9 Virtual Training Trends That Are Reshaping the Industry — and the Technology You Need to Keep Up
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The past several years have been a time of immense change for the training sector. As businesses adjusted to a digital-first world, virtual training experienced a meteoric rise to prominence. That evolution is an incredible opportunity for your business.
To leverage it, you must first understand the virtual training trends that will shape 2022, along with the tools you’ll need to embrace them.
Read on to learn more about what these trends are, how they are reshaping the industry, and the technology you need to stay relevant in the age of the customer experience.
RELATED: Dive deep into virtual training trends. Download The State of Virtual Training Technology today.
The Virtual Training Trends You Need to Know
1. Pandemic-related Transformation and Retraining
We can’t discuss how virtual training evolved over the past several years without mention of COVID-19 (although we avoided using the phrase “new normal”). The pandemic condensed what should have been years of digital transformation into a few months. Unsurprisingly, both businesses and employees found it challenging to contend with the new landscape created by distributed work.
According to The State of Skills 2021, the pandemic considerably accelerated the need for workers across all departments to develop new skills and proficiencies. IT was the most heavily-impacted department, at 75% of respondents. Sales and operations, meanwhile, shared the lowest percentage, which was still over half (57%).
This acceleration made virtual software training a non-negotiable investment. Unfortunately, that paved the way for an entirely different problem. As with much of the digital transformation that took place in 2020, investment into and deployment of virtual training technology was largely reactive.
To put it another way, IT was forced to roll out a patchwork of training solutions with no time to properly test, integrate, or optimize — and they’ve spent much of the current year trying to fix things.
2. Data. Data Everywhere
Every day, we create an overwhelming volume of data comprising everything from software usages statistics to activity on social media to search history. Businesses have long acknowledged that there are powerful insights hidden in this vast binary ocean.
And they’ve long known that the potential use cases for analytics is nearly endless, and includes:
- Hyper-personalized experiences
- Identification of training bottlenecks
- Cost reduction
- Improved workflow efficiency
- Enhanced performance
- Demonstration of ROI to leadership
Facing a new digital world in 2020, businesses had the opportunity to explore these insights in earnest. As a result of that exploration, data this year has become the driving force behind virtually everything. And once an organization can control and understand its own data, there are few limits to what it can achieve.
3. Mobile-First is a Must
Over the past decade, smartphones and tablets have gradually been supplanting desktop systems as the device of choice for the vast majority of consumers. It’s been estimated that by 2025, we might see as many as 72% of people accessing the Internet exclusively via smartphone. In the context of virtual training, this means that within the next three years, desktop users will cease to be the primary audience.
Training solutions that are not optimized for use on the small screen will ultimately be abandoned in favor of those that are.
4. Virtual Training is On the Rise
Given the lockdowns in 2020, it’s hardly surprising that the percentage of businesses leveraging virtual training surged to 90% from 2017’s 77%. If businesses were to adapt to distributed work, they needed to train employees for the new landscape.
Fortunately, virtual training software is not only more effective than in-person training, but also requires less overhead to maintain.
A virtual classroom, for instance, potentially reduces instruction time by as much as 60% and costs 50% less than physical training. Although the use of in-person training plummeted to 9%, there was a subsequent 53% increase in virtual instructor-led training.
5. Self-Paced Training Takes Center Stage
Self-paced learning didn’t see quite as much growth as VILT in 2020, but it has still experienced an upturn in popularity, increasing from 14% to 24% in 2020.
In many ways, self-paced training is the culmination of everything virtual training should be. It’s personalized by nature, providing learners with considerable autonomy over how they learn. It’s also incredibly flexible in terms of scheduling — frequently the greatest challenge associated with training.
6. Everything is Interactive
Today’s workers are flooded with information. Passive, non-interactive training runs the risk of becoming yet more noise in that featureless mass of static. Moreover, one can download a slideshow, watch a video, or listen to a lecture at any time.
With that in mind, it becomes difficult to justify spending on training that isn’t completely hands-on — anything less than a fully-interactive, fully-personalized experience leads to disengagement and failure.
7. The Push for Integration
In many ways, SaaS and virtual training are two sides of the same coin. Just as integration is a priority for SaaS vendors, it’s always been a hurdle for training organizations, 80% of which use more than four different training technologies. Consolidating these fragmented technologies is critical, both for scaling and to ensure better outcomes.
The IMG Global Learning Consortium has developed a Learning Tools Interoperability Specification as a first step in this regard — other industry groups will very likely follow its example.
8. Experience is Essential
Collectively, our patience for experiences that are anything less than exceptional is at an all-time low. According to Salesforce, 67% of people saw their standards for what constitutes a good experience increase during the pandemic. And 80% of people maintain that a good customer experience is just as important as quality products and services.
At the same time, 90% of people believe that businesses largely fail in the onboarding department, which sours the entire experience. Companies that excel at onboarding and customer training are thus slated to excel moving into 2022.
9. Microlearning is Making Waves
In many ways, microlearning is the perfect answer to an overwhelmed, overworked populace.
Rather than making trainees sit through comprehensive lessons and classes, it breaks things down into bite-sized activities. This also makes it ideal for on-the-job training, as it can be sprinkled liberally across a new hire’s workflow, allowing them to learn by doing without requiring extensive downtime.
The Technology You Need to have
Learning Management Systems
Learning management systems may have originally been intended for the education sector. But through integration, they’re being adapted to a broader set of use cases and a more modern context. They bring with them the capacity to track registrations, course completions, compliance, and training costs — areas in which many virtual training solutions fall short.
Learning Experience Platforms
Functionally an evolution of the LMS, the clue to what a learning experience platform does is right there in the name. LXPs exist to offer greater flexibility, more autonomy for learners, and a more unified training experience. Individual LXPs differ significantly in terms of functionality, but each one ultimately serves the same goal — better trainee engagement.
Microlearning platforms are modeled closely on two things:
- The consumer app experience
- The bite-sized nature of content on social media.
They’re designed to provide simple, bite-sized lessons to their users, which can potentially improve knowledge retention and focus by as much as 80%. Most microlearning platforms also feature curriculum curation and analytics to help training organizations better personalize and monitor their training. Some take it a step further, with artificial intelligence that helps develop a personalized learning path.
In the context of virtual training, analytics can be pared down to three core components
- Descriptive analytics provides direct insights about performance and engagement.
- Predictive analytics use pattern recognition to make predictions and recommendations to help trainees reach their goals in the most optimal manner possible.
- Prescriptive analytics combines descriptive and predictive analytics to guide training decision-making and create unique learning pathways that optimize results.
The core idea behind gamification is that training should be fun and engaging. While the real reward for trainees is the intrinsic reward that comes with learning and personal development, gamification provides them with the necessary motivation to attain that reward. In that regard, it’s incredibly effective — Google, for instance, improved employee compliance by 100% through a gamified travel expense system.
The potential of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality is well-known to training organizations. However, these technologies are still incredibly new. They have yet to fulfill their full potential, and are not yet accessible enough for widespread use.
This may change in the near future, however — the VR educational games segment, for instance, is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 51.9% from now until 2024. AR/VR falls in the “let’s keep an eye on it” camp (for now).
Virtual training is the norm — and your organization has everything to gain by embracing it. When combined with the right technology, the trends reshaping the training sector offer an invaluable opportunity.
Whether you’re looking to add value throughout the customer journey or help your employees skill up, it’s time to embrace the future of enterprise training.
Learn more about how virtual training will look in 2022 by downloading The State of Virtual Training Technology report.
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