How Does Virtual Learning Affect the Learner?
More and more learning solutions, especially in the workplace, are leaning into online or "virtual" learning solutions. How does this affect learners, what pitfalls do organizations need to watch out for, and are there ways in which virtual learning actually helps make personal development more accessible?
Lockdowns have looked very different for everyone but, in most instances, computers have played a fundamental role. Usage of social media platforms like TikTok grew by an astounding 85.3% alone , while daily news checks soared. In a potentially more transformative sense, school closures drove an age where virtual learning entered public consciousness in a major way, while a switch towards almost entirely virtual workplaces meant that, during the darker days of extensive lockdowns, our computers were undeniable life forces.
Even as lockdowns ease, the 80% of businesses looking to extend virtual arrangements  mean that countless workers continue to operate, collaborate, and thrive across virtual networks. To ensure this shift has lasting power, employers are now considering not only how the virtual workplace slots into a post-pandemic world, but also how advancement and continued job satisfaction are possible within that future.
For many companies, the answer rests in the application of virtual learning which has, in many ways, developed directly alongside this remote workplace increase. Right now, managers and HR teams are especially wondering what successful virtual learning looks like, and how that stands to affect the learner overall.
Digital learning in all its forms
Digital learning is a broad learning tool that’s advanced dramatically in recent years. For managers looking to advance even in-house teams, these advancements have created an undeniable in-point for more accessible, applicable training focuses. But, not all virtual lessons are created equal and understanding the different forms and benefits of virtual learning is crucial for settling on the ideal solution. The types of virtual learning that employers most need to differentiate between include 
- Formal digital: Technology is used to deliver formal, course-based content without any real support.
- Informal digital: Forums and other such platforms provide the opportunity to support informal learning focuses.
- Blended or supported learning: Types of virtual learning combine, either with in-person focuses or with community aspects implemented into formal courses.
Companies deliver these focuses through a range of different outlets depending on the outcomes they’re working towards, the most common of which include
- Virtual learning environments (VLEs)
- Smartphone technology
- Social media
- Artificial intelligence
What virtual learning means for learners
73% of students prefer at least some online aspect to learning overall , typically thanks to elearning-specific benefits such as
- Personalized learning
- Global collaboration
- Flexible access
- Consistency of training
- The ability to revisit lessons
- Faster delivery of lessons
Alongside cost reductions and trackable benefits, these plus points translate directly into working environments, fuelling a virtual learning switch that, ultimately, puts learners back in the driving seat for lessons that they can tailor, and utilize, as they see fit. For increasingly pushed workforces that operate even outside of the 9-5, especially, this personalized training focus stands to altogether transform learning and advancement, especially if implemented within platforms that complement lesson focuses and workplace environments overall.
Can virtual learning have a negative effect on learners?
The benefits of virtual learning have the potential to transform and simplify even remote training initiatives while always keeping the requirements of learners very much in mind. Unfortunately, even well-thought virtual learning applications are also at risk of posing some significant pitfalls that could prevent any real results in unprepared organizations, as well as negatively affecting learners themselves. The most notable downsides of unchecked virtual learning include
- A lack of support
- A failure to find training materials that meet brand guidelines
- Employee hostility
- A lack of control
- Failure to motivate
Ensuring that virtual learning positively affects learners
Virtual learning done right can undeniably have a positive effect on the different ways that learners engage with and access training focuses and lessons, not only providing personalized training but also making that training accessible time and again for refreshers and renewal. In fact, studies show that students typiclaly perform far better when learning online . However, as many managers are currently realizing, handing training responsibility to employees can also have a negative impact, resulting in resentment and a complete failure to train around existing pain points and performance gaps.
To ensure positive outcomes and learner journeys, a measured, tailored approach to virtual learning is essential and should center around training focuses that forever bring personal development within easier reach through the implementation of –
While formal and informal learning both bring beneficial impactful training focuses, neither solution offers the comprehensive lessons that varied workplace initiatives require. Hybrid focuses that implement both benefits within a fully virtual classroom are the best possible way to offer training that positively impacts the largest part of a workforce by facilitating different learning styles, and allowing employees to fully customize the learning journeys that suit them best.
Engaging learning materials
A 2008 study found that ineffectively designed courses led to low e-learning engagement , suggesting that learning materials themselves play a huge role in the wider impact of virtual learning. Materials that engage employees are especially crucial for ensuring positive learning journeys that are fuelled by intrigue and personal discovery rather than obligation that, in large part, is entirely ineffective where self-drive e-learning is concerned.
The design and engagement of learning materials is also dependent on the implementation of organizational context within training platforms. Blanket lessons that don’t hold any real relevance will fail to provide value for employees, while organization-specific, brand-driven training content can have a real impact on daily job performance and opportunities.
Personalization is a driving benefit for e-learning in general, but organizations must also consider the needs of their employees more widely, ensuring employee-first training that meets with personal performance gaps and requirements. Performance reviews play a prime part in this, as do job-specific training implementations and L&D oversight that continues to consider the impact of training materials on one-to-one job performance.
As remote working continues to thrive, applicable training focuses are an especially crucial aspect of success. E-learning slots perfectly into distributed performance gaps, but ensuring that has a positive impact on learners largely depends on your ability to offer relevant, tailored online content at any given time.
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