As the COVID-19 crisis has intensified and more stay-at-home orders have been put into effect, organizations have grappled with interruptions to a host of day-to-day processes, including learning and training. This challenge has forced companies to rapidly reevaluate how they train and to prepare to deliver more information online.

For organizations new to or unfamiliar with virtual training, some of the biggest concerns surround the impact the move could have on workforce engagement. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to bring human elements into digital environments and motivate employees to succeed.

1. Encourage Employees to Work Together

One of the reasons learners like online training is that it gives them the chance to connect with peers they may not see all the time, find out what colleagues have been up to, share best practices and collaborate on projects. The fear is that taking training online means you’ll have to sacrifice the personal, interactive elements that come with face-to-face sessions.

From a technological perspective, there are several tools you can leverage that will help you replicate and enhance those benefits of in-person training:

  • Discussion boards help learners communicate and stay up to date with each other.
  • Audio, video and text-based feedback enables learners to share insights and expertise.
  • Video-based learning enables situational training so learners can practice and hone their skills.
  • Web classrooms and conferencing can facilitate presentations, discussions, debates, check-ins and group projects.
  • A central activity feed keeps employees informed about news, activities, assignments and events.

When you’re thinking about what to include in your courses, reflect on some of the strategies that have worked well with in-class settings. You can aim to reproduce them virtually while also pushing the envelope with new tactics that may not have been available previously.

2. Make Training Interactive and Rewarding

Another approach to consider is gamification. It can seem daunting at first, because people assume it must be complex, but game-based learning is simply about integrating game elements into non-game situations to provide motivation and reward people for their accomplishments. Rewards include awards, badges, leaderboards and certificates.

Gamification, including micro-credentialing and badging, benefits both the person delivering the training and the person taking it. As the provider, it can give you concrete insights into the skills employees are acquiring, the rate at which they’re acquiring them and the paths they’re using to do so. For the learners, it nurtures healthy competition and can be fun. It also gives tangible, portable representations of their skills, knowledge and progress, and it incentivizes them to learn further.

3. Bring Experiences to Life With Case Studies

Moving beyond the capabilities that are built into the learning platform itself, there are conscious actions you can take with the course content to engage your learners. One powerful tactic is case studies. Whether they’re introduced at the beginning of a course or woven throughout, case studies give learners a connection with the material by helping them see how, where and when they can apply the concepts they’re learning.

Case studies also give more experienced learners a nonthreatening way to assess their knowledge. Real-life scenarios can help fill their knowledge gaps better than a rehashing of familiar material.

4. Blend New and Existing Content

Adapting in-person content to online delivery can seem like another hurdle. How much information is too much? How much is too little? How should it sound? Overall, try to focus on your key points, and expand on them in clear, conversational ways. Throughout the process, keep three considerations in mind:

  • Quantity: There shouldn’t be so much information that it overwhelms the learner, but you don’t want to sacrifice crucial context by trimming the content down too much. It’s about finding that happy medium.
  • Tone: The most effective courses flow more like well-constructed conversations than excerpts from textbooks.
  • Clarity: Adult learners are busy. Giving them clear, explicit instructions helps them complete the training and makes it less likely they’ll have to follow up later for more details.

When partnering with a vendor for courses, make sure you consider:

  • What you’re looking for (a full course or supplemental materials).
  • The topic you need to cover (e.g., soft skills, compliance or technical training).
  • Any requirements around content types (e.g., videos or quizzes).

5. Set Learning Objectives

It’s crucial to remember that making learning engaging doesn’t just mean making it fun. It’s also about making sure courses are relevant and straightforward, which is where learning objectives — statements that define what someone can expect to learn from a given course — come into play. Broadly, think of them like a contract that lays out:

  • What learners will be doing.
  • How they’ll be assessed.
  • The skills will have at the end of the program.

Giving learners a clear, explicit understanding of what success looks like will help them assess whether the training will be worthwhile in the end. As a bonus, learning objectives also help your learning and development (L&D) team set up the courses by giving them guidelines to follow so they can maximize their time and expertise.

Ultimately, remote learning is all about considering what’s driving the transition, understanding what you would like to achieve from it, and using the best tools and expertise to help accelerate your journey. Acting now can help you whether the current storm and prepare for success down the road.