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East Midlands Chamber News

The lessons learnt from training online

The transition from the physical to online world has been a journey repeated in almost every aspect of our lives at home and work since the beginning of lockdown. For East Midlands Chamber’s business training manager Vicki Thompson (pictured), it’s forced her team into new ways of thinking about how to deliver practical workplace learning without the stigma that online training can bring, as she explains.  

In many ways, online training is nothing new, but how we define it has certainly changed over the past few months.

Pre-Covid, we already had some platforms for what you would traditionally call online training, a structured and taught remote learning exercise.

But after being forced by lockdown in March to take a step back and come up with new ideas about how we deliver our programmes, we have responded with our first real commitment to training online, which is how I prefer to define it – or an interactive virtual classroom experience.


What’s the difference between online training and training online?

What we’d call online training is the type of web-based distance training that can be carried out anytime, anywhere.

It will generally be self-paced, include a video and require the learner to answer multiple-choice questions before moving on to the next module. Many companies will use this to equip employees with knowledge about topics such as data security or workplace equality.

Training online, however, is something altogether different. We use video calling platforms such as Zoom and GoToTraining, and have put a lot of time into working out the best delivery.

These platforms mean the trainer and delegates can see each other, and we can move slides to the side of the screen during discussions between participants so conversations flow better.

During practical tasks, the trainer can also see all the delegates’ screens in order to monitor how they’re getting on with the activity, and provide assistance where necessary.

These are just small things that make the learning experience better and feel like a classroom as much as possible.

Benefits of training online

The most obvious benefit of training online is that we’ve been able to continue with staff development, which is critical to the growth of a business and its employees.

We’ve been through many recessions and know that companies will cut their training budget when they encounter financial difficulties.

But this period has been different to other recessions so this has allowed businesses that have been quieter to use this time to train their staff.

Those on furlough have still been allowed to train while they have temporarily ceased working, so this has also been an option for some businesses.

It’s crucial for companies to continue staff development during these times and can help re-engage staff who have been away from work for a prolonged period.

Having training online has other benefits too, particularly in terms of saving time. In our director development programme, the delegates enjoyed the fact they could just take three-and-a-half hours out of their day to complete the course rather than having to block a whole day out to account for travelling.

What the future of training looks like

Training online can never fully replace the buzz that people get in a physical classroom, which builds a rapport that can lead to people staying in touch and forming lasting friendships.

We’ll certainly be looking to return to face-to-face training when that’s possible – and in some cases we’re already going on site to deliver bespoke programmes in a socially distanced manner.

However, the past few months has changed perceptions, including mine, about what online training is about and demonstrated how there is a place for it in the “new world”.

Interactive virtual classrooms have opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities in the way we can support individuals.

There are some one-to-one sessions that can now be delivered online, while courses aimed at people who don’t want to be out the office for too long may opt for the virtual experience in future.

Learners could also be able to request a 15-minute chat online with a trainer when doing “homework” and certain sessions that are more “taught” than interactive could be held on Zoom instead of a classroom.

Like other aspects of the reimagined workplace, flexibility is going to be key, which is why training online is here to stay.