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Wouldn’t it be great to listen to a lesson on an airplane and maybe just, you know, have an audio file or a video file, or maybe somebody likes to read and they can print it out and read a transcript? So having things available in multiple formats really helps.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and Powered by Purple Ink, and with me is my friend and co-host, Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice.
Our topic today is on virtual learning. Virtual learning is a learning experience that is enhanced through utilizing technology, and of course, the instruction most commonly takes place in an online environment. In the past two years, I’ve led probably about 90% of the training I offer on a virtual platform, so I’m always looking for ideas on how to make it more engaging and interactive, but I admit when I’m participating in a virtual class, I struggle to stay engaged because I’m distracted by work or emails, phone calls, and texts. What about you, Susan?
You know, I am pretty good at staying focused, but what I really have trouble with is my outside life interrupting me. I will tell everyone I know that I think could possibly call me or come to see me or stop by that I’m going to be in a class, that I cannot talk, I cannot do anything. Inevitably something comes up where somebody starts knocking on the door. “Well, this one’s really urgent!” And so I feel like when you’re in a virtual setting, people don’t see that boundary like they really… I wish they would.
Right. Great points. There are definitely pros and cons to both, though, either live or virtual training, so let’s take a look at some of those we’ve experienced ourselves and/or that others enjoy or struggled with, as well. So let’s talk about the pros first, Susan. The first one, I think, is flexibility. And as a listener or a participant, it allows us to learn from anywhere, so we can have more freedom to take part in it. If the learning is recorded so you can watch it later, we can even watch it not only where we are, but when we want to watch it.
Definite advantages. The second is no commute. No commute for us as the instructor and no commute for the people that are taking the course. Right? It allows you more time, and that can be a lot of time and less frustration.
Yeah. The next one was to be able to choose our preferred learning style. Now, we don’t always have this option, but sometimes it is. People learn differently. Some people are visual learners, some take a lot of notes, some need to hear the material over and over again to absorb it, and some use a combination of these tactics to retain the material. Online learning might enable you to employ those learning methods that work best for you.
Yes, and I think virtual learning, as an employer, it makes so much sense from a cost standpoint. You’re not paying for people to commute into a centralized location, you’re certainly not providing meals – unless of course you want to do DoorDash or have something delivered to your folks while they’re watching. People don’t need to worry about clothing, dressing up, you know, spending money on… necessarily on appearance, except for maybe the waist up, of course. [laughs]
So it can just be a really much more cost-effective way of coming at training.
Yeah. And the last one, I think, can be technology skills, right? Most organizations are utilizing more and more online tools, and in today’s tech-infused world, we can gain experience working in this virtual format and using new tools. It might be Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Office 365 Suite, Zoom, Teams, there’s screen capturing, recording, and presentation tools… Just lots of, maybe, technology that we hadn’t used before, or maybe we were afraid to use.
Sure. Well, I think in all fairness… we’ve talked about why we really like it and all the good about it, but I think we should look at the other side of the coin, so some of the cons of online learning. The first one is you really do get less one-on-one interaction or even group interaction when learning online. You know, you may see people, but not always. One platform I know that I use, the only people they see is me, and I always feel bad about that, I never get to actually look anybody in the eye. So you just don’t feel like you’re interacting nearly as much as if people were with you in person.
Yeah. The next one is that it puts some pressure on us to be responsible for establishing a routine. You know, they say with more freedom comes more responsibility. So when you need to be there in person at a certain time, it creates more accountability, and when you can watch it whenever you want, sometimes whenever… never happens.
So the next con, JoDee, I think, is one that we’ve all experienced. It’s technology challenges. And the fact is, you’re introducing a lot of variables that may go awry when you’re doing a virtual class. You know, headphones, maybe yours might stop working, some of your participants may not have quality headphones, they may be struggling to hear you, WiFi might go in, might go out, people trying to learn a new platform, maybe it’s one they they’re not nearly as comfortable with as what they use in their own world of work. So connection issues, server errors, finding the correct link… So many people when they’re racing to get to a class, they may not have done any of the preparation to test out, does their equipment work, do they know how to get there? They may not remember where that link is, having a password, on and on and on. Technology is a blessing and can be a curse.
