How to Keep Employees Engaged With Distance Learning

distance learning

Now that corporate training departments have had to make some quick changes and decisions regarding their training programs, employees are also having to adapt to new ways of learning. Distance learning presents a few challenges. One of the most common is keeping learners engaged with the training, particularly for remote instructor-led sessions.

But whether you’re now conducting training through elearning, virtual classrooms, or a mixture of both, here are some tips for keeping your learners engaged.

1. Distance Learning with Webinars

Webinars are a great way to transfer seminars and in-person presentations to a remote setting. Trainers can present slides, run demonstrations, and play videos to the participants the same way they would while standing in front of them.

Other benefits include reducing training expenses such as travel costs. But without that in-person presence, ensuring the presentation is engaging is even more important. 

Some ways that you can keep webinar training sessions engaging for learners include:

Snappy Slides

The design of your presentation is important. Even though you can still be visible on the video, viewers’ screens will mostly be taken up by the slides and other materials that you present. Dull and lifeless presentation slides are the quickest way to ensure learners tune out.

Some best practices are to include more slides rather than less (about one minute per slide) and use lots of graphics. Try not to include more than one or two clear messages per slide. Crowding your slides with information makes that information far less memorable.

Polls

Most webinar tools include a Poll feature. So you can create multiple choice questions ahead of time and use them at intervals throughout the presentation. It’s a great way to make sure your learners are paying attention, but try to include more than just “quiz” questions. Get learners thinking about how the training applies to their roles or their own experiences in much the same way that you might ask people to raise their hands for different questions during an in-person session.

conference call

Q&A

The Q&A feature allows attendees to submit questions to the presenter. You can enable anonymous questions, and choose when to check in one questions and when to answer them. 

Where possible, it’s a good idea to have an assistant presenter on the webinar with you. They can monitor some of these features so you can focus on presenting. Some questions are better answered during the flow of the session and some can wait until the end. 

2. Virtual Classrooms

Some training requires a lot more interactivity than a webinar session. A virtual classroom is often much more suitable for smaller groups or sessions highly specific to the learners’ day-to-day roles.

Lots of virtual classrooms allow you to:

  • Present material
  • Upload activities and exercises
  • Leverage gamification features
  • Use interactive whiteboards to share ideas
  • Provide and monitor takeaway assessment pieces

Teams who have just recently transitioned to this style of learning are actually at an advantage when it comes to learner engagement. Since the environment is so new, the novelty factor will help boost engagement vastly.

Provide additional resources

To make the most out of virtual classroom sessions, be sure to provide plenty of additional resources and supplemental information. That way, learners can continue to engage with the subject matter beyond the classroom.

Chat Function

For webinars, many presenters choose to turn off the Chat function that allows learners to interact with the presenter and other attendees throughout the session. 

However, in a virtual classroom the exchange of ideas can be one of the most beneficial learning tools at your disposal. So it’s a good idea to have audio and microphone capabilities for your learners or, at the very least, keep the chat function up and running so learners can communicate with the instructor and each other.

3. eLearning 

Many training teams will already have the majority of their training program running in an elearning capacity. For those teams, moving to distance learning won’t require significant changes in the delivery of training programs.

But lots of learning takes place outside of formal training. Before COVID 19, learners were already crying out for training that they could manage and consume in their own time and according to their learning preferences.

So now is the perfect time to start developing multi-faceted content that will keep learners engaged during their remote work.

Static content (or asynchronous learning) is preferred by many learners. This means content that is in the format they prefer that they can consume on demand in their own time. Don’t discount tools like ebooks and infographics. Many people prefer to learn through reading and visuals rather than listening or doing.

Why not use this time to start learning podcasts? These can be lunch and learn style sessions where a subject matter expert shares their department’s current activities and organizational impact. Or you could produce different series of podcasts for different departments focused on learning topics relevant to their activities.

work from home

4. On-the-Job Distance Learning

One of the greatest challenges for training teams is measuring where and when employees’ learning experiences take place. It’s estimated that formal learning accounts for only 10% of the total learning experience. Around 20% is learning from others while 70% accounts for informal, on-the-job learning.

These are some pretty compelling figures when you consider that distance learning and remote work means a lot of that peer learning and on-the-job training can no longer take place in the typical face-to-face interactions.

For training teams, this means finding ways to facilitate this type of training as part of new distance learning programs. 

Provide Mentorship Opportunities

Training teams can help to facilitate peer learning and mentorship by formalizing some of these interactions during remote work.

Try working with managers to establish “go to” subject matter experts for specific topics, processes, and systems. These points of contact can then be distributed to learners who might have questions on these topics. Many of these subject matter experts will already be informally established in different departments. But for new team members who may feel a little stranded working remotely without having pre-established relationships, it provides a formal channel for their questions regarding specific points of learning.

Facilitate Social Learning

If identifying specific subject matter experts places too heavy a burden on specific individuals, social learning opportunities can allow learners to interact at their own pace without disrupting high priority work.

Establishing forums where employees can submit questions or discuss topics can help learners to feel connected over collaborative problem solving and the exchange of ideas. In a remote work environment, this can keep employees engaged with distance learning by adding that social interaction element that people may be missing now that they are no longer in the office.

Remote work is presenting new challenges across the board, but since distance learning was already becoming a standard part of training, there are plenty of opportunities for L&D teams to diversify their training programs to keep learners engaged. 

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