Imagine this: You just finished your fourth virtual meeting of the day and it’s only 11 a.m. You have a three-hour virtual training to attend this afternoon, plus you haven’t finished the pre-work and you still have all your normal work waiting for you. The last thing you want to do is stare at a screen and struggle to pay attention to the facilitator. Maybe today isn’t the day for training.
Sound familiar? Odds are we have all experienced virtual fatigue at some point during this year, and so have our learners. While our intentions may be to put together a thoughtful, engaging training session, it could look like just another virtual meeting on their overpacked schedule. Using a blended approach to learning can help not only manage our learners’ virtual fatigue but can also provide an overall better learning experience.
Adapt, Don’t ReplicateNearly every learning professional I’ve spoken to in the last six months has been converting face-to-face training to virtual training. The key in doing so effectively is not to replicate the original program in a virtual setting; it will not work. Instead, look at your learning objectives—the intention of the program—and look at your learners’ needs. Will achieving those objectives still benefit them in the current environment? If yes, press ahead and keep adapting. If no, evaluate why you’re converting this course. Adapting means keeping the same (or similar) objectives but diversifying how we achieve those objectives.
Time Is Your AllyWhile virtual learning isn’t usually the first medium of choice for learners, there are substantial benefits. We’re not bound to stuffing as much content as possible into a single session. We don’t have the pressure of getting learners in the same geographical location for a limited amount of time and hurling content at them. For once, we arguably have as much time as we need. Spread your content out to accommodate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning elements. For example, a three-day course can now become a six-week journey. This can open up the gift of time, allowing learners to apply their new knowledge and skills alongside the learning.
Diversify the ExperienceThere are many factors that contribute to virtual fatigue—two of which are the main factors we can combat with a blended experience:
1. We don’t currently have a choice: If we need a meeting, it must be virtual.
As learning professionals, we have a little more wiggle room. Give your learners options in how and when they consume content. Using our example from earlier, if our new course is six weeks, give them the first two weeks to engage with any three out of five provided pieces of content (such as videos, articles, or e-learning modules). If we efficiently curate content, we can set parameters like these so learners don’t need to complete everything to be successful. They can personalize their journey and still benefit from the experience.
2. Focusing during virtual meetings is exponentially more difficult.
Every week there are more tips for running virtual meetings and avoiding fatigue. From a training perspective, most of these apply. When we do need to host a virtual instructor-led training (vILT), we should take out any content or activities that learners can complete on their own outside the classroom. Push anything that can be done independently to prework or intersession work (completed between sessions if there is more than one). This gives us the opportunity to maximize interactivity and engagement in the virtual classroom.