It sure is. I think we’ve probably, between the two of us, experienced every one of those issues before. [laughs]
The next one is experiencing distractions. This is one I really struggle with. And with online learning comes the potential for more distractions. It could be in our environment, such as finding a quiet place with no dogs or kids or UPS drivers ringing the doorbell. I tell you, for me, I feel like the UPS man comes every time I’m trying to train a class.
[Laughs] It’s all that Amazon ordering you’re doing, JoDee.
I know, it is. It is. Or just struggling to stay focused and not jump over to my email or work on something else or get caught up on my texts and calls. So easy to be distracted.
The final one is that I really believe that you have fewer opportunities to network when you’re in a virtual classroom setting. I’ve seen, really, magic happen when people come together for a workshop or seminar. Friendships sometimes are formed by participants who have, you know, the same types of issues that they’re there, they’re struggling with. They share best practices. It just… in a virtual environment, it can happen. It’s just a lot harder.
Yeah, I agree. Well, of course, we have a guest today. Diane Kubal has experience in creating training into engaging digital experiences to help alleviate those cons and increase the pros. Diane is the founder of Fulcrum Network. She helps clients convert their training into engaging digital experiences, and over the past five years, Diane has developed an experience-based learning approach used in her learning portal by her clients and consultant networks. Diane is also a partner in our Powered by Purple Ink network. So thanks so much for joining us today, Diane. Why do you think it’s important to make virtual learning engaging? Isn’t online self-study learning enough?
You know, there was a study done by Blanchard Training and Development – I know many people are familiar with them – and they did a study on the trends in 2022, and 53% of more than 850 learning and development professionals across the globe said that their virtual and digital offerings were less effective than their face-to-face versions. And that’s even higher than last year. And they cited a number of different reasons for what they felt they needed to improve. So 59% of them – this is the top thing – was learner engagement. You know, because things are just self-study and online, it’s kind of boring for people. You know, they need to have… have more engagement with other people. They felt that they needed to have more social interaction, more than half of them. And they wanted them to have more touch points over time. They wanted them to create what we call a “learning journey.” And a learning journey is where you take the content and you spread it out over a period of time rather than just having one live session where, you know, you give them everything you know in three hours. It’s kind of like the… the firehose. So they would convert their content into that kind of approach.
Nice. I like that idea also.
Oh, very nice. And Diane, can you go a little deeper on some factors that could really help make digital learning more engaging?
One of the things that we do is flipped classroom. So maybe you can think of, like, a university setting, and you know, typically, the students go to class, right? They have a lecture, and after the lecture, they have homework. What we do is flip that. We put the homework first. So they’re doing all the reading, the videos, and then they come to the class and they’re processing what they’ve learned and discussing it in groups. Maybe they’re, you know, watching videos ahead of time so that they’re prepared to engage in what they learned about. It’s not just the professor teaching them or lecturing them, which, again, is kind of boring. So that’s one of the methods that we use. You can, you know, use both asynchronous and synchronous, and I’ve created a continuum from the self-study format, which is, you know, off by yourself, e-learning, and the synchronous learning, which is, like, a live, you know, training or virtual session. And in between the two ends of that continuum, I’ve identified 30 different methods that you can use to make your digital learning more engaging and experiential. So we incorporate accountability partners, written coaching, feedback, social community where people are posting on what they’ve learned so they’re interacting not just with their coach, but with each other in a community. And another important thing for today’s learner is, you know, people soon are going to be mobile and moving around, maybe some of us have already started. So wouldn’t it be great to listen to a lesson on an airplane and maybe just, you know, have an audio file or a video file, or maybe somebody likes to read and they can print it out and read a transcript? So having things available in multiple formats, really helps.
Those are, I think, great ideas.
Yeah. Well, and I think, you know, we know people have different learning styles. So having those different options to… to learn by reading or listening or viewing gives more choices.
