheede adds a tip. “When you do this sort of thing, it’s important to coordinate closely with your corporate IT people so you do the right thing in terms of scaling and bandwidth and the whole experience is flawless for the tutor and students. You also have to take enough time to ensure the adoption happens properly. You need that first experience for both teachers and students – a dry run. It’s very simple, but once you experience it, you’ll never go back.”
Teachers: adapting courses to a new learning experience
The goal of training is obviously to impart knowledge. One of the keys to retention is engagement1. So a successful system is one that pushes people to interact with the tutor. In the case of weConnect, interactive tools allow students to participate (and tutors to monitor who is up to speed or not). “It’s very easy to bring people together, have interactive quizzes and polls, as well as whiteboarding and sharing content,” says Liu. This gives the participants a greater sense of being together in a class.
For the teachers, the move from in-class training to remote is natural. “Only a minimal effort is needed to include interactive elements such as polls in your material,” says Vandenheede. “You simply add them to your deck and apply the poll tool.”
For more impact, break your courses down
One thing that rapidly becomes clear with distance learning is the need to break the courses into smaller sections. Full-day online training sessions are not ideal, as screen fatigue kicks in. The ideal format for retention is to break the courses into one– to two-hour sessions and then come back to them later and move forward again according to Vandenheede. This natural cycle makes things easier to digest and fits in with the current trend that sees learning as an ongoing process rather than one-off events2. “Both trainers and learners love weConnect very much,” says Liu. “You could never imagine having such a learning experience online using traditional conferencing tools such as WebEx, Teams or Zoom.”
Vandenheede adds a last benefit of running regular effective training: “What is very powerful now is the agility with which you can reach customers with topical learning sessions,” he says. “For example, the number of external people attending one of our virtual classroom training sessions has quadrupled in the first four months of 2020 alone. This is not a temporary initiative; this is here to stay. When you keep a strong communication line with your customer base they do not have to start looking elsewhere.”
 Jarvis, Peter (2009). The Routledge International Handbook of Lifelong Learning. Oxon: Routledge
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