As with many consulting/education firms, The RBL Group’s in-person offerings were the bulk of our volume and most requested by clients. In 2013, we increased our focus on a variety of virtual learning modalities to meet increased global demand for more flexible learning offerings. Here is a sampling of our current virtual portfolio:
|Virtual Modality||Target Audience||Recommended Number of Participants|
|eBooks or Audio Books||HR Professionals & Leaders||Unlimited|
|Online assessments (Self, 180, 360, 720, psychometric, team, function and org)||Individuals, Teams, Functions, Organizations||Varied: Single; Team; Function and Org|
|Self-Development Tools||HR Professionals & Leaders||Single|
|Microlearning Modules||HR Professionals & Leaders||Unlimited|
|Webinars||HR Professionals & Leaders||Up to 500|
|Simulations||HR Professionals & Leaders||1–50|
|Coaching (One-on-One and Team)||Individuals, Intact Teams and Project Teams||1–20|
|Virtual Learning “Sprints” (in partnership with CorpU)||HR Professionals & Leaders||Cohort-based; 25–100|
|Virtual Instructor Led Development (VILD)||HR Professionals & Leaders||Cohort-based: Up to 16 (recommended)|
|Blended||HR Professionals & Leaders||10–35|
As we’ve worked with clients in this space for the past 5–7 years, we’ve seen and answered a lot of frequently asked questions (FAQ). To help clients navigate what for some team members is a brand new space and for many is a critical priority, we have compiled some of the most common questions we receive and share our answers below.
What are the Benefits of Virtual Learning?
The largest benefit of virtual learning is flexibility; flexibility to:
- Help bring together global audiences, in real-time without the expense/time-loss of travel
- Make content available 24/7
- Swap in/out content without significant reprinting, version control issues, etc.
Additional benefits include: scalability; simultaneous rollouts; reduced overall training delivery costs; and just-in-time/on-demand delivery.
Is Virtual Learning a Replacement for Classroom Learning?
Not fully… but as the COVID-19 global pandemic demonstrated, the technology advances and individual comfort level with a (nearly) fully virtual environment have established a new baseline. Remote work, meetings and learning are here to stay. The power of an in-person, classroom experience is a compelling part of the human experience and is a powerful modality for learning and delivering complex concepts that may require debate or deeper discussions.
When done well, virtual learning can approximate much of that classroom experience. RBL’s Virtual Instructor-Led Development (VILD) programs, leverage intentionally smaller cohorts (up to 16 people) to enable a level of engagement, networking and trust to tackle complex learning discussions and approximate a classroom/team coaching environment. It’s not exactly the same as the classroom, but inches closer and closer as technology advances.
Is Virtual Learning Cheaper than Traditional Classroom Learning?
Total costs, yes. Virtual learning programs eliminate the obvious hard costs of travel, lodging, meals, etc. These are not insignificant costs to overall organizational budgets. Virtual learning also eliminates the softer costs, such as lost productivity away from the role to accommodate travel time/days to and from in-person sessions.
In a virtual learning program, depending on modality, participants may learn at a time that is convenient for them. Asynchronous offerings such as ebooks, eLearning, microlearning, etc. are available at all times. Synchronous events (webinars, virtual “Sprints”, VILD sessions, coaching sessions, etc.), while scheduled, are a sliver of time compared to a classroom session. Because they require smaller blocks of time, they can often be logged on/off from the participant’s place of work, which allows for an immediate return to productivity following the session.
What Technology is Required to Run Virtual Learning?
High-speed internet is the obvious answer, but additional technology depends upon the type of virtual learning. The trend is for firms like RBL to make virtual learning offerings available across a variety of end-user platforms (computer, tablet, mobile phones, etc.) so that users can adapt to their technology environments.
RBL currently leverages Zoom (with enhanced security requirements) for webinars, virtual “Sprints,” coaching and VILD sessions. We recommend using the Zoom app for the most stable end-user experience. However, other platforms have worked and we expect additional platforms to continue to emerge.
For our virtual “Sprint” programs, RBL has entered into a partnership with CorpU and will be rolling out a number of our programs on that platform throughout the coming year.
What is the Difference Between Virtual Learning, eLearning, Microlearning, Webinars and Virtual Instructor Led Development (VILD)?
These terms are often used interchangeably, create confusion (in our opinion), and even fuel historical negative biases against virtual as a viable learning option.
Virtual Learning is the evolution of online learning, and more reflective of the umbrella term people experience today. Virtual learning involves the ability to learn from anywhere, while actively engaging with the instructor and other participants. This active engagement can be in real-time, or in a timely manner.
eLearning, while also virtual, is a more individualized experience. This is typically one-on-one interaction with a repository of content via technology. Interaction may occur with instructors via email or text. But not in real-time.
Microlearning is a rapidly evolving modality, which offers bite-sized learning (less than 5 minutes) on a single topic. Most often consumed on a mobile device, learners experience a topic aligned to when they need to apply the new learning. If desired, the option for participants to engage with peers, managers and/or instructors can be designed into this approach.
Webinar is a historical term, that often is used to describe an online session with an instructor. In today’s environment, a webinar is a useful modality for delivering content to a large audience all at once. Webinars are primarily one-way, with the instructor sharing content with limited audience interaction. This is a very efficient delivery channel, similar to a lecture-based classroom setting, allowing for external thought-leaders to help jump start a blended learning program.
Virtual Instructor-Led Development (VILD) is RBL’s answer to the VILT approach. Instead of “T” for training, we focus on more of a “D” for development experience that encourages discussion, debate and a bias toward doing something with the learning in order to create impact. In a VILD program, small cohorts of up to 16 (recommended) cover key concepts through a set of asynchronous pre-work activities in preparation for the scheduled VILD discussion sessions. In those sessions, we tackle the application of the concepts to create the ability to shift from Ideas to Impact.
How Many People can Simultaneously Participate in an RBL Virtual Learning Program?
It depends on the virtual learning modality. Depending on your goals and budget, we work with you to determine the best modality to achieve your desired outcome. RBL’s virtual offerings, whether the topic is leadership development or HR transformation, can benefit a single individual or hundreds of people simultaneously. The trends involve more cohort-based learning via virtual, which has only grown since COVID-19.
Is Virtual Learning Secure?
Much has been written about cyber-security, and increasingly so with the rapid scaled use of online meeting and learning technologies connected to COVID-19. RBL contracts a third-party expert technology firm to connect us to the latest trends in technology and technology-related security. We take extra pre-cautions to ensure a safe learning experience for our clients and their virtual teams.
In our popular VILD programs, we have a “Producer” who monitors the session in real-time to ensure all is functioning as expected. This includes providing a unique password per session, monitoring participants against a predetermined roster, monitoring the chat box, etc.
Which Virtual Learning Option is Best for My Organization?
With our current portfolio, RBL is solidly positioned to consult with you in this regard. As in any development program, it is vital to begin with the end goal in mind. Once the learning goals are established and we have an outside-in understanding of how your business works, we will work together to create a tailored development program. Contact us to begin a conversation about how virtual learning can solve your business needs.