Absolutely. And we have found that, you know, people do really like to have a variety of methods. One, because of the learning styles, and two, what happens is they touch the content a number of times. So you know, we want to make learning sticky, we want people to actually apply what they’re learning in their everyday job. And so what we have found is that having them… let’s say, watch a video, then maybe complete a worksheet, maybe read an article, and then maybe the next day, they’re going to practice something with an accountability partner, then in the live session, they’re, you know, engaging with each other, maybe they go conduct that difficult conversation or whatever they’re learning in real life and then they come back and they post about their experience. Maybe they do a group coaching session where they talk about what they learned, what went well, what would they do differently, and all of the peers are sharing the same kind of information, because most of our learning happens from the mistakes. And usually we don’t have an opportunity to, you know, really have a real-life experience from training. So if we spread it out over time, and we incorporate, go practice it with a real person and then come back and let’s talk about what to do next, what to do better, that really helps it be sticky.
I love it. And what kind of results are you seeing with your experience-based virtual learning approach?
We have something called the Modern Managers Leadership Series, and we’ve been running that all last year in a training format, and this year, we’re going to do it in a group coaching format. And what we saw from the… the training format, we did it in the form of a learning dash, and I call a learning dash kind of a sprint over a week so you get a half day equivalent of content, what people used to get live in the physical classroom for half a day, right? That’s how training used to be done on a lot of management topics. So now we still take that half day of leadership development, but we spread it out over a week so they have about 30 minutes of self-study each day, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Friday, they have the live session. And so number one, people really love the… the gamification that we incorporated, you know, they’re getting points, we may be offering prizes and things like that. So it’s just more fun. So that’s one of the results that we’re seeing. And interesting, you know, a lot of the younger learners today, they have learned this way in college. You know, this is the approach that they are used to. Maybe some of us baby boomers, you know, maybe we’re not used to that. But the, you know, modern learner does like this, and they’re used to it, so I do find that they complete the learning. There’s a huge concern by, you know, the corporations. Are they actually going to do it? And you know, we’ve had some sessions and people come to the live session, maybe haven’t completed it all, but they’re like, “Oh my God, I need to go back, there’s so much good stuff here that I need to, you know, download and actually practice.” So we have had very positive feedback. So people like it. And we do some measurements. So for every program, we have four competencies that we measure, and we measure before, we measure immediately after, and then three months later on their application. So we have seen anywhere from 20 to 43% improvement from the pre to the post and then the three months, depending on the topic. So interesting, you know, like, diversity and inclusion, we have a program called “Awaken Unconscious Bias.” Now, people come into that and they don’t know what intersectionality is, or, you know, some of the new terms. So they go from zero to, you know, 43, or something pretty high. Whereas in, you know, some of the other programs, like hybrid teams or difficult conversations, you know, it’s more in the, you know, 30% range, but still pretty significant. And I will say this is self-reported by the participants, what is their skill level based on what they perceive of themselves now, and you know, after.
Right. That’s impressive.
So Diane, if our listeners are maybe head of training or they’re responsible for the training in their organization and they probably within the last two years have needed to pivot and change a lot of their training to virtual, do you have any suggestions, maybe quick tips? What are the one, two, or three things that the listener might want to think about doing to take that virtual training that they’re doing right now and take it to the next level?
