An Approach at Virtual Learning – Observations Made for Better or Worse
We don’t talk enough about what Virtual Training Associates (VTA) calls the “Learning Journey,” so it behooves me to explore the point in this post.
If lockdowns and partial lockdowns have taught us nothing else, it is that the learning journey is highly personal. It is one of the inherent flaws that was all too apparent in the early stages of virtual instruction. One size does not fit all and yet, that is the way a great deal of instruction was handled. As a result, millions of students were short-changed.
Though the thought was that virtual-instructor-led training (VILT) could be re-purposed by adding different introductions and “slicing and dicing” the larger body of information into smaller or micro-units, the strategy only works for certain areas of instruction. For example, if a VILT session on a vascular surgical technique (not to carry the “slicing and dicing” analogy too far!), is too complex for a student, the overall technique could be simplified by creating a set of smaller steps.
However, what is the best strategy for teaching what VTA teaches mainly ethics, the prevention of sexual harassment and gender discrimination? Can we have one training devoted to messaging of, “Don’t harass someone on the basis of their sexual orientation, but stay tuned until we get to gender discrimination in two weeks?” Yes, I am being somewhat flippant here, but ethical behavior is a continuum of actions, it can’t easily be subdivided.
If anything, measuring learner performance of ethical behavior is the opposite of subdivision and re-purposing. It is much more a matter of expansion; we want to take a general topic and cause it to be extended to learning with peers (social learning), moderated instruction and ongoing conversation with reinforce learnings.
The ethical “Learning Approach” extends from issues such as (in the case of purchasing and sales) the prevention of bribery to ensuring women have equal access to promotion as men (indeed, to everyone in the transgender community as well). The ethical “Learning Journey” must include the prevention of sexual harassment and bullying. To be ethical does not mean to be ethical in one situation and then to let an inappropriate action go in another.
To this end, VTA prefers a hybrid model if possible. That is, VILT and in-person instruction or VILT with several follow-up sessions. We want to get to know our participants on as personalized a basis as possible. This can only be done when the model stresses heavy interaction. Obviously, this cannot always be the case as so many companies are used to working remote or have far-flung offices in several states and countries.
Not a New Idea
Over the years, VTA has held numerous virtual trainings for numerous industries including pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, accounting, legal and software development. We point that out to emphasize that many of those industries are used to working remote. It is both good – and bad.
It is good in the sense that a VILT series is not an alien concept to a multi-national or a domestic organization many branch offices. It is bad in the sense that without oversite unethical behaviors can – and do happen.
The Learning Journey of virtual ethical instruction should never stop. A three-person office of a multi-national in a foreign location or a three-person office in Dubuque, Iowa (forgive me, my Iowa friends) can – if unsupervised from an ethical perspective, bring a multi-billion-dollar company to its knees. Please don’t allow unethical behavior to affect your organization.