Whether you’re an education provider or in charge of training and upskilling in a large multinational corporation, inspiring learner engagement is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face.
As if this challenge wasn’t already difficult enough, large-scale lockdowns, and travel bans in large countries like Australia and the US, make safely gathering students in one place virtually impossible during COVID-19.
You’ll notice we said virtually impossible, not completely impossible.
That’s because there is one solution that takes the hassle out of teaching and learning from a distance: virtual learning software.
Virtual Learning Software Platforms
It’s safe to say that virtual learning software platforms are an area of tech that is absolutely blowing up right now.
The world has long been on a trajectory toward globalization and large-scale international operations, but recent events and health concerns have really catapulted virtual education software into the mainstream.
Several new contenders are cropping up, and some of the old hats have been doubling down on innovation and development in order to compete and to provide a service that is relevant to the needs of today’s virtual learners.
If you’re considering implementing a virtual learning system, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a number of benefits to doing so, some of which even go beyond the obvious operational win of being able to teach and learn remotely.
Benefits Of Implementing A Virtual Learning Management System
Improving Student Service
If you’re offering an educational service, then your learners are your customer. This means improving student service is, by proxy, improving customer experience.
And we all know that improving customer experience has a number of benefits in itself, such as:
- Consumers that are willing to pay more
- An increase in employee engagement
- Reduced cost of service
It’s probably obvious that the number one reason you’re looking to implement a virtual learning suite is to allow learning and training from a distance.
But improvements in accessibility can mean more than that. Depending on how you set up your learning environment, improved accessibility can mean that learners are able to:
- Access courses at a time that suits them
- Still attend training even if they are sick or injured
- Work at their own pace
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the current ongoing world events that are inspiring many companies to go fully remote or to move toward work from home setups for their employees.
The problem is, the need for training doesn’t stop just because people are working from home. In fact, as working environments change, there may be a greater need for ongoing occupational training in order to ensure service levels remain consistent.
A quality virtual learning software allows you to schedule times for everyone to meet and receive training or updates, but it can also give you the ability to create accessible courses.
All of this means, of course, that you’ll be able to provide a touchless learning experience that ensures the safety of your employees.
One of the most important benefits of virtual learning software is that it is super easy to use, and therefore is incredibly efficient.
It’s efficient because you can deliver training to hundreds of employees or students at the same time!
Compare that to a typical classroom size of around 30, or the cost and time involved in hiring a space and transporting 50 employees to a conference, and you’ll start to see where the efficiencies really build up, leading to…
When you implement learning at a large scope, you can then start to reap the benefits of economies of scale.
For those of you that missed Economics in high school, that’s the rule that says costs of production decrease as you produce greater quantities.
In the case of online learning portals, the difference in cost between delivering a training session to ten or to 100 is fairly little, if anything!
Depending on the virtual learning platform you decide to implement, you may have access to some fairly advanced analytics.
You should be able to track and measure things like:
- Attendance rates
- Student feedback
- Teacher/tutor internal notes
All of this data is incredibly powerful, as it allows you to make informed decisions about future training sessions, webinar lectures, revisions to your teaching process, and to reach more students or customers that are better suited to your offering.
Compare that to non-virtual learning environments, and you can see just how much easier it is to collect that data. In fact, some of it is near-impossible to measure in a real-life, in-person scenario!
Who Can Benefit From Using Virtual Learning Software?
There are a number of uses for virtual learning software, and many business owners and educators can take advantage of these excellent technologies.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- Academic Learning
- Partner Channel Training
- Compliance Training
- Customer Education
- Employee Onboarding
- Sales Coaching
- Franchise Training
- Workforce Development
How To Choose The Best Virtual Learning Software
If you’ve made the decision to implement a virtual learning environment, you’re now faced with a second decision: which one to choose?
