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Press Release

Virtual Learning Designers Must Make the Business Case for Learning Programs

Published Tue May 02 2023


(Alexandria, VA) May 2, 2023—In Designing Virtual Learning for Application and Impact, Cindy Huggett, Jack J. Phillips, Patricia P. Phillips, and Emma Weber provide the master blueprint for designing virtual learning to deliver application and impact.

With combined and extensive expertise in virtual learning, return on investment (ROI), and the transfer of learning in the workplace, the authors contend that every learning program needs to deliver impact, whether you measure it or not. Drawing upon the five levels of outcomes (reaction, learning, application, impact, and return on investment or ROI) from any type of learning program, the authors specifically address levels four and five—impact and ROI—and underscore that instructional designers are not just designing for learning but also for organizational impact and monetary benefits for the organization.


Showing the value of virtual learning has also become increasingly important as leaders look for ways to trim budgets and increase productivity. While emphasizing the value and business results of organizational learning initiatives has always been important, it has risen to a crescendo thanks to the rapid growth of virtual learning, the rising expectations of top executives, and the increased availability of technology tools. This book outlines a design process—including 50 practical tips instructional designers should apply to create engaging, value-added virtual programs—that focuses on delivering on-the-job application of learning and a positive impact on business results. In turn, this impact allows for ROI calculations, which are important to many leaders.

Jack Phillips states, “The challenge is clear; more data is needed for application and impact. It could be that virtual teams are making a difference, but just don’t have the data. The challenge is to measure along the value chain more frequently and make improvements along the way. If virtual learning is not perceived as making a difference, funding and support could be in jeopardy. This lack of information is risky in today’s economic situation.”

“The ability to see the monetary benefits of a learning program presents the ultimate accountability for the use of the funds. Stakeholders need to see ROI when allocating budgets, considering costs, or funding new learning projects. Although showing ROI is not necessary for every organizational learning program, it’s an essential level for some, especially virtual learning programs that can incur even more costs than in-person training. This book will guide you step-by-step through the process of measuring impact and ROI.”

A classic question often raised is whether a virtual learning program is only a cost to the organization or an investment that yields a return on investment. While there may be costs associated with developing virtual learning programs, it is important to show organization leaders that the benefits outweigh the costs and thus make them sound investments.

Organizational leaders will support, protect, enhance, and fund activities they believe represent an investment. However, if they don’t see the program as an investment and instead see it only as a cost, they will control, reduce, minimize, freeze, or pause it—not the result that instructional designers aim for. It is important to change their inclination to identify virtual learning programs as costs, and this can be done by demonstrating impact and ROI.


Designing Virtual Learning for Application and Impact is the 50th book ATD has published in collaboration with the ROI Institute on the topic of proving the value and ROI of talent development efforts.

About the Authors

Cindy Huggett is a leading virtual training expert with over 30 years of experience with technology-enabled learning solutions. Cindy is a longtime trusted partner to Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and businesses around the world. She upskills facilitators to create engaging online learning and helps organizations achieve success with their virtual and hybrid learning programs. She has written five acclaimed books on virtual training, including The Facilitator’s Guide to Immersive, Blended, and Hybrid Learning, and she is the co-author of Designing Virtual Learning for Application and Impact: 50 Techniques to Ensure Results. Cindy is a past member of the ATD global Board of Directors and was one of the first to earn the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance credential. Based in Raleigh, NC, she serves clients globally.

Jack J. Phillips, Ph.D., is aco-author of Designing Virtual Learning for Application and Impact and an award-winning thought leader in the field of talent development. As a teacher, consultant, and coach, he helps individuals show the value of their work in all types of organizations. Dr. Phillips has taught his proprietary methodology to over 50,000 professionals and managers in over 70 countries. He is a global keynote speaker and has written over 100 hundred books, focused on the importance of showing the value of the work. He has been recognized for his thought leadership by the Association for Talent Development, Thinkers50 Top Coaches, the International Society for Performance Improvement, the Society for Human Resource Management, and Meeting Professionals International. Dr. Phillips has served as an engineer, trainer, learning manager, HR executive, general manager, president, and college professor. He serves as chair of ROI Institute, a globally recognized consulting firm.

Patti P. Phillips, Ph.D., is a consultant, researcher, and co-author of Designing Virtual Learning for Application and Impact: 50 Techniques to Ensure Results. Her workshops and conference presentations inspire audiences to align their work with outcomes that matter. When she is not consulting with clients, researching, or writing books, Patti supports the work of other organizations through board service. She serves on the UN Institute for Training and Research board of Trustees, International Federation of Training and Development Organizations board, The Conference Board Human Capital Advisory Council, and the Institute for Corporate Productivity People Analytics Board. Patti has been recognized for her thought leadership by organizations such as the Association for Talent Development, Center for Talent Reporting, and the Thinkers50 Marshall Goldsmith Achievement for Coaching. She has written or contributed to over 50 books describing how individuals can demonstrate the value of their work.


Emma Weber is a learning transfer authority and CEO/Founder of Lever – Transfer of Learning. She has made it her mission in life to make a difference in learning transfer worldwide. Frustrated by the amount of learning which is wasted when it fails to make it across the knowing–doing gap Emma created the Turning Learning into Action™ methodology to solve that problem. This methodology is deployed throughout 20 countries and in 12 languages by a talented team and Coach M, a conversational intelligence chatbot. Coach M is challenging the industry's thinking of what’s possible in learning transfer. Emma shares her passion and expertise through her writing—her first book Turning Learning into Action: A Proven Methodology for Effective Transfer of Learning and now her 1st co-written book Designing Virtual Learning for Application and Impact.

About ATD and ATD Press

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is the world’s largest association dedicated to those who develop talent in organizations. ATD’s members come from more than 120 countries and work in public and private organizations in every industry sector. ATD Press publications are written by industry thought leaders and offer anyone who works with adult learners the best practices, academic theory, and guidance necessary to move the profession forward. For more information, visit td.org/books.

Designing Virtual Learning for Application and Impact

ISBN: 9781953946775 | 248 Pages | Paperback


To order books from ATD Press, call 800.628.2783.

To schedule interviews with any of the authors, please contact Kay Hechler, ATD Press senior marketing manager, at [email protected] or 703.683.8178.

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