Is it time for learning together to make a comeback?

As we enter the second year of the global pandemic, could it be time to review the choices made in the early days of Covid19?

As it became clear that the initial shock of a world changed by the pandemic will become a new and enduring reality, many companies – even ones known for their investments in people development – decided to batten down the hatches and save cash. One of the first actions was often to cancel all collaborative learning. Talent worked from home and now learning meant consuming self-driven content on the learning management system. The cost savings were amazing – up to 90% in some cases.

Now, heading into year two of the pandemic, an awkward decision awaits learning and development managers. Do we continue to be the darling of the finance department and continue to rely on packaged self-driven learning, or do we start budgeting again for instructor lead, facilitated learning in groups?

It’s awkward because one way or the other there has been waste. Either synchronized learning (face to face or virtual) has been a waste all along and it took the pandemic to expose this unnecessary expense. Alternatively, our people have lost out on somethingvaluable & we have given up on an important source of competitive advantage for the business.


A few reflections on packaged eLearning content can help:

  1. It’s generally cheap – because it’s licensed across millions of learners
  2. It’s generally quite slick since the producers can sell it so many times over &
  3. It’s convenient since it does not require groups of people to be in the same place at the same time.


These strengths that make self-driven learning so compelling on a cost per learning hour basis, also reveal the weaknesses of this type of learning.

Packaged generic learning content is not designed to give you a competitive advantage – the business model is to offer the same content to many companies. Self-driven learning also does not allow for conversation and interaction and thus does not build connections between people or allow for ideas to emerge that could drive strategic advantage.

If you give up on synchronized, live learning you get what you pay for. You get cheap generic, mostly passive notional learning hours.

If you invest in quality instructor lead and collaborative learning you can invest in the social fabric of your organization and create the opportunity for your people to create sparks of insights and ideas that could drive strategic differentiation.

The proviso is that – especially in the remote or hybrid world – it needs to be quality Virtual Facilitated Interactive Learning (VFIL). If your teams set aside time to learn together it needs to be worthwhile – engaging, experiential and empowering, else you are better off with your low cost LMS strategy.


What does a quality VFIL experience look like?

  • It’s interactive & not just a lecture – This means that business simulations tend to shine in the virtual space.
  • It’s a dialogue and not just a webinar – If participants can engage with each other and the instructor the quality of the learning inherently needs to be higher.
  • It allows for interaction and networking like in the real world – If you use first generation video conferencing applications like Zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams you lose the spontaneous networking and free interaction before, during or after the session that allows for talent to connect and build relationships. A next generation platform such as Remo allows people to connect at will and benefit from being there at the same time.
  • It allows for co-creation and self-expression using elements like strategic canvases and virtual whiteboards.

Quality VFIL experiences are more expensive than self-driven, commoditized eLearning, but the returns in rebuilding the social fabric of your company and opening the door to ideas of strategic importance makes it more than worth the investment.


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