Can virtual training ever really compete with live training?

By Frank Sculli, CEO at BioDigital

Will telehealth visits plummet once the pandemic is fully behind us? Will industry conferences be as well attended as they were before COVID-19 changed the game? Will HCP face-to-face engagement be what it once was?

While there is still a lot of uncertainty about how our post-pandemic return to normalcy will look, we can count on one thing: virtual training is here to stay. Virtual learning has often been viewed as less effective than live training, but when done right, studies show it can be even more valuable. Here are four ways to build a virtual training program that matches the traditional live classroom experience:

1. Replicate real life.

This might sound obvious but think about it for a moment. When life science sales trainees complete their training, what awaits them? People in a 3D world requiring interaction and engagement— not static images and Powerpoint based lectures. Effective training means simulating real world experience. Live classroom training allows for physical simulation and spatial understanding. Today we can replicate that experience in an online virtual learning environment using interactive 3D instead of 2D images and overwhelming learners with slides. We can even build fully immersive training experiences in virtual reality and assess knowledge using gamified interactive 3D quizzing. Another way to replicate real life is to consider pattern disruption. In a classroom environment, you typically see a mix of learning modalities and learning styles— passive and active learning using a mix of lectures, observation, and hands-on labs. In the virtual environment, you can replicate pattern disruption to keep your learners engaged by including multiple modalities: instructor-led vs. self-directed asynchronous with a combination of text, video, and interactive 3D. Adding interactive knowledge checks throughout to keep users engaged is another key to replicating the live training experience.


2. Make passive learning experiences more active.

Even without the modality of virtual learning, medical and scientific content creators are faced with the challenge of keeping their audience engaged. Attention spans are short, and today we have more information than ever competing for a learner’s attention. The lack of environmental control in a virtual learning construct adds additional pressure to create efficient learning experiences.

Life science learners need a deep understanding of complex medical information quickly, which requires more active learning experiences. While passive learning tends to have low knowledge retention rates, hands-on learning helps learners practice and embed the new information in their brain. When learners are engaged in their learning, they remember the information better. Interactive experiences capture their attention and make learning enjoyable, increasing the knowledge that sticks with them and making them more confident in the field.

3. Create synergies with live training.

Live training may always play an important role in educating your team and customers. Leveraging technology that serves a dual purpose benefits both self-directed and instructor-led training. Use rich media and interactive 3D for pre-learning to deliver and validate a baseline level of competency prior to live training. When learners show up for live training with equal knowledge, the experience for everyone in attendance is more valuable and collaborative. Assets used in virtual training can be consistently leveraged by instructors in live training to reinforce key concepts and address problem areas. Following live training, the same assets remain available virtually for learners to refresh their knowledge and even use as reference with customers.


4. Meet them where they are.

Together Gen Y and Gen Z make up almost 50% of the American population; soon they will make up the majority of sales reps and healthcare professionals. Because a significant portion of your learners have experienced little to none of their life without interactive content, they are conditioned to expect rich learning experiences. By making your training accessible on-demand on any device, and providing an engaging virtual training program, you simultaneously improve learner satisfaction and performance.

Even before COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation, trainers were not satisfied with the status quo and recognized the need to use technology to evolve training in order to meet the modern expectations of learners and drive improved outcomes. Post-pandemic, the trend toward using technology to innovate and evolve training will continue.


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