There are a number of factors to consider, though you should make these features your top priority when assessing your options:
- Video conferencing
- IM / Chat
- Threaded discussions
- Customizable / adaptable
- Tests & assessments
- Accessibility/support for standard devices
- Data security
- Student experience
- UX design / interface
- Payment / billing
- Queue management
- Summary / notes
The first and perhaps most important feature that your virtual learning software simply has to have is a sound video conferencing capability.
That means you can run virtual teaching sessions that are live, and broadcast them to everyone you need to.
Ticking off the video conferencing box itself isn’t quite enough though, you’ll want to assess things like time limitations, maximum attendees, and video quality too!
There’s nothing that will turn your learners off more than a grainy video conference and poor quality audio.
IM / Chat
IM (instant messaging) is the ability to communicate in the written form, and have your messages delivered instantly.
If you’ve ever used something like Zoom, you’ll know how important this can be for problem-solving when guests can’t hear you, but there are other important uses.
One of which is the need to chat privately with other attendees, rather than speaking to the entire group at once.
When deciding on a virtual learning software, you’ll want to assess its chat capabilities and make sure they suit your needs.
If you’ve ever searched for something on Google and ended up in a forum, you’ll understand what threaded discussions are.
Threaded discussions give users the ability to reply directly to specific chains of messages and see them displayed within that thread, rather than chronologically.
This is super helpful in situations where you might have multiple conversations happening at once, as it allows for clear and concise query answering.
Customizable / Adaptable
You’ll want to choose a virtual learning platform that can flex and grow as you do.
There’s nothing more damaging to productivity (and learning outcomes) than having to mold your content to fix the boxes offered by your virtual learning software.
What you want is the complete opposite, the ability to customize and adapt your learning environment based on the content you want to display, the workflows you want to implement, and the way you want your learners to experience what you’re teaching.
The content of your lessons isn’t the only thing that contributes to student retention, experience, and learning outcomes.
If the learning platform you use is clunky, out of date, unsightly, or just plain annoying, you’re probably going to see a high drop-off rate and pretty low conformity.
A virtual learning environment that provides a seamless student experience, on the other hand, gives you the best chance of keeping them engaged and creating the outcomes you’re aiming for.
User Experience / Interface
The UI (user interface) means that elements like fonts and colouring are attractive and legible. But it’s not all about the design.
A big part of the student engagement comes from the UX (user experience), and the platform ease of the virtual learning software that you end up choosing.
Of course, a visually appealing platform helps, but functional solutions like simple navigation, fast load times, and a good level of interactivity and accessibility are crucial to overall success.
When 67% of customers turn elsewhere because of bad UX and interface design, you know it’s an area you need to put some work into.
Unsurprisingly, data and information security are increasingly becoming a concern.
If you’re going to be asking learners to sign in and create accounts using their personal information, then you need to be able to assure them that their data will be kept private.
Ensuring that you choose a virtual learning platform that has a high level of data security will enable you to do just so.
Not all virtual learning is created equally, and just because you’re using a virtual learning environment doesn’t necessarily mean you’re teaching a group of students at once.
In fact, you could quite likely be working with just one student at a time, in which some form of queue management system is going to be incredibly helpful to you.
For example, students could use Skiplino’s online booking app to reserve consultation sessions with the registrar or other on-campus services such as career counselling, financial aid, health and dental services.
It’s super easy for your customers to use queue management systems, they simply book a spot in the queue, and will be notified when their spot is coming up.
Some of the best queue management systems even have their own apps in addition to a browser experience.
Queue management might be a good option for those of you who aren’t sure who they’re going to be seeing on a given day, but if you’re asking clients to book in for specific time slots, then booking and scheduling capabilities are going to be more important.
Even if you are running a traditional classroom environment using your virtual learning tool, you’ll still want the ability for students to book one-on-one sessions with you for questions or for more customized coaching sessions.
Summary / Notes
If you’re serious about maximizing learning outcomes for your students, then you shouldn’t be relying on their individual note-taking abilities.
A virtual learning software suite with the ability to share summaries and notes of your lessons makes it easy for students to access all the information you want them to, not just what they thought was important to write down at the time.
