ATD Blog

New ATD Research: Virtual Classrooms, Virtual Managers, Simulations

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Each year, ATD Research publishes several data-driven research reports focused on industry trends, benchmarks, and best practices. ATD’s researcher professionals carry out every step of the research process—surveying industry professionals, analyzing the data to uncover best practices backed by statistics, consulting with top companies and subject matter experts, and authoring reports. Below are highlights from three of the latest reports:

Virtual Classrooms: Leveraging Technology for Impact

As of early 2021, 98 percent of organizations used virtual classrooms to deliver at least some training to employees. Virtual classrooms connect learners and instructors in real time over the internet. Nine in 10 organizations stated that COVID-19 was a main driver for their use of the tool. However, the report finds that 88 percent of organizations expect their spending on virtual classroom training to stay the same or increase over the next year.

Organizations that were high performers in business and talent development were more likely to use multiple engagement features, including chat, screen-sharing, and hand-raising prompts. The report also looks at best practices for adapting traditional live classroom to the virtual setting and the skills virtual classroom designers and trainers need to deliver success.

Developing Virtual Managers: Driving Excellence From Afar


Today’s managers need to be able to operate virtually as they manage employees who work in different locations. By the end of 2020, at the average organization, 77 percent of managers—compared to 21 percent pre-pandemic—were virtual managers.

Organizations can take steps to ensure virtual managers are successful. Those that provide training specific to virtual managers were much more likely to be strong performers in business and talent development. What’s more, employers that provided ongoing, rather than one-time, training to virtual managers performed even better. ATD found that the skills virtual managers struggled with the most were team building in a virtual setting, coaching, and performance management.


Simulations and Scenarios: Realistic, Effective, and Engaging Learning

The use of simulations and scenarios in talent development is rapidly growing. A simulation imitates a situation, whereas a scenario describes a business problem or event, for example, a case study. Almost all organizations (98 percent) use scenarios in talent development, and more than three-quarters use simulations.

Using them is best practice. For scenarios, the biggest benefits are better learner engagement, better knowledge retention and application, and the promotion of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. For simulations, an added benefit is the ability to learn from failure in a safe environment. TD professionals can use simulations to provide training for complex technical skills, such as a flight simulator for pilots. They can also use them effectively to provide training for interpersonal skills—for example, an exercise where individuals pretend to be managers having difficult conversations with a direct report.

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