How L&D Can Help Professionals Become Good Virtual Learners

By Gregg Kober
May 07, 2020

Given the impact of the coronavirus crisis, typical routines in both our personal and professional lives have been upended. We’re looking to get better at adapting to change, managing our time, tuning out distractions, and handling the demands of partners, kids, and pets 24/7. We may have also decided that it’s finally time to take advantage of the opportunities for personal development and career advancement offered by our companies.

With virtual learning, it’s possible to complete portions of a program after the kids have gone to bed or the dog has had its last walk for the evening. While virtual learning differs from in-person learning in that it involves leveraging technology to learn over time, possibly leading to better knowledge retention and a higher likelihood of application back on-the-job, it is similar in that you get out what you put into it.

Taking Advantage of Corporate Virtual Learning

For companies looking to help their employees adapt to virtual learning, it is important that they self-motivate and motivate colleagues to learn as well. Having this “all-in” mindset will make it easier for all involved to make the most out of virtual learning.

In digging deeper, our team at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning identified four key characteristics to help learners enhance their motivation and become strong virtual learners: increase focus, find relevance, reinforce efficacy, and apply effort.

Increase Focus

Being home can lead to a number of distractions, whether it be a child needing help with homework or wanting to catch up on the latest Netflix series. However, to truly focus and get into the mindset of virtual learning, the first step is to reduce all distractions. Perhaps put the phone on silent or go to a quiet room. Next, create an openness to learning. Even if it’s only 15-20 minutes at a time, it’s important to block learning time out and make it part of the schedule. Once that “learning block” has been scheduled, check in on your emotions. A little stress is okay, especially in this current environment, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take care of any underlying stressors before sitting down to learn. It’s very difficult to focus and commit to learning something new when you are preoccupied. A few deep breaths or a moment of silence can also help settle the body and mind.

Find Relevance

Relevance is probably the most important step in motivated learning. If a topic lacks relevance, you’re likely to tune out and start checking email or social media instead. To prevent this, ask yourself how you can apply what you are learning in the near- or medium-term. Additionally, you can make learning personal by thinking about how it builds upon what you already know, or make it social by identifying colleagues who might find what you’re learning valuable and connect with them.

Reinforce Efficacy

At the end of any virtual learning experience, simply stating your commitment to using your new learning makes it much more likely that you will. By making this statement, you’ll ensure that your learning feels more concrete, and reinforce its value to you, your team and to the business as a whole. Additionally, encourage your peers to complete similar learning statements either formally or informally after their own virtual learning sessions. Being explicit about the benefits of the new learning is motivating for you and your colleagues.

Apply Effort

Now that you have committed to using your learning, make sure to act. Applying what you’ve learned more deeply encodes it to your long-term memory, ensuring that your mental “muscle” becomes stronger. Ask yourself, to what extent did your learning make you more effective in your next interaction, meeting or problem-solving session? If you find that it made you more effective, then you are moving in the right direction. Success, even a small amount, will motivate you to apply this learning again in the future (and probably do it even better the next time).

At a time like this, it’s essential to be adaptable, and virtual learning can pave the way. Becoming a motivated learner and helping others within the organization get motivated can lead to successful professional and organizational adaptation.

Gregg Kober is the Delivery Director at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning.

Featured Image: Nordwood Themes, Unsplash.