COVID-19 hit with a force and completely disrupted the way we work and the way we learn, especially in the corporate world. Within days, organisations sent their people home to weather the COVID storm and 13 months later there they remain with some slowly trickling back into the office.
As offices start to open their doors there is a noticeable shift — many will never return to full capacity. The pendulum has swung, for some companies it has swung all the way remote, laying a stake in the ground and committed to be digital first, opening their doors to talent all over the globe. For others its swinging somewhere between all remote and all in. What we do know is that many workplaces will never return to the way they were.
For learning functions, the same is true, the pendulum swung to fully remote learning experiences. Learning that was once considered sacrosanct, that must and can only be delivered face to face has been re-imagined and redesigned. And for many of these redesigned experiences they are getting better results, not worse, than their face-to-face iterations. As offices are starting to open their doors again, many learning professionals are starting to re-consider the role of face to face in learning design. Could it be that it never returns to the way we knew it?
We are certainly finding the benefits are far outweighing the challenges, and here’s why…
You can scale faster and reach more people
Learning that could once accommodate 12–16 or even 20 in a physical room are now boundless. What would once generate 12 participants is now getting 80. The advances in Zoom (for example) mean you can expand the room whilst keeping intimate interaction in small break out groups.
People are not constrained by location. If the event is running in Sydney and you are based in Melbourne, no problem, you can sign in from your living room. Event kicks off at 9am in the city but you need to get your kid to school locally at 8.50am, no problem, just sign in from your home office.
In a corporate setting what used to take 2 years to reach all leaders can now be delivered in 6 months, scaling the impact with great speed.
You get better results
Learning demands attention if you want to have impact. It means short but mighty design is a must if you want to capture the attention of users. Those that do not, lose out. The implications for learning means you must chunk your learning. Instead of a full day or multi-day experience you create shorter, sharper, and more frequent learning events. By nature this means people have more opportunity to experiment, apply, and reflect. Even the act of asking what you tried and what you learnt create stronger neural pathways in the brains of the end user. So, if nothing else just brining people back and asking a reflective question lifts the impact.
And the costs for delivery are significantly less
Gone is the need for room bookings, event spaces, catering, staff, signage, stationary, and the list goes on. You can scale at speed without the overhead. Want to run a 200 person learning event that requires people from all over the country or the globe? Gone are the costs of flights, accommodation, meals, and getting around.
You can scale faster, reach more people, get a better outcome, and all for less cost
As an example, here at SEEK what was a two-day coaching program is now four learning events over 8 weeks allowing leaders the opportunity to adjust their mindset, listen deeper, provide more regular feedback and ask more thoughtful questions. One learning at a time, over time. It means we are getting four times the activity that once was in a face-to-face setting.
Face to face will still play a role, but it will not always be a primary one to facilitate learning. If anything, it will supplement and compliment the learning experience, but it will no longer have to be the primary source of learning design. Those days are over.
It is worth noting, just because it is cheaper faster and better for impact, do not mistake that as easier for the learning designers. Quite the opposite, good design, simple delivery, and strong impact takes time, effort and focus. This is the role of the learning professional in 2021 and beyond. Moving forward you will now need to spend as much time designing the experience for outside of the classroom as you will inside the virtual classroom if you want to get good results.
What do you think? What role do you think face-to-face will have in a post-COVID world?