Asian young woman wear earphones talking in video conference with business partners and worker team via online internet at her home.
ATD Blog

If Learning Is King, Then Engagement Is Queen

Thursday, May 13, 2021

A quote by Ben Franklin is still relevant today: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

As technology continues to allow more efficiencies and its effectiveness continues to be confirmed, companies are adopting the digital world as an alternative to being held hostage to real-estate investments.

Many companies have committed to continuing virtual work and learning environments because they saw performance increase by as much as 47 percent. Other companies have taken notice of the significant environmental impact, as proven during the initial COVID-19 pandemic that shut down world travel, creating an 11 percent decline in CO2 emissions.

In addition, most employees prefer working from home. We know that happy employees are more productive and engaged. A survey by Owl Labs found that most employees prefer working from home. Why wouldn’t they? They save between $2,000 and $6,000 per year in work-based expenses, and the frustration of rush-hour traffic and the loss of several hours from their day is significantly reduced. In fact, employees gained back an average of eight-and-a-half hours of personal time per week.

However, using a blended or virtual learning approach is not without its challenges when it comes to ensuring training has the same impact virtually that it does when you have people in a training room. Technology designed for virtual training can provide more tools than a conference room or a training room. When you include the ability to quiz the group real-time and get immediate results, along with automatically capturing engagement analytics, technology can significantly assist in understanding your training program results.

Social interaction is a huge component to successful training. This is often more important for participants than for trainers. Engagement and activity-based learning can be viewed as difficult when using many of the familiar online products. While these web-conferencing systems offer the ability to get people together in a session, the ability to get the type and quality of engagement and social learning is often overlooked.


Virtual training requires specialized skills. Trainers should be trained and coached to ensure they are comfortable managing a virtual program. They also need to be trained on the technology being used. Virtual (online) trainers biggest failure is not knowing the tools they are using. Proficiency and comfort using the technology is as important as knowing the subject matter being covered. This happens when proper training on the platform happens and the trainers spend time becoming proficient in it.

In most online training, the presenter is in control of all things. Short of a chat board, traditional online solutions put 100 percent control in the hands of the trainer. This leaves participants isolated, with little to nothing to do. Boredom quickly sets in. Using technology that gives participants an opportunity to review information and own their learning experience is much more powerful. These tools that encourage participation and helps trainers get everyone engaged are a natural part of technologies built for training and learning.

A strategy that works well for engagement is small group project-based programs. Using virtual breakout rooms that move participants into small groups encourages engagement and learning. Having participants own their learning experience by working during training increases attention, engagement, knowledge transfer, and retention. As you’re looking at the best solution for small-group learning, evaluate the technology that gives you the easiest and most robust options. Not all breakout rooms are created equal.


It’s difficult to get everyone engaged in a face-to-face setting and even more difficult in a virtual world. Using different tools and tactics to encourage participation can mean the difference between a well-trained team producing excellent results or one that’s producing just enough to get by.

As Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric once said, “An organization’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

If learning is king, engagement is queen. You cannot have one without the other.

About the Author

Ginger Ackerman has over 40 years’ experience in sales and marketing with a focus on training and software solutions. Understanding the importance of listening and engaging people to identify their needs is a critical component in sales.

These same characteristics are key in the training industry. This knowledge has been a critical part of building Jigsaw Interactive, virtual training/learning technology that ensures a high level of engagement and provides learning behavior and engagement analytics.

Ginger started her career in non-profits that provided services to homeless, runaway and abandoned children. After 10 years she moved to the private sector and began working with kids who had high risk, genetic diseases such as hemophilia and auto-immune disorders. Providing training and information to physicians, nurses and family members on the value of preventive care for these diseases was where her road to training started.

She then spent a number of years in the administrative area of healthcare, with a focus on software that provided electronic billing solutions.

She is one of the founders of Jigsaw Interactive. Jigsaw was founded because web conferencing solutions did not provide the tools for training. Jigsaw puts the pieces together for a solid virtual training and learning environment.

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