The Virtual Classroom
Challenges of existing paradigm
The Economic Problem.
Considered “cost centers” in most enterprises, training departments are now under severe pressure to provide more learning and development services without expanding their budgets.
Most training departments, have simply ceased to grow. Enterprises have decided they no longer can continue to fund them.
The cost of conventional training is clear. It includes the cost of travel, time away from work, and the disruption of workflow. Less clear is the payoff associated with training efforts that seem inconsistent with the increasingly rapid movement of business life. Pulling individuals away from their work to engage in multiday, training events no longer seems appropriate in many cases.
The Pedagogy Problem
Also, as product cycles shrink and the speed of information accelerates, the pace of innovation increases. Ideas, skills, and competencies that once would have endured for a long period of time are rapidly replaced by new and improved ones. As a result, training systems that once endured and lent themselves to repeatability are prone to rapid obsolescence. Conventional approaches to training, which revolve around conventional classrooms and fixed curricula, can no longer keep pace with the market’s intensified pace.
The How Learners Learn
The profusion of new Web-based networking technologies and services has transformed the way people share information, consume content, and learn. Consider the popularity of YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and assorted others. Increasingly, individuals look to dynamic online communities where they can actively connect with like-minded people, rapidly find relevant information, and collaboratively explore areas of interest. This is changing the context in which individuals choose to learn.
Enter the Virtual Classroom
The virtual classroom is a space online that enables instructors to deliver content, provide rapid feedback and guidance, and engage in a mix of testing and assessment activities. Critically, it’s accessible to learners from anywhere – assuming they have adequate bandwidth. The approach is interactive, personal, and collaborative. The ability to make the learning assets accessible for on-demand usage increases their overall value.
While the virtual classroom does not eliminate the value of convening and meeting in person it actually contributes to “blended learning” environments, and it does extend the options available to trainers and educators.
Relative to conventional classroom training and education, the virtual classroom approach delivers an array of key benefits:
- Whereas traditional classroom training often requires that course material be packed into one event, this approach enables instructors to pace the presentation of content over a longer period of time – allowing learners to absorb what they’ve learned and progressively build their proficiency with the material.
- Drawing on a mix of mechanisms to solicit feedback from the entire group (including polls and quiz questions), it’s easier to gauge whether the course is moving at the appropriate pace and whether participants are absorbing and mastering the material
- This is a learning model that fits into the flow of people’s days much more effectively than traditional training. Rather than having to book multiple days out of a person’s schedule for training, it’s now possible to learn in more manageable and accessible “modules.” Moreover, it’s available to learners wherever they are (i.e. they don’t have to physically travel to an event). This convenience factor increases attendance and the scale of reach available to a training group.
- By eliminating the costs associated with travel and lost productivity associated with time away from the office, enterprises realize large gains immediately. Indeed, monies that would have been spent on travel can now be reinvested to extend the amount of training available and the number of people it reaches.
- Well trained and developed employees are far more likely to be successful in their jobs. As a result, they are more likely to remain loyal and committed to their employers. Meanwhile, they are liable to appreciate the benefits tied to work/life balance associated with reduced travel.
- In an era with imminent concerns about environmental impact, enterprises also to stand to benefit from reducing their “carbon footprint” by cutting back on travel. This enables an organization to claim the virtual classroom as an element of its overall efforts to take a proactive stance on environmental concerns.
- With the virtual classroom approach, course material can be modularized and delivered in a more custom fashion. This allows training departments to train more people, more often, and with more relevance in the content. The economics of traditional training put severe limits on the production and delivery of relevant content.
- By giving training groups the ability to produce and roll out courses in a more rapid fashion, one increases their ability to rapidly adapt to the needs and requirements of employees in a fast changing marketplace.
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