In recent years, the pandemic has led schools and colleges across the world, and businesses from many different industries to switch to e-learning. E-learning was on the rise for years before this, and it will be here to stay even after the current situation has passed. The numerous benefits of e-learning are too valuable to ignore, and it has yet to reach its full potential. Virtual learning will be an important stepping stone for getting there.
Why Is E-Learning On The Rise?
The global pandemic is only one of the many reasons organizations are adopting e-learning practices.
The preference for remote working, and an increasingly global job market, is a trend that has been growing for years. Even back in 2018, more than half of employees worked from home at least once a week. In 2021, 58% of respondents to a recent Flexjobs survey said they want to continue remote working even after the pandemic ends.
It is not just employees that benefit either. Businesses can now find better recruits from a global talent pool, but training these employees by traditional methods is costly and impractical. As a result, they need e-learning tools to train and onboard employees remotely.
Even in situations where in-person training would be possible, e-learning is often more cost-effective. In-person training requires not just the time of your instructors and teachers but also a space to conduct training and all of the necessary equipment. These factors can significantly limit the scalability of training.
In contrast, e-learning tools enable trainees to learn more independently at home. Not only does this mean that students can learn more at their own pace and with less instruction time, but it also means that class sizes and schedules are not limited by resource or space restrictions.
E-learning has many advantages to offer in both business and education. Using e-learning tools is not without its challenges, however. There are pitfalls that organizations need to avoid to get the most benefit from adopting e-learning methods:
For many people, communicating with classmates is an integral part of the learning process. As a result, e-learning strategies that neglect to provide social and collaboration tools are missing an essential element of education. This is particularly relevant in a staff training context, as trainees will also miss out on the team-building benefits of training. 27% of remote workers say that a lack of adequate communication tools is the biggest challenge they face working and learning remotely.
To address this issue, e-learning programs need a wide range of social tools that enable students to interact, work, and learn together, including:
- Instant messaging
- Audio and video chat
- Virtual classrooms
- Project management and planning tools
Remote learning takes place in the student’s home environment, which may not be ideal for learning. This is less of an issue in a professional context where you can expect employees to have a suitable home office setup. For school and college use, however, this may not be a reasonable expectation. As a result, many teachers reported a drop in class engagement due to not having the tools to keep lessons fresh.
E-learning offers many possibilities to keep students’ attention engaged, such as group projects, games, and virtual reality experiences. Organizations that don’t make use of these tools can have more difficulty keeping students focused during e-learning.
Familiarity with Working Environments
When you train people for tasks and roles that take place in a specific environment, providing practical experience can be invaluable. Familiarizing people with the work environment, they are going into is an integral part of preparing them for their role. Tools such as VR spaces and 360-degree video walkthroughs of an area can help companies provide this experience remotely.
Where Virtual Learning Fits In
Although e-learning has a unique set of challenges, there are ways to overcome these obstacles. Virtual learning is a vital part of the solution to the potential problems of e-learning:
Using virtual reality as part of your e-learning program greatly expands the variety of training experiences and learning methods you can provide to trainees. A more comprehensive range of learning methods caters to more learning styles and keeps training from getting stale. Furthermore, VR can completely immerse students in a virtual classroom, shutting out any external distractions. As a result, both students and teachers are clamoring for more VR learning opportunities. For example, 97% of students say they would like to study in virtual reality, and 70% of teachers want to use virtual reality in class.
Social Learning Opportunities
Using virtual learning, classmates and instructors can share a virtual space while they learn or work together. This can enable students to communicate more naturally, gesture freely, and interact with objects such as virtual whiteboards. The improved opportunity to engage and interact can also help draw in the less communicative members of the group. Sharing a space is an important part of working together, so HP uses virtual office spaces to recreate the natural collaboration of a physical workspace.
Virtual learning extends the independent learning offered by e-learning, with training exercises, tests, and games led by virtual instructors. Students can practice or revise what they have learned between classes. Furthermore, trainees can complete activities as often as they need without requiring additional resources or class time.
Virtual learning can help trainees get accustomed to the work environment they are going to enter. This can be as simple as providing a virtual office tour or as vital as teaching new employees how to move safely around a busy factory floor. As a result, users trained with VR are up to 40% more confident in carrying out a task than people taught in a classroom.
This can be particularly useful when training large numbers of workers, as it may be impractical or unsafe to have large groups touring a busy work area. For example, Pacific Gas & Electric uses virtual tours to familiarize trainees with substation layouts safely.
VR is the Missing Piece of the E-learning Puzzle
It is clear that remote learning is here to stay, and both schools and businesses will need the full range of tools to engage and teach their classes effectively. VR is one of the most valuable e-learning tools available, but many companies are still overlooking it. Despite this, adopting virtual learning tools can increase class engagement and overcome many challenges associated with remote learning.
If you want to know more about virtual learning, and how it can help your organization and your workforce