Over the past few months, I’ve had ample time to speculate on what learning will look like in a post-pandemic world. I started my first 90-day furlough on April 4, and my second 90 days began in July. It’s apparent that some things will affect learning immediately, but there also may be future considerations important to learning professionals.
Here are a few things we know:
VILT. Virtual instructor led training (VILT) has exploded. Look at what Zoom has done in offering their services for free to educational systems throughout the nation. The technology has been adopted like never before, due to social distancing rules. Even my seven-year old grandson met up with his first grade class in a Zoom meeting as the schools were closed. As learning professionals, we have an opportunity to leverage virtual learning to reach larger audiences for a lower cost than live in-person events. Keep in mind, Zoom and similar platforms are only delivery tools. We still need to focus on content objectives, participant engagement, and behavioral changes.
Remote work. Work from home (WFH) and work from anywhere (WFA) may have existed before, but many organizations are testing these waters for the first time. Companies will need to determine if they will continue to leverage remote work in the future, but let’s assume for the time being they will. Can learners access your learning platform from anywhere? How easy is it to access? What are the legal considerations of hourly team members accessing learning from home and from their own devices? These are just some of the questions that organizations are still working through.
Social distancing. We don’t know how long social distancing will last or what it will look like in the future, but it’s likely to continue for some time. As learning professionals, we need to accommodate the rules of social distancing as well as learners’ comfort—because people cannot learn if they don’t feel safe. We’ll need to give thought to ice breakers and activities to help ensure learners are physically comfortable with activities and the room space. For online learners, we’ll need to be sure to account for their need for social interaction.
Looking forward, we have a few challenges and some advantages awaiting us upon our return to work.
Budgets. Unfortunately, training budgets are often first to get cut during times of financial difficulty. Many industries have been negatively affected by the pandemic, so learning budgets will be tight. The impact might affect staffing as well as funds for developing new content. As always, the focus needs to be on the quality of the learning. We need to be more creative with limited budgets. In the grand scheme of things, people have been learning for thousands of years with minimal technology, so put on your thinking caps and let’s get creative!
Overwhelmed people. Millions of people around the world have not been able to work due to the financial impact of the virus. Those who return to work will do so after having many months off—and those months likely felt stressful. People will likely feel overwhelmed returning to work in this uncertain time and adjusting to changes, such as smaller staffs. If asked to learn something new, this might feel like too much. As learning professionals, we must be sensitive to our learners and create a welcoming learning environment. We can’t forget how much the outside world can affect the ability to learn. We need to become more holistic in our approach to participants; we’re not just teachers, we’re facilitators and advisors.
Desire to learn. If you follow social media at all, you’ve seen that many people have learned new skills to pass the time and further educate themselves. Some have taken online classes, learned how to cook, or started a new hobby. Our learning audience is continuing to broaden their experience and drive their own learning. How can we use people’s innate desire to learn in our own courses? If you’ve taken time to learn a new skill these past months, reflect on how and why you did that. What can you take away from your own learning experience and apply to your work?
Reflections. I believe everyone has spent some time reflecting during this pandemic—even those who aren’t on furlough. Many are reevaluating their values and priorities and looking at how they spend their time. I don’t know the long-term impact of all this, but I expect that people will want to feel their work is meaningful. They’re going to want to know they’re safe. They’re going to want to know that somehow they can make a difference and that they’re contributing to something of value.
Let’s make it easy for them by doing what we do best:
· Provide a physically and mentally safe learning environment
· Engage learners with a good story and clear learning outcomes
· Make sure learning is meaningful
· Help learners understand the value of what they do