When you hear the words “software training,” what pops into your head? If you are like most professionals, you’re likely to visualize one of a few of things:

  • Physical, in-person labs with IT pre-configuring software on each computer
  • Learners installing and configuring software on their own computers
  • Simulated exercises in a classroom environment

What do all of these cases have in common? Each can be inefficient for both the learner and the trainer, does not scale well, and does not necessarily lend itself to long-term retention of content.

Modern companies have begun to rely more and more on learning management systems (LMSs) for their customer, employee and partner training needs. However, the traditional LMS may sometimes still be ineffective, particularly when it comes to more technical exercises or complex software training. These outdated systems only provide passive experiences and basic assessment tools, and they cannot adequately handle more complex training exercises.

A More Effective Approach to Software Training

While many traditional LMSs may simply consist of guided journeys through a series of documents and videos, a game changer has emerged in recent years: the virtual training lab.

A virtual training lab is just what the name says: a virtual environment for learners to have hands-on experience with the same software they will eventually use on the job. These labs function similarly to an in-person training lab, complete with IT support and a trainer on hand, but are entirely virtual. They deliver real-world, hands-on environments and the benefits of learning by doing.

Switching to virtual training labs has a number of benefits that affect just about every aspect of the business, from increased user adoption and learner engagement to a more streamlined experience for both the learner and the trainer and lower overall costs. While virtual lab adoption and usage rates are still somewhat low, they have been receiving very positive reviews. According to a 2017 TSIA report, virtual training labs have customer satisfaction rates of 3.9 out of 5. Active learning makes it more likely for learners to gain skills and retain knowledge. For training organizations, using a virtual lab means being able to easily scale training to serve a bigger or global audience without any loss in quality.

Active Learning Creates Better Results

“Learning by doing” has long been thought of as the best method for knowledge retention. When it comes to in-person presentations, research shows that shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information they were presented. Within 24 hours, they will have forgotten an average of 70 percent of the new information, and within one week, they will have forgotten almost 90 percent of it.

On the other hand, learning by doing drives significantly better results. The more hands-on the experience, the better people learn and retain the information. Practice is the type of learning with the second-highest knowledge retention rate (75 percent). Virtual training labs can also be combined with virtual classroom features such as whiteboards and breakout groups, adding an additional level of experience and another way to encourage learning.

Train Anyone, Anywhere, for Less

Virtual training labs are cloud-based, which provides the flexibility to train learners anywhere in the world, in any time zone, at any time, at any pace. The old-fashioned, in-person training lab may soon become obsolete. No more flying trainers around to different sites. No more complex scheduling so that your teams can spend enough time with the trainer. Virtual training means less money spent and less time wasted. Also, with virtual training labs, you no longer need your IT team to set up a complex training lab. Rather than setting up each individual workstation with the necessary software and files for in-person training, the virtual lab is set up once in the cloud and then easily accessed by learners everywhere.

The Future is Bright

While virtual training labs are relatively new, they are here to stay. They have a variety of benefits, from lower costs to less time and effort. However, what’s most important is results. The hands-on experiences provided by virtual labs prepare IT learners for real-life situations – which is the whole point of training. Virtual training has a bright future, and as technology and AI continue to further integrate into our lives and our work, we are likely to see even greater improvements and changes down the road.