Virtual Experiential Learning

This last article about experiential learning focuses on virtual options for experiential learning.

Research suggests that experiential learning captures attention, develops expertise, and leads to better learning outcomes than a theoretical approach. With these advantages, the need to provide hands-on learning experiences in the corporate training environment is evident. So how can you accomplish this in a virtual setting?

Virtual Experiential Training

Distance education consultant Dr. Tony Bates asserts that experiential learning can occur regardless of the actual mode of delivery. He says that real-world (i.e., experiential) learning can be embedded in several contexts, including (Dr. Tony Bates):

  • Problem-based learning
  • Case-based learning
  • Project-based learning
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Cooperative (work or community-based) learning
  • Apprenticeships

With the right virtual platform, you can deliver every single one of these contexts virtually. Problem-solving, case-studies, group projects, guided research, group or small-group discussion, and apprenticeships can all be presented in a virtual framework when you have a multi-dimensional, tool-rich technology to help you accomplish your goals.   

Virtual Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship is a centuries-old model of on-the-job training wherein industry beginners learn the skills and tools of a trade, or profession, by practicing under the observation and tutelage of experienced professionals in their field.  Many industries encourage or require apprenticeships, namely (College Cliffs):

  • Physical Therapy
  • Education
  • Dental Hygiene
  • Accountancy
  • Psychology
  • Public Relations
  • Digital Marketing
  • Information Technology
  • Multiple types of physicians as identified by residencies and internships
  • Nursing

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it includes some of the best-known fields for which an internship may be required.

Two options to accomplish virtual apprenticeships are virtual mentoring and virtual job shadowing.

Virtual Mentoring

Mentoring is “an established partnership between colleagues for the purposes of learning and growth” (Guider), and it is an important part of apprenticeship. Usually, a mentor is a senior employee working with younger colleagues who are new to their careers.

With virtual mentorships, the face-to-face component is removed. However, given the right communication tools, mentors can still provide valuable assistance to their mentees in a virtual environment. One of the benefits of virtual mentoring is it opens mentoring possibilities for people in remote locations who might not have otherwise be able to participate.   It also makes it easier to coordinate schedules and partner people around the globe, based on their need, their role and the expertise within the company. 

Some tips to establish virtual mentoring are (Art of Mentoring):

  • Provide the mentees with clear expectations for the program.
  • Provide a “high-touch” program with frequent, consistent check-ins.
  • Consider small-group mentoring to help mentees form a support group.
  • Provide proper training and set clear expectations for your mentors.

Virtual mentoring also includes role playing with the intern so they become proficient at thinking on the fly for problem solving, can quickly recover from customer push back, can offer easy, customer-focused resolutions and can effectively introduce the company, products, services and value propositions.  Role playing is a powerful mentoring tool by recording these sessions for review and critique. 

Virtual Job Shadowing

Job shadowing is the practice of observing a person as they perform their daily tasks in the workplace to learn more about the job.   Virtual shadowing includes participating in virtual sales calls through the same virtual learning technology that is used for virtual training.  Being able to record these sessions to review, offers additional confirmation on strengths and weaknesses.   Working side by side using in software programs using multiple screen sharing gives the critical hands-on approach while the mentor is monitoring and coaching the intern.  Jigsaw Interactive’s unique learning and collaborative environment focuses on knowledge, experiential and application learning so your team is fully prepared to take on any role in the organization.   This learning technology includes customizable small group project rooms, multiple screen share, role play rooms with recording capabilities and all type of assessments to confirm knowledge, understanding and positioning. 

There are many benefits and positive outcomes this training technique affords.  Because experiential training focuses on critical thinking, doing, problem solving and working with others, it will help reduce the skills gap.