Life today is increasingly virtual, networked and global. Training practices and methods have changed to keep pace with this evolution, but not as drastically as you might think. ATD’s State of the Industry report shows a decrease of only 4 percent in instructor-led classroom training (ILT) over the past five years. At the same time, technology-based training has increased only 2 percent and online training has remained constant. So what is actually changing?

Two big changes include the push for more mandatory compliance training and the use of learning management systems (LMS) to deliver and track online learning. Most companies today have some form of LMS, making it easy to push training out to employees and capture their progress, but has this focus on compliance training and careful tracking gone overboard? Instead of focusing on learner-centricity and making things user-friendly, are managers and leaders treating learning like a checkmark item – something to cross off an annual list? There is a great opportunity to drive engagement and create a culture of learning for organizations that are willing to shift their approach to be more user-centric, rather than simply using completion as a measure of success.

Put the focus back on users with virtual learning environments (VLEs)

The more elements included in a learning solution, the harder it becomes to create a seamless blended learning experience and keep track of all the pieces. A typical blended solution might include e-learning modules, online webinars, videos or webcasts, classroom ILT, application tools and computer-based simulations. It’s not uncommon for these elements to utilize three or four platforms – a company’s LMS, a virtual classroom and one or more third-party content providers. Who can focus on learning when the experience is so fragmented and complex?

One answer to this challenge is a virtual learning environment (VLE), an integrated platform that organizes all elements of a blended training engagement and presents a sleek, intuitive front-end to users, without sacrificing the tracking benefits of an LMS. A VLE is ideally suited for several types of training:

  • Extensive pre-work and post-work: Any engagement that includes pre-work assignments prior to an instructor-led event can utilize a VLE to organize the pre-work and provide assignments. No more emails with attachments! Post or assign everything into a VLE. After the instructor-led event, do the same with post-work and reinforcement.
  • Multi-event engagements: Many high potential development programs include multiple classroom events with intersession assignments spread out over the course of months or even years. A VLE provides one central location to distribute content, assignments and logistics to learners.
  • Large group meetings or conferences: Mobile phone apps are a great way to interact with users while at an event – but what about delivering content? A VLE can be used for pre-event and post-event learning and communication. It’s a great way to organize and distribute learning to this type of diverse group.

As our training continues to mimic our lives by becoming more mobile and networked, virtual learning environments can make for more effective and efficient delivery of learning elements. The user-friendly interface saves time and makes learning more engaging and the ease of administration improves effectiveness for HR, managers and others who are tasked with ensuring that learning is a continuous process in an organization.