As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to impact our daily life, public health officials are calling for fewer public gatherings and restrictions on travel. As a result, organisations are looking for a substitute to classroom training to reduce travel as well as lower costs and ease the burden of demanding work schedules. Matt Piddington, Commercial Director, Education Services looks at whether virtual training can deliver the same results as classroom training.

The latest technology has redefined what is possible in the world of learning and development. Today’s virtual classrooms use collaboration tools that recreate the structure and learning experiences of a physical classroom. They provide rich interaction while removing the requirement for everyone to be in the same place.

Virtual instructor led training (VILT) is training delivered in a virtual or simulated environment, or where the student and instructor are in different locations. Virtual classrooms typically offer audio, video and text interaction. Delegates can ask questions verbally or by using the built-in chat functionality. In some instances, this can often result in improved engagement with the entire audience, removing the fear for some delegates of engaging with the wider class verbally.

A recent report from The Learning and Performance Institute reports several key statistics on virtual instructor led training, including:

  • 64% of organisations already use virtual classrooms for employee learning and another 22% plan to start using them within the next two years (according to a survey of 670 talent development leaders carried out in the US by the ATD and i4cp)
  • 89% of learning and development professionals think that live online learning is the number one learning technology (according to global data from Towards Maturity 2016)
  • 40% of learning and development professionals believe that virtual classrooms will have had the greatest impact on the L&D profession by the year 2020, second only to mobile learning (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development)

The reasons for their increasing popularity are clear. You can join at work, home or while traveling. Like the traditional classroom, delivery options include the flexibility of scheduling classes in multiple time zones, in multiple languages and with live customer support available around the clock. You can keep training on track with real-time labs, authorised vendor curriculum and interaction with other students and instructors offering deep knowledge and real-world field experience. Most training providers also support multiple platforms, so you can train on almost any computer, tablet or phone, anywhere, anytime.

The additional benefit of virtual classroom delivery which is often overlooked, is the ability to record the session. Many of the platforms support the ability to record classes, so delegates can revisit the content at a later date. However, it is important to ensure all parties consent prior to commencing recording a class as not all delegates are comfortable with this approach.

Several technology vendors, such as Cisco with their Webex platform, Amazon with Chime Pro and Avaya with Spaces, have introduced free licences to businesses and individuals for 90 days as a response to the pandemic to help keep businesses stay operational and productive.

Virtual classrooms provide a different format for attending courses where time, geographical location, the cost of travel and accommodation – or the restrictions and disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – restrict your people’s access to effective training. Make no mistake, the classroom still exists, only now it exists online.

Information for Westcon-Comstor Academy bookings

The safety and welfare of our employees and customers is of paramount importance to Westcon-Comstor Academy. We are committed to helping businesses and individuals impacted by COVID-19 to stay educated and productive. As of 9 March 2020, we have updated our terms to allow anybody who has booked a place on a classroom course to change to the virtual class running on the same date, at no additional charge. In the event that there is no virtual class available, customers can rearrange their class attendance with no cancellation charges or rescheduling fees.

For more information on Westcon-Comstor’s virtual classroom portfolio, please visit our Academy.