Yeah, that’s a… that’s a great question, and I think lots of organizations are considering what can they do. So number one, I think, is make it a learning journey. Don’t just do, you know, that sheep dipping approach where you give them everything you need to… they need to know in, you know, a half a day or in a day. Spread it out over time. And then that requires getting a good system. Many people have, you know, like, the typical learning management systems that only will upload, like, videos and documents. There’s no way for interaction between people. The more sophisticated ones, the learning experience platforms, do that. So I would definitely suggest that they consider some kind of approach like that. When I first started this, I actually did it without a system. And you can. For instance, we piloted a program called Career Essentials with Schneider Electric, and it was with 25 early career high potentials across North America, and they had a system called Yammer, which was like their internal social media. And so we posted all of the videos and all of the homework assignments there and we sent them emails with their little assessment links. And, you know, it was kind of a lot of pieces. It worked and they loved it, because it was engaging. Many people, you know, might try to use Microsoft Teams. I wouldn’t recommend that, but Microsoft Teams can do it. But if you get a good system, it makes everything very easy for the learner. And I would say if you’re an internal person, the focus should be on making it easy for the learner, not easy for the training department. [laughs]
And so, you know, you have to create a lot of training assets to do it in the form that I do. Sometimes I look through my files if we’re going to update, and I have, like, hundreds of documents, because everything is broken down into micro-learning. You know, when you are spreading it out over time, you don’t just give them a workbook of the 50 pages. You give them a one little exercise at a time and it makes it easy to digest. It makes it easy to process and to remember.
Yeah. Have you ever had a program or thought about building a program that you didn’t think would work online?
You know, there’s a consultant that I’ve recently worked with. She has a program called 10x Your Expertise, and it’s actually for consultants, and it’s a consulting process to identify what do you want to be known for – aligning your, you know, expertise with what you want to be known for. And I wasn’t sure exactly how that was going to work, and it’s worked out beautifully. Another one I forgot to mention, we have a program called Team Essentials. This is an intervention. It’s designed for an intact team. So it’s based on a team assessment, and the entire intact team, anywhere from eight to 25 people, take the assessment and they review the assessment results. They comment on it. So, you know, normally with a team development process, the consultant will interview each person on the team and gather data. So rather than having to talk to them, all of this feedback is gathered from each participant with a confidential written coaching feedback that’s done inside our platform. And then there are live sessions that are based on the content that has been collected, as well as the survey results. So there’s, you know, a number of things that are measured. And then the coach will go back to the the client and say, “Alright, here’s, you know, what I observed, here’s the three things I think we should focus on. Let’s do this in our 90 minute meeting.” So it’s actually like a four to five month process. So it incorporates leader coaching, it incorporates learning about team development and the infrastructure of the team, and incorporates consulting. So it’s truly an intervention that’s very sophisticated. And I’ve showed it to a few people, we’re actually right now proposing to pilot this, so we haven’t conducted it using the platform. It’s been done lots of times with clients, you know, the old fashioned way, right? You know, just phone calls and, and live in-person sessions. So we’re pretty excited about that one.
Nice, that sounds great.
So Diane, how could our listeners reach out to you if they wanted to hear more about ideas of how to really make their virtual teaching much more engaging, or if they’re interested in talking to you about your services?
I actually have a program called Transformed Learning. So what we do is we take the content of a client or a consultant and we convert it into this format so they actually learn how to do it. If they take a half day of content, they can convert it, and then they’ll know how to do it. If they’re an instructional designer, trainer, consultant, they’ll get it after they do it one time. So you can go to fulcrumnetwork.com, that’s one place. Also, there’s fulcrumnetwork.com/transformed-learning, so you can go directly to that page if you’re interested in that. And it’s for whether you’re internal or an external person.
Great, well, we’ll put links to those sites on our show notes.
By the way, there are also some free infographics there. So “How Learning Impacts Memory” is one of them, and I can’t remember what the other one is right now… Oh, it’s “Content-Based Versus Action-Based Learning.” So that’s that experience-based virtual learning approach that, you know, I’ve created. So those are two free infographics that you can download.
Nice. And you know, Diane, we are The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, so we always like to think about helping people find joy in their work. What advice would you have for our listeners on creating more joy in their work?
Yeah, I love that question. That’s… that’s awesome that you do that, because so many people are not joyful right now. [Laughs]
Yeah, so that’s important. So what I find is that when I am clear about my natural gifts and talents, I know what I do well, and I am able to align them with my work, my projects, that that is kind of a formula for being engaged, being happy, being joyful at work. And if you can find things that really help the organization and your immediate boss, they’re gonna love you. We just recently went through a program and one of the participants said, “Yeah, I really want to do more of,” you know, this particular thing. And the boss said, “Oh, my God, thank you, because I hate that.”
