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ATD Blog

Using Virtual Training to Meet Your Learning and Development Challenges

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Tough times never last, but tough people do. —Robert H. Schuller

On New Year’s Eve at the end of 2019, one would never have imagined the tough times the world would see in 2020 and the crisis that resulted for companies, industries, and economies globally. The L&D industry has been no exception to this crisis. Organizations, after an initial period of uncertainty and hesitation, have risen up admirably to the challenge of training employees, customers, channel partners, and end-users.

This has not been without its own set of challenges. Carefully drafted training plans to be conducted at the workplace had to be shelved as “work from home” or “remote work” became the new normal. You cannot simply click a button and convert all your traditional instructor-led training (ILT) programs into virtual instructor-led training (VILT) programs or self-paced e-learning programs.

So, how did companies solve this pressing need to train everyone in 2020?

Switching from ILT to VILT

Several surveys and studies have been conducted on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on L&D. One study showed an interesting metric: 61 percent of respondents said a major challenge would be to replace in-person training content.

L&D teams had to ensure that employees received the training and knowledge they needed to excel at their jobs. A key objective was to assess the existing ILT programs and convert them with careful analysis into VILT programs. The focus was on integrating into the training content a virtual instructor who would be able to guide learners with their queries in real-time.

This was achieved in two ways based on the budget available. One was to ask instructors to record answers to possible queries and integrate them within the learning content; the other was to develop an AI-powered animated chatbot that would be programmed to answer queries.


No AI-chatbot is 100 percent perfect, and it is impossible to predict all the questions that a learner may pose. In such a scenario, the chatbot could be programmed to request the learner raising a query to email their query to a subject matter expert. The SME could then reply to the learner with detailed answers to the query.

Looking Beyond Virtual Training

During these trying times, 84 percent of companies cited an increase in training using the VILT modality. The challenge is that not everyone was comfortable with VILT or a full-fledged online learning program deployed on the company learning management system or learning experience platform.
Not everyone has access to high-speed internet, and there were potential security issues in accessing a learning portal from an external network. The challenges for IT and L&D teams in such scenarios are manifold.


Microlearning and Mobile Learning to the Rescue

In such a scenario, the focus shifts on how the repurposed or modified VILT programs can be appropriately broken into smaller learning bytes or microlearning and deployed for quick and easy access. LinkedIn Learning’s Workplace Learning Report 2021 features interesting nuggets of information. Sample some points below:

  • The pivot L&D made from ILT to blended online learning—experiences with a mix of VILT and online learning—will remain the status quo.
  • Most organizations will continue to shift budgets away from ILT to online learning.
  • Assign “prewatch” online learning before a VILT session.
  • Less is more.

Role-appropriate and device-agnostic microlearning can help bridge the learning gap and help employees upskill themselves with ease. Making microlearning interactive and engaging with thoughtfully designed games can work wonders in terms of retention of learning.

The Way Ahead

We are living in unprecedented times, and when things return to normalcy, a hybrid working model will become the norm and companies will offer their employees flexible working options. Virtual learning and self-paced microlearning is the way forward. Companies that do not plan and execute their training calendar properly will falter.

About the Author

Vinok D'Silva is the senior vice president of global sales and marketing at Origin Learning. Vinok has led in various capacities from operations and solutions to sales and marketing.

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