“In virtual training, online learning platforms that support and encourage collaboration are leading the way”

What are learning technologies that are currently leading the market?  What innovations are expected in this field in the coming years? The analysis of an ATD 2015 speaker.


(@americalearning) Interview with Cindy Huggett, CPLP - an independent consultant, professional speaker, instructional designer, classroom facilitator, and author who specializes in workplace training and development. With more than 23 years of experience, Cindy has successfully designed curriculums, facilitated classes, and led training rollouts in almost every industry and every size organization. She speaks and facilitates on topics related to leadership and learning.


Cindy is the author of The Virtual Training Guidebook: How to Design, Deliver, and Implement Live Online Learning (2014), Virtual Training Basics (2010), and the co-author of two ASTD Press Infolines, “Simple, Effective Online Learning” (2008) and “Designing for the Virtual Classroom” (2009). She holds a master’s degree in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh, and a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University. Cindy is also a past member of the ASTD National Board of Directors and was one of the first to earn the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) designation.


Cindy will participate in the ATD 2015 Learning Technologies track with Cammy Bean - Vice President of Learning at Kineo, Jane Bozarth - E-Learning Coordinator at State of NC, Jonathan Halls – Principal at Jonathan Halls & Associates and Michael Allen - Chairman & CEO at Allen Interactions.


What are learning technologies that are currently leading the market?

Cindy Huggett: In the world of virtual training, online learning platforms that support and encourage collaboration are leading the way. Collaboration is an important factor in these technologies specifically because it’s a critical factor to successful virtual training. My definition of virtual training goes beyond an online presentation. Instead, I define virtual training as a highly interactive, synchronous, online instructor-led training class, with defined learning objectives, with participants who are individually connected from geographically dispersed locations, using a web-based classroom platform.

Assuming that virtual training is highly interactive, that means participants frequently collaborate together with each other while learning something new. Participants use the online platform tools to communicate with each other, to practice new skills, and to receive feedback from the class instructor. The technologies with the largest variety of easy-to-use collaboration tools make this happen.

A few examples of platforms that are currently leading the market in the virtual training arena include Adobe Connect, Cisco WebEx Training Center, and Citrix GoToTraining. These by no means are the only platforms on the market, and they aren’t the right platforms for every organization. But they are current market leaders (according to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Conferencing), are popular with many online facilitators, and have features that easily allow for online participant collaboration. For example, each of these technologies includes online breakouts that allow participants to communicate in small sub-groups within the confines of the larger class. That means a facilitator could divide a 15-person class into 5 groups of 3 participants and ask them to role play while practicing a newly-learned skill. Using these platforms, effective learning can take place online.


What innovations are expected in the field of learning technologies in the coming years?

In my latest book, The Virtual Training Guidebook, I predicted 3 trends that will impact virtual learning in the coming years. I refer to them as the 3 “Ms” – MOOCs, mobile, and micro-learning. While these might not be perceived as innovations per se, they will change the landscape of virtual training and therefore will have an impact for learning professionals.

First, MOOCs (massively open online courses) are essentially blended learning programs. Blended learning integrates multiple delivery methods in one cohesive training curriculum, which usually includes virtual (live, online, synchronous) events. In the corporate training world, these blended learning curriculums place single virtual training classes into a larger context. They allow for learning to take place over time in small chunks, which leads to better learning outcomes.

Second, mobile devices will clearly be the way most people connect online in coming years, which means virtual training will need to adapt accordingly. Facilitators will need to capture the attention of “on-the-go” attendees who can connect from anywhere. When virtual training platforms become fully functional on mobile devices and wearable technology, they will allow participants to easily join online learning events.

Third, almost everything seems to be trending towards “shorter” and “faster”, which includes virtual training. It used to be that virtual training classes could last for 90 minutes or even two hours, but now we are seeing class lengths of 60 minutes or less. This timeframe will continue to shorten in the coming years, with participants expecting 20-30 minute (or less!) live learning chunks.

Overall, these trends will change the landscape of successful virtual training: from static, lengthy, one-time events that require learners to be tied to their desk, to active, engaging, short learning bursts that occur within the context of a larger learning program.



May 2015