As a result of the global pandemic, learning leaders were forced to abruptly pivot to online learning. Many organizations managed this shift from classroom training to digital learning using video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and countless other virtual meeting tools. The reason is simple: Video conferencing is a near replica of face-to-face interaction. It is also familiar and easy to set up. However, it is not without its disadvantages.
The major downside of being overly reliant on video conferencing technology is that these real-time interactions can be hard on the brain. In addition to virtual fatigue, using video conferencing as a learning tool lends itself to the one-way, pedagogical method that has not served us well in the past. It is time to think beyond simply delivering content over live video and consider other options. Here are a few ideas to enhance your online learning efforts:
Leverage Group Chats and Messaging
Live video content requires relatively high bandwidth with fast and reliable internet access. For a low-bandwidth solution, use group chats and messaging apps. Many of these tools are already available within an organization or already residing in employees’ smart phones. These apps allow learners to share information easily and consistently, without having to schedule around video conferencing sessions. Group chats are particularly useful for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, Q&A sessions, reinforcement of formal learning concepts and delivering time sensitive training material.
Create and Curate Audio Content
Audio content is everywhere these days, and it is easy to understand why. Audio files are bandwidth friendly while providing a sense of human presence. Currently, there are over 1.5 million podcasts and over 34 million episodes being produced. You can source content on demand on topics ranging from the ethics of artificial intelligence to positive psychology. To engage learners in discussion, many tools allow users to record audio feedback, including the ability to embed audio clips in PDF files and add voice narrations to PowerPoint slides.
Cultivate a Virtual Community of Practice (CoP)
Communities of practice (CoPs) are groups of like-minded people who filter, amplify, convene, share, learn and facilitate to create and share knowledge in their domain. For workplace learning, communities of practice provide a space for people to interact informally, reposit and share knowledge, network and build relationships, and connect learning to performance. In addition, CoPs work well in conjunction with more structured learning sessions to unpack difficult concepts, share links to resources that deepen learning, create live polls and continue discussions. If you are forming and sustaining CoPs at work, consider this resource on how to build CoPs.
Connect Offline and Online Learning Experiences
Ultimately, workplace learning is about creating, nurturing and curating an environment and culture that your workforce can engage in. We need to worry less about turning on video cameras and taking attendance and more about creating learning experiences that connect people on and offline. People do not always need to be learning in front of a computer; they can go offline to work on an activity, come back to the online community and dicuss their findings.
Provide tools and spaces for people to have conversations, leverage peers’ expertise and experiences, and allow time to reflect and ask questions. Digital learning doesn’t need to be synchronous, but it does need to be human centric. We need to plan meaningful learning activities that are applicable to employees’ work contexts and build connections across learning experiences.