Solving for 5 Challenges of Online Learning
There are indications we may, finally, be entering a post-COVID-19 world. While no one can predict what that world will look like from an employee training perspective, one thing is clear: there will be no return to a pre-COVID normal.
Now that employees have tasted the convenience of flex-time and work-from-home policies, it’s too late to recork that bottle. And while online training has been around for some time, it truly evolved and came of age out of necessity during the pandemic. Now it’s here to stay – with demand continuing togrow, fueled not only by the ongoing necessity for social distancing, but by younger generations for whom convenient training is a non-negotiable.
There are benefits and challenges of online learning, and it’s prudent to be aware of both. If your company hasn’t yet embraced online learning, or is in the process of doing so, this post will help you think through and prepare for this exciting transition. Let’s walk through five common challenges of online learning your company is bound to encounter, and tips for overcoming them.
Boring or Unengaging Content
Even in the age of interactivity and personalization, trainers may rely too much on one-size-fits-all content. Some companies, in their eagerness to move to online training, simply digitize their paper-based training content without first adapting it for a new learning medium and audience. That’s a recipe for training that is uninspiring and boring. One way to avoid the boredom trap is to break your learning courses into small, bite-sized modules that can be quickly and easily consumed by your employees.
To create and sustain interest in online training, your L&D specialists must ensure their content and capabilities are visual, interactive, responsive, and relevant. Granted, that’s a lot to ask, given how much they’re already doing. The good news is that today’s easy-to-deploy LMS is powered by artificial intelligence, designed for a mobile-first experience, and comes equipped with immersive, engaging features like gamification and social learning. Today’s LMS can keep even the most tech savvy employees on their feet.
Technology can help facilitate online training, communication, and collaboration; in fact, transitioning to online learning cannot be achieved without an investment in technology. But it must be the right technology. The last thing you want is to have different employees operating from different operating systems and browsers. As soon as employees encounter “technical difficulties,” their frustration levels could grow and they may end up blowing off the training altogether.
This is why it’s critical to ensure you have IT staff available to serve your employees and help ease their transition to online training. Also, you can avoid the compatibility trap and other technical issues by selecting an online learning platform that is easy to deploy and use. Consider investing in an LMS with a simple mobile-first interface that all employees can access anytime, regardless of their physical location.
Lack of Motivation
One of the biggest challenges of learning in an online environment is maintaining motivation. Many employees count on external motivation to complete these necessary trainings, such as co-worker encouragement or a top-down deadline. Adding an intrinsic motivation is the icing on the cake, building enthusiasm and engagement as well. Without either, managers could very well see a decline in participation among staff and, in turn, productivity.
One to maintain motivational momentum is to create a schedule, develop small, achievable goals, and track goals against progress. Here, technology offers another solution. Right now one of the most promising areas in learning development is the gamification of employee training. By introducing friendly competition and incentives, trainers can keep their employees motivated and increase training completion rates.
Sense of Disconnect or Loneliness
One “side effect” of online learning to be on the lookout for is a sense of isolation that comes with completing trainings solo, rather than in a group setting. Should this feeling grow, it could cause employees to become withdrawn and unhappy. It also can affect their sense of belonging, self-esteem, and over time, their attitude and productivity.
Learning and development specialists and managers can help prevent this scenario. Always listen openly and empathetically to your employees’ needs, and use technology to facilitate connection opportunities between staff members. For example, a learning management system (LMS), which many companies use to automate and administer their online training programs, has social media and social learning mechanisms built into it. This can help build a community around learning, rather than silos.
The 2019 LinkedIn Learning Report found that the most significant obstacle to employee training is scarcity of time. That’s why it’s so important that the message comes from the top – unless employees are told explicitly to invest time in training, they will be reluctant to do so.
In order to accelerate training completion rates, HR and L&D specialists may find that they are constantly sending email reminders to staff, which can take a good amount of time and may or may not be effective. One of the time-saving features of an LMS is that it can automate the enrollment process, send out reminder emails, and even provide real-time course completion rates.
Another way to encourage time-strapped employees to make time for training is to make it irresistibly convenient and flexible. One reason why the mobile-first LMS is so popular is that it gives employees greater control over their training journey; they can log on to the user-friendly interface and access training anywhere, anyplace, and on any device.
But remember, while online training can empower employees and significantly reduce HR and trainer expenditures, there are challenges that accompany the shift to online learning. Almost all companies, sooner or later, must navigate the five challenges of online learning that we just walked through.
As they transition to online training, companies that invest in technology will be ahead of the curve and in position to take advantage of its tremendous benefits. The cost savings alone of cloud-based training is potentially huge, depending on how much your company traditionally spends on instructor, course, venue, travel, and printing costs. In addition to cutting costs, online training can help accelerate the onboarding process and lead to new efficiencies. Because of these advantages, online learning is clearly here to stay. While online learning solutions are not without their initial challenges, once you’re up and running it’s much smoother to maintain and improve.