online learningNo matter your role in the agency or military branch, learning never ends. Learning new skills and gaining a deeper understanding of your area of expertise is essential to professional success. It’s also key to improving our government and developing new leaders, one employee at a time. Continuous learning is now just part of the job, whatever the job may be. 

According to industry analyst firm Bersin by Deloitte, organizations that have adopted a “continuous capability development” approach to learning makes them more innovative, responsive, and agile as the demands made on their personnel change. This model includes development planning, mentoring, and “lots of sharing and collaborative learning.” 

Most recent (and not-so-recent) graduates have embraced learning through technology. The multi-generational workforce is eager to use engaging training tools to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to excel in their professional roles. By creating a flexible, innovative learning environment that is equally adept at delivering the kinds of training and educational content that professionals require for lifelong learning, you can gain an advantage in the war for talent and development. 

Defining Your Agency’s Learning Goals 

The first step in establishing any continuous learning plan is to define your agency’s learning goals. Indeed, everyone has something to learn. Every agency has requirements for training and professional development. For example: 

  • Baby Boomers nearing retirement have institutional knowledge to transfer.
  • Managers and supervisors must identify critical skills gaps and close them with strategic new hires.
  • Enlisted personnel must access higher-level training in the field, even as they’re deployed on missions around the world.
  • Officers need to find ways to better align training with their agencies’ missions and objectives.

Depending on the type and complexity of this varied learning content, information can be delivered individually or to a group, online or in a classroom, ad hoc or according to a schedule. This can be overwhelming, especially if you’re just beginning to consider a blended learning program. It’s important to define your agency’s learning goals. 

Whether you’re providing an online learning solution for all of your personnel or looking to augment the professional development of one group inside your agency, your top five learning goals are likely to include: 

  1. standardizing training and learning across the agency
  2. producing replicable content
  3. enabling learning with consistent results, regardless of audience, employee location, language, or time zone
  4. shifting toward competency-based learning to match employees’ skills with specific jobs
  5. determining a learning budget for every employee. 

A high-quality online learning environment will enable you to hit these five goals with ease. With multiple modalities and tools for collaboration, a fully featured solution will support learners around the world, no matter their location, how busy their schedules, or how tight their deadlines. 

You’ll create instructor-led environments, including virtual classrooms, where your crack experts guide employees through complex, nuanced learning—not simply canned content, endured one boring click at a time—and lead them to true knowledge. Learners will be fully engaged with interactive group projects, collaborative discussions, and innovative multimedia content. Research shows that the greater the engagement, the better the learning outcomes. 

Using robust technology to attain these goals will also help you more directly focus your learning budget on actual professional development. In these times of tighter budgets, all government agencies must provide training and professional development opportunities with minimal expenditures. 

Case in Point 

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Your training budget goes a lot further when you’re delivering knowledge through e-learning. Consider this: Within government agencies, 85 percent of every dollar spent on classroom training goes toward delivering it, including travel costs. 

According to the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and the Medical Education Training Campus (METC), the AETC typically spends $2,500 to $3,000 per student on travel and room and board to send cadets to Randolph Air Force Base in Texas for training. The agencies determined a vastly less per-student cost when using online tools to deliver training directly to the cadets. 

Likewise, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has focused on online training and e-learning to keep costs under control—it’s an important component of its training and development policy. And in another example, the VA Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network, which serves veterans in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, has saved nearly $116,000 in travel, facilitation, and facility costs since adopting Blackboard’s online learning solution in 2003. 

Bottom Line 

Today, online technology is the cornerstone of learning in every field for all personnel. If you want to drive knowledge throughout your agency, across branches of military, or for your constituents, you may need to rethink your approach to knowledge sharing. You can make learning a collaborative, effective, and efficient—even enjoyable—experience for all learners. 

With social learning tools, competency-based learning programs, and mobile access, you can provide a learning experience that captures people’s attention, and, ultimately, boosts their performance. When you can update materials and create customized training just as fast as technologies change and policies evolve, no one will get left behind.