It’s not unusual in this day and age to set up a business model with a wide range of income streams. In fact, it’s probably a safe bet in many instances.
If you’re providing services outside of your standard offering, or perhaps want to offer things like upgrade courses, then you’ll want to look for a virtual learning platform that has e-commerce support.
In most cases, you’ll be looking for something that can integrate with platforms like Shopify, or whatever it is that you’re using as an e-commerce store right now.
Accessibility/Support For Standard Devices
It goes without saying that your learners will be using a variety of devices. Some will be dialling in from a MacBook, others using their Samsung smartphone, and others still from a Windows-based PC.
There are really no excuses for incompatibility with standard devices such as these, so if you’re considering a virtual learning platform that doesn’t offer that kind of accessibility and support, look elsewhere.
This extends to the use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, as a large chunk of online learners will using such equipment.
Payment / Billing
If you’re looking for a virtual learning environment to use as part of your company’s offering, that is, you’re selling an education service, then you’ll want to make it easy for customers to pay.
Using a virtual learning platform that has a payment and billing integration means your customers can do everything from within a single interface, rather than having to leave the platform to pay via your website or set up a bank transfer.
It also means you can easily block access to the learning platform if they haven’t paid their bill.
Skiplino’s Virtual Location software allows you to easily request payments before, during, and after video calls when needed.
Reporting / Analytics
Lastly, you’re going to want the ability to report on student attendance, course completion rates, and any number of things that might be important to improving your ongoing service offering.
A quality virtual learning system should give you in-depth access to analytics and reporting abilities, which means you can not only give students feedback, you can also make important adjustments or report to your superiors.
How Much Does Virtual Learning Environment Software Cost?
Like pretty much anything, the cost of virtual learning systems can vary greatly, depending on the specific features they offer.
Some virtual learning software are free, some have a cost per user, and some can even be in the thousands per month.
Here’s a breakdown of the approximate costs of some of the most popular virtual learning environments, with 1 being the least expensive and 5 being the most (and 0 being free!)
Virtual Learning Platform
5 Steps For Implementing A Virtual Learning System
Once you’ve decided you need a virtual learning system, it can be tough to know what the next step to take is.
If you follow these five steps, however, you should be ready in no time.
Step 1: Define your objectives
What is it exactly that you’re aiming to achieve by implementing a virtual learning system?
Step 2: Define your scope
What are the must-have features? What are the “like to have” features? What are the features you don’t need to shell out for?
Step 3: Choose your software
Once you know your objectives and you’re aware of the features you need (and the ones you don’t), it’s time to decide on a virtual learning system that suits your needs.
Step 4: Do some quality checks and run-throughs before you dive in
Before you fully immerse in using the virtual learning system for your training needs, it’s a good idea to run a couple of internal tests and work out any bugs in your process.
Step 5: Be prepared for a learning curve for students
Lastly, if you’re already working with learners in one capacity, and you’re moving over to a virtual learning platform, then you should be prepared for a bit of a learning curve. Adjustment always takes time, so you should work this into your learning schedule.
There is absolutely no denying it, virtual learning is the future of education.
Whether you’re teaching a classroom remotely, or simply aiming to integrate your employee training into a more accessible and user-friendly environment, then virtual learning systems are the way to go.
And that doesn’t mean waiting ten years until you’re behind the 8-ball, it means starting now.
To get you started, follow these steps, and you’ll be ready to take the plunge into online learning:
- Determine if virtual learning is right for you and your company
- Assess the benefits of virtual learning environments to ensure they align with your goals
- Review and evaluate your learning system options, ensuring that the features meet your goals and expectations
- Ensure the costs are appropriate for your business model
- Don’t procrastinate - get started now!
The worst thing you can do is wait until you’re in the 1% that isn’t using a virtual learning environment, so get to it!
Have questions? Ask the Skiplino team if Virtual Locations is right for your learning environment from schools/universities remote registration, lectures, or even one-on-ones with designated tutors.