Virtual lab training environments can expand learning's reach while lowering costs.

Technology is revolutionizing the way people learn, and that's especially true for virtual training labs. Given the benefits associated with them, it's not surprising that these digital environments, which let people practice with new tech tools or conduct experiments, are growing in popularity.

According to recent research conducted by CloudShare and Training Industry, virtual training labs are useful because they enable learners to learn in a real-world environment from any location. Moreover, the study found that most IT professionals find virtual training labs enjoyable (71 percent) and natural (71 percent). Such traits increase the likelihood that learners will use them.

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Conducting virtual training doesn't just benefit learners; it also benefits organizations. For example, the Association for Talent Development's recent report, Virtual Classrooms Now: Using Technology to Reach Today's Workforces, reveals that one of the top reasons for using virtual classrooms—defined as live, instructor-led classroom environments that enable learners to participate remotely—was to reach a larger audience than what's possible with live classroom training (66 percent). Other top reasons are reaching geographically dispersed employees (87 percent) and saving on travel for training (81 percent).

Universities are experimenting with virtual training labs, too. According to the Los Angeles Times, by implementing virtual science labs, California State University, Los Angeles, has doubled the number of lab courses it offers without increasing its staff. Gerry Hanley, assistant vice chancellor for academic technology service for the Cal State system, told the newspaper the idea that virtual labs are a "poor substitute" for the work students will do as professionals "is actually not true anymore." Thus, virtual labs and classrooms enable organizations to expand their reach without increasing costs or compromising quality, while still engaging learners.