Over the past few weeks, all you must be hearing about is COVID-19 and how governments of different countries are coping with it. Every sector, no matter what products or services it deals in, is highly impacted due to this pandemic. As state-imposed lockdowns continue to hamper business activities, companies are finding out ways to mold themselves in this ‘new normal’ situation.
One of the hardest-hit sectors among others is the education sector. Universities and schools in many countries have been forced to close and learning of millions of students is interrupted. Not only academic classes but corporate training programs have also been postponed or canceled. As such, universities and enterprises are turning to online methods to engage with learners and offering them a wide range of courses like PMP training, cloud computing courses, Azure training, and more.
Though employee safety is the priority at this time, critical workplace learning cannot be put on hold and leaders have to take some effective steps and establish virtual live learning. It is worth noting that many universities and companies had online platforms in place, but they were not utilized much. Technological advancements, however, are helping institutions to switch to an online learning model which learners can embrace.
Some institutions are working to establish the infrastructure needed to move their classes online and also putting efforts to prepare business continuity plans for completing the administrative tasks remotely. Universities can utilize their existing mobile or web applications, and those who do not have any online platform can consider turning to outsourced program management companies (OPMs) to design the Learning Management System (LMS). Using an LMS, universities can deploy and track online training initiatives. All they need to do is upload the training materials and video modules in the LMS and provide login credentials to the students so that they can access it remotely.
Apart from the academic course material, institutes can also offer creative activities to keep their learners engaged. Arizona State University (ASU), for example, is offering hundreds of free activities like virtual space exploration with ‘mission’ assignments, learning lessons from Boeing engineers, on-demand tips for parents, integrated labs for conducting experiments, interactive puzzles and quizzes, weekly Wednesday webinar, and daily assignments.
Enterprises too are facing hindrances in their learning and development initiatives; they are looking how to develop online learning material. As such, the first step that companies can take is creating a COVID-19 learning-response team. This team can comprise of employees from different departments who can share what training programs need to be conducted for each department. Decisions can then be taken regarding:
- What tools need to be provided
- Whether pre-recorded sessions are enough or live sessions are needed
- Who will communicate to the team members regarding the training program
- Guidelines to help employees access various training materials
- How can progress, key indicators, and decision triggers be shown through dashboards
The next step is to make the trainer comfortable using virtual communication tools like video conferencing on WebEx, Skype or Google Hangouts so that they can mimic in-office interactions. The goal of the training and what to expect from it should be made clear to the team members in advance. They should also know whom to contact or what steps to take if there are any issues like lost internet connection, inability to rejoin the session or more.
To ensure the active participation of employees during digital training sessions, efforts can also be made to include social-learning components. These may be discussion boards where employees could present their views, participant journeys, or group projects where team members can work together and enhance their collaboration.
Overall, companies should prepare and practice for multiple outcomes for the initiatives they take. As it is still unknown as to when the lockdown will end and normal business would be allowed to carry out, scenario-planning techniques must be adopted by companies. Practicing responses under different possible scenarios will enable leaders to test response strategies for COVID-19 and be better prepared when it comes to executing them.
As Forbes points out, more than $300 billion is spent globally on corporate training programs but much of it is considered ineffective. So, learning and development (L&D) teams need to work on adopting different approaches that can result in positive business impact, like personalized learning for employees with different backgrounds and working experience to help them gain relevant skills.
COVID-19 indeed has dealt a hard blow to the world economy and companies across the globe have to take many corrective measures going ahead. Yet, trying to maintain normalcy is what leaders can work on and allow employees to continue working and learning simultaneously. Guiding employees to stay busy and productive is what can help companies in the long run.