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Jul 21, 2016 Jennifer Hofmann

Managing Virtual Classroom Strategy Implementation Challenges Part 5

Defining Virtual Classroom Implementation Strategy

Recently InSync Training worked with a multinational software company to maximize the value of their existing learning content by transitioning it to the virtual and blended classroom.

During this process, we discovered seven specific areas that we needed to address to facilitate this transition. We believe these challenges are universal to virtual classroom implementation. Many other organizations are undergoing this evolution, with seasoned learning professionals assisting the process.

In the spirit of the modern classroom, a learning environment defined by the accessibility of knowledge, we will detail these challenges and our approaches for overcoming them in this seven-part blog series.

To achieve the greatest understanding of virtual classroom strategy implementation challenges, begin with my first blog post, Redesigning Content for the Virtual Classroom.

Virtual Classroom Implementation Strategy Challenge 5: Redefining Virtual Learning 

In order to successfully implement virtual learning, our strategy needed to include redefining the concept within the organization adopting it.

The Need

Believe it or not, the virtual classroom has been around for almost 20 years. The history of the virtual classroom hasn’t been pretty; would-be learners were inundated with one hour sessions crammed with as many slides as possible and little to no interaction. “Webinars” became synonymous with opportunities to multitask. This rush to push content via technology has created the impression that true learning can’t take place in this environment.

Because of this, the virtual classroom developed a reputation for being a cost-cutting measure. Learners started to believe that if the content was truly critical for them to master, the organization would have invested in “a real class.”

For all organizations going through this transition, it’s definitely a change management issue. On one hand, everyone, including learners, wants the time spent in virtual classrooms to be more valuable. On the other hand, learners who are suddenly asked to fully engage in the experience without being prepared for it often leave the lesson frustrated because they were not expecting to have to actually contribute.

Our client understood that in order for their virtual classroom initiative to be successful, they needed to reframe this perception to distinguish virtual learning from webinars.

The Approach

The first part of this change was to distinguish between a webinar, an event that people attend to be exposed to new knowledge and potentially ask questions of an expert, and learning via the virtual classroom. Nearly 20 years of webinars had convinced all of their stakeholders, including learners, managers, and facilitators, that the virtual classroom only provided a "show and tell" experience.

As we started to change this impression, we needed to make sure our client started strong. We helped them invest in creating a rich design for a topic that was of interest to a wide audience. We made sure it included hands-on practice and immersion into the subject area, with actual lecture minimized. When marketing this new program, we suggested that they advertise what the requirements are for participation and call it something different. We worked with them to help to distinguish this new active learning event from a webinar presentation.

Initially, we suggested they ask learners to opt in to the program in order to engage the early adopters. We also suggested they publish success stories and have the early adopters start to spread the word that virtual learning in their organization is something to be embraced.

Obviously, webinars did not suddenly disappear. Our client will still take advantage of this technology in order to share presentations by subject matter experts; but that is just one type of experience.

By strategically selecting, designing, and promoting their new learning initiative, they have begun to earn stakeholder buy-in and changed the perception of the value of live virtual learning within their organization.

The Outcome

By implementing a long term, strategic campaign to differentiate between webinar presentations and virtual learning, the organization started to realize an increase in participation and in perceived value – for BOTH TYPES OF EVENTS!

By setting expectations for each event using a detailed design approach, messaging those expectations to learners and stakeholders, and ensuring those expectations were met, the return on investment, and especially on time, was recognized and welcomed.

Next Steps

We designed a new infographic, 7 Actions to Manage & Overcome the Challenges of Implementing a Virtual Classroom Strategy, as a support tool for this blog series. Download your complimentary copy.

Successful program implementation didn't end with redefining virtual learning. Read part six in our series to learn about what our follow-up challenge.

Published by Jennifer Hofmann July 21, 2016
Jennifer Hofmann