COVID-19 created challenges that continue to impact numerous industries and sectors, even more than a year after the pandemic began. While many industries were affected negatively, the learning and development (L&D) industry remained in full-swing, with companies looking for timely and relevant training during the crisis — and remote learning rose to the occasion.  

From allowing learners to participate from home during stay-at-home orders, to creating solutions for hybrid classrooms, remote learning has provided access to training and professional development opportunities during a time where much of the world ground to a halt.  

Here are our top five remote learning takeaways from the crisis that will inform the future of remote training delivery.  

1. Remote Learning Is Possible On A Broader Scale 

We’re not the first generation to be excited about the possibilities remote learning provides for training and development. As far back as 1923, Thomas Edison was arguing for video clips to replace teachers and books. The search for high-quality information and an optimized learning experience draws learners to remote learning opportunities, which are able to be constantly evaluated and improved. Remote learning also provides an accessible format for learners. Our increased use of mobile technology during the pandemic made that another benefit to this learning format. Though the pivot to remote learning on this scale was not anyone’s intention, it has helped demonstrate that not only is remote learning possible, it’s extremely valuable.  

It’s also important to note that remote learning is a major factor in how many people were able to stay home and support the efforts to slow the spread of the virus during the early weeks of the pandemic. This has been an extremely disruptive event, and remote learning has helped many learners mitigate the negative effects it has had on their training and development trajectory. 

2. Remote Learning Is Not A Step Down in Quality 

Remote learning and training formats are incredibly agile and adaptable, allowing course authors to receive real-time data and immediately flag any issues. This, in turn, empowers you to ensure you’re offering top-quality material by performing quality assurance testing and surveying your learners.  

Remote learning can suffer from common technology difficulties that lower the quality of the learning and training experience, like connection and download problems, issues with audio and video and log in errors. Another potential drawback is the perception that remote learning is a “one-sided” experience or not interactive. This is why remote trainers need strong facilitation skills, which will help them engage learners and avoid technical problems along the way.  

Remote learning also allows for the adoption of new or improved technology integrations as they become available. These courses are particularly agile for including social learning features or gamification, which can help learners to stay involved and invested in the training from start to finish.  

3. Remote Learning Promotes Communication and Knowledge Delivery 

During a crisis, communication is more critical than ever. Remote learning has allowed for clear and effective communication in a rapidly developing situation. Organizations were able to harness the power of remote learning and training platforms to share information and education from reputable sources, ensuring learners were receiving reliable and relevant information to navigate this unprecedented time. Remote learning makes it easy to access these resources anytime, anywhere, from mobile devices.   

Remote learning is also an effective way to train on critically important topics, like prioritizing mental health or practicing difficult conversations, which may be more difficult or intimidating to learn and practice in an in-person environment. A virtual environment gives learners a safe space to learn these skills and receive consistent communications through collaboration apps, tools and more.  

4. Remote Learning Is Expandable and Accessible 

Accessibility is where remote learning really shines, with built-in, natural flexibility that an in-person classroom experience simply doesn’t have. Learners can log in and participate from wherever they are, in a setting that is comfortable for them. This is imperative in reaching global learners as well as learners with caregiving or other responsibilities at home. 

In the past, there was a stigma that remote learning was “second-tier” to its in-person counterpart. But it isn’t second-best; it’s another option that can be incredibly impactful for learners who don’t get as much out of in-person trainings or who can’t access them to begin with.  

Lastly, in traditional classroom environments, learners may experience some level of micromanagement in their routine; remote learning gives learners more control over how, when and where they learn.  

5. Remote Learning Lowers The Stakes 

Unlike in a traditional in-person learning environment, where learners can feel additional pressure to perform in front of peers and instructors, remote learning gives learners the opportunity to practice and their improve skills in a low-stakes environment.  

For example, remote learning courses can include elements like simulation training, which help learners “experience” a skill virtually before they have to demonstrate it in real life. It lets students focus on their work in a flexible, adaptable environment without added external pressures. 

The Future of Learning Has Arrived  

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning has provided increased access to training and development despite the dire circumstances. And while there are many aspects of pandemic life that we are all happy to leave behind, the rise of remote learning is a positive outcome in an otherwise devastating crisis. It is an outcome that will drive more flexible learning experiences and deliver high-quality content to learners — no matter where they’re signing on from. That’s a future we can get behind.