What is Virtual Training and Why Should Companies Take It Seriously?


Posted November 19, 2019

Technological development continues to facilitate improved productivity and efficiency, and training is no exception. In fact, new advances – like virtual training – in the realm of learning and skills development are becoming far more widespread. Human Resource Executive even calls virtual training “the new normal.” But can virtual training truly benefit workers in the real world?

What is virtual training?

It’s hard to pin down a specific definition because many companies mean different things by the phrase “virtual training.” Some mean virtual reality (VR) simulations of real-world experiences, like aircraft pilots learning flight skills in a simulator. But virtual training can also mean learning in virtual classrooms that incorporate interactive, collaborative tools; gamified instruction; automated, self-guided activities; and instructional materials presented in video, audio, and textual form. It enables live, remote instruction in ways that can strengthen – or at least match – the level of student engagement found in onsite training, while accommodating a wider array of workplace situations and needs.

Does virtual training work?

Can “virtual” training be as effective as “real world” training? The short answer is yes. According to analysts at consultancy group Deloitte, “A key to creating experts, it seems, is not the memorization of facts or knowledge but, rather, instilling flexible mental models that help explain why systems act the way they do.” They argue that virtual training is an effective modality for this kind of learning.
Training Magazine agrees; the publication surveyed graduates of both virtual and classroom courses and found that fully 100% of virtual training students found the experience “just as satisfactory,” and 86% deemed the experience “just as engaging” or “more engaging than” traditional classroom training. Learning outcomes were virtually identical: respondents who used virtual training scored an average of 90% in a skills test; those who underwent traditional training scored 89%.

What does virtual training offer?

Virtual training, like other new technologies, isn’t a magic bullet that will solve all operational (or educational) challenges, and it’s not going to completely displace onsite training. That said, for companies with specific needs, virtual training can fit into scenarios where onsite training might not be feasible. Consider:
  • Flexibility. If a company’s workforce is distributed among several worksites or incorporates numerous remote workers, it can be prohibitively difficult to gather everyone in one place for onsite training. Virtual training thus offers an excellent way to connect disparate people for effective group training.
  • Scalability. Virtual training can scale much more easily than traditional training, accommodating larger groups, and can potentially be deployed more frequently – for refreshers and long-term skills development – at lower cost and with less disruption to normal workflows.
  • Employee-friendly. Depending on how the virtual training program is designed, it can be self-paced, similar to online training modules, but with a greater degree of interactivity to make the training more useful and engaging. It also appeals to younger employees, which can be helpful in employee recruitment, retention, and engagement. Analysts at consultancy group PwC, for instance, found that 59% of Millennials consider the availability of state-of-the-art technology important when considering a job.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.  Links: PwC, Deloitte, Training Magazine, Human Resource Executive