By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Learning Tips
“The impact of COVID-19 has been, by and large, affecting every individual, team, function, business, industry, and country. It is especially severe for organizations that were highly dependent on face-to-face Instructor-Led Training (ILT) for their employee development, skilling, and training,” says Amit Gautam, co-founder and director of Upside Learning Solutions. Gautam points out that millions of employees now work together virtually with a host of digital tools at their disposal to communicate, learn, work and share.
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He adds, however, that the lack of a learning method that is different from the traditional classroom has left many of these organizations “hustling to find a quick-fix for the challenge at hand and also for future-proofing their Learning and Development (L&D) interventions.” Core business requirements “now range from the rapid conversion of ILT to eLearning, to sourcing ready-to-use courseware for delivery via an online format, to online lectures or Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VLIT). However, migrating existing classroom training programs to an all-digital avatar calls for effort, beyond the mere application of existing technology solutions, in order to offer virtual learning.”
Adapting to This New Normal of Corporate Learning Is Easier Said than Done
Adapting to this new normal is easier said than done, Gautam acknowledges. “Teams and individuals across functions and levels are wading through uncharted waters, using technology they never had to before and doing things in a way never done before.” he notes. Migrating from classroom training programs to all-digital instruction “calls for effort, beyond the mere application of existing technology solutions, in order to offer virtual learning.”
Despite these difficulties, Gautam says, “After years of encouraging eLearning and virtual classroom approaches, the coronavirus pandemic has helped move the needle on technology acceptance, for learners and L&D professionals alike. Executives across the globe are asking L&D leaders to have a seat at the table — a seat that previously felt unattainable until now.”
The 2020 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, which apparently was prepared before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, supports Gautam’s prediction. “After years of being under-resourced, L&D budgets are expected to continue to grow — shifting from Instructor-Led Training (ILT) to online learning — and executive buy-in continues to build. Because of these factors, L&D pros are newly positioned as critical strategic business partners — key to growth and innovation.”
In March 2020, as COVID-19 spread globally, the eLearning Guild launched a survey to find out how the pandemic was affecting its members. “In the 10 days this survey was open for responses, circumstances around COVID-19 evolved very quickly, with the virus spreading, hotspots emerging, and cities implementing lockdown strategies ranging from recommendations for social distancing to curfews and roadblocks.”
Almost Half of Survey Respondents Said All Face-to-Face Programs/Classes Are Now Online
Answering the question, “considering the next 3 months: How many of your organization’s programs/classes, etc., have been or will be shifted from face-to-face to an online format in response to COVID-19?,” a total of 40.8% of respondents said all face-to-face programs/classes have been shifted to an online format, while 21.3% said 77% to 99% will be shifted in the next three months.
“While some comments expressed concern that the move to online was too fast and would result in mediocre work, others saw a silver lining: After years of encouraging expanded use of eLearning and virtual classroom approaches, they saw the business need come into sharp focus and their ideas get newly-rapid uptake,” wrote Dr. Jane Bozarth, director of research for The Learning Center. “One commenter hoped the COVID crisis would help move the needle on technology acceptance in their somewhat resistant workforce.”
The shift to virtual corporate learning approaches had a big impact elsewhere, too. Eighty-three percent of respondents said previous face-to-face meetings are now happening virtually, and many others are seeing implementation or expansion of remote work arrangements.
If these numbers remain at present levels or increase, there’s little doubt that the pandemic will have ushered in a new – and permanent – corporate learning and development paradigm.