“I am gonna have a lot more of that coming your way.”
But they were both so happy. You know, some people feel like it’s a little bit of a risk to say that to their boss, right? But yeah, it… sometimes it can really work out to everybody’s benefit.
I love it. Well, thank you so much for joining us today.
Well, thanks for having me, this was a lot of fun.
JoDee, that was interesting. I think I have myself struggled. How do you make virtual learning really more engaging? And I love some of her ideas about putting into bite-sized pieces, giving people small little assignments to do maybe in between sessions or prior to the lecture. I just think those are really good things I want to try to incorporate.
Yes, me too. I think shorter is better when you’re online or when you’re not live, at least. Even, actually, it sort of makes me rethink some of our live training, wondering if that could be cut up, too. I know sometimes when organizations have people come in town to get together then it’s hard to break that up if the facilitator or trainer’s, you know, not in the same place, but even an all day live meeting can be long, as well, too.
It sure can. I was just teaching a class this week and on the second day, about three o’clock – and we had about two more hours left – I decided we all need coffee. I mean, this is the time… we’re gonna need to get some… you know, get ourselves ready some way, shape, or form. So I do think shorter is better.
Yes, I do, too. I just taught a four hour – well, three and a half hours – session this morning online, and I too am… I have more frequent but shorter breaks, and I try to use breakout rooms a lot so that they can engage with each other, I try to incorporate videos, anything that is not just me talking to them. I mean, I have some of that too, but I try to break it up in different formats.
Smart. JoDee, today’s listener question actually comes from a friend of yours. She was wondering how important it is for American workers in the future to be bilingual.
So I see this trend growing and I hear more people talk about it, but honestly, I had no idea about the answer to this question, so I did a little research and I found a blog by preply.com on this very topic, and we’ll include a link to that in our show notes. But they analyzed 600 job postings on indeed.com that used the words “bilingual” or “multilingual” to learn which languages are most desired by employers. This was a global survey, by the way, not just in the US. And they found that Spanish is the most marketable language by far with 76% of all job postings analyzed requested the Spanish language.
Spanish was followed by Chinese, both Cantonese and Mandarin, and French, including French Canadian.
The jobs that most often require a second language include customer service representatives, call center representatives, or – a bit obvious – an interpreter. [laughs]
[Laughs] Now, that does make sense. The industries that most often request a second language are, number one, pharmaceutical or medical related, number two, finance, number three, sales, number four, education, and number five, technology.
And the majority of jobs that prefer or require a second language were remote.
So in our in the news section today… okay, well, you might not want to know about this in the news topic, but admittedly, a few of these might apply to me – although I’m not going to tell you which ones – and I found it fascinating. In a nationwide survey at craftjack.com on personal hygiene habits and workspace cleanliness, they found that most remote workers are seriously lagging behind in-office standards, and they’re getting worse. Some of the highlights included that 60% of the remote workers surveyed admitted to working from the toilet at least once a week. [Laughs]
I am so grossed out.
Two out of three attended virtual meetings without brushing their teeth. Eeks.
88% are working in their pajamas.
84% worked barefoot.
I’m really… [Laughs] I’m really scared about this last one. [Laughs] 16% have worked naked. Let’s just say that one doesn’t apply to me. [Laughs]
No. And I want to tell all our listeners, JoDee and I can see each other, because that’s where we’re recording this, we’re doing it via Zoom. We both are fully dressed, just for the record.
And I brushed my teeth too.
Beyond that, in the 24 months of remote work, people admit to wearing less makeup – 92%.
Okay, I’m with that group.
Yeah, me too. Washing their hair less frequently. I’m in that one too, along with 52% of the other surveyed people.
And the final one – which I gotta tell you, I am not in this group – is 34% say they’re washing their hands less often after going to the bathroom. Yuck, I’m glad I’m not in an office with you.
I know, and I found that interesting with all the conversation we’ve had about washing our hands, too.
Let’s just say be careful out there.
[Laughs] Fair enough.
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