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ATD Blog

Training the Remote Government Workforce Asynchronously

Friday, April 9, 2021

The global pandemic has turned our world upside down. After a year of travel restrictions, school closures, and various other social distancing measures, we’re all wondering if going back to a pre-COVID-19 normal is an option. Many believe creating a new normal is the way to go.

One clear trend of this new normal is remote work. Organizations of all shapes and sizes were forced to shift their operations online to ensure business continuity. Now many of them are offering employees the option of continuing to work remotely even after the pandemic ends, or they are at least consider adopting a hybrid model of work in the near future.

Federal, state, and local government agencies should be doing the same. Of course, many government positions can’t be performed remotely, but a significant share can. It is estimated that around 20 percent of federal positions can be performed with just a laptop and internet connectivity. Baby boomers will soon retire (some federal agencies expect up to 40 percent of their employees to retire by 2023), increased transitions of government services online will occur, and advancements in technologies will continue, so the number of government workers comfortable working and managing other people remotely surely will grow.

Regardless of where an employee is located, one idea remains unchanged: the need for continuous development at work. That’s why learning and development specialists need to design training programs for government agencies that meet all their employees’ needs, remote or not.

Leveraging Asynchronous Training

The hardest part of creating training for remote workforces is shifting to the asynchronous mindset. Once the idea that learning doesn’t have to happen at the same time as teaching, the rest of the design process follows suit.


First, instructional designers need to decide how synchronous or asynchronous the training program should be. Even if all activity happens online through web conferencing technology, employees can still participate in instructor-led training at specific times.

However, it’s better when trainees can enroll in an online training course whenever they want and go at their own pace through the learning materials. If managers need to trust remote employees to accomplish their work tasks without constant supervision, trainers need to trust the same employees that they’ll go through the online training modules without the constant need for synchronous interaction between them and the instructor.

Even better is when some synchronous online meetings support asynchronous training. I like to call that the hybrid asynchronous model. Some learners may encounter difficulties in certain training modules, so they may need the instructor’s assistance; a synchronous virtual meeting could solve that issue. Instructors can hold scheduled synchronous web conference calls for Q&A sessions, share relevant information, and ensure trainees progress in the right direction.


Then, trainers need to decide how simple or complex the asynchronous learning experience should be. The easiest way to create asynchronous training is to connect a series of video training modules and let the learners go through them; once the first module ends, the learning platform will automatically feed the next one, and so on. To spice things up a bit, learners could get a short quiz to assess their newly acquired knowledge at the end of each module. Taking things a step further, instructors can provide random access to training modules so that learners explore the training content as they desire as long as they complete all the modules.

The most ingenious way of creating asynchronous training, though, has to do with branching. In this case, trainees are given more choice and agency over their learning journey. The training modules are grouped into branches, and each learner can choose which one to start with, skip others if they already master the competencies being taught, and have a more personalized learning experience.

A learning management system is the solution many instructional designers turn to when designing asynchronous training. It provides all the necessary tools and features, such as automation, gamification, mastery-based rules, adaptive learning, video integrations, and more, that make it possible to create engaging online training materials. In addition, once they have an account, employees can access these materials anytime and anywhere and continue developing their skills regardless if they are on the premises or in their home offices.

Want to learn more? Join Cypher Learning on May 25-27, 2021, for ATD Government Workforce virtual conference.

About the Author

Graham Glass is the CEO of CYPHER LEARNING, a company that specializes in providing e-learning platforms for educational, business, and government organizations around the world.

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