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Zoom Fatigue: 4 Ways L&D Is Adapting Learning Delivery During Lockdown

This blog article was written prior to LEO Learning becoming part of GP Strategies.

We’ve reached out to our clients, colleagues and contacts across the industry to gain some meaningful data to correspond with our anecdotal insights. We’ve had feedback from over 70 industry leaders from a dozen countries across the globe, with significant input from the US and UK markets.

We asked the question: ‘Please identify the extent to which you are likely to reduce or increase your use of learning formats over the next 4-6 months as a result of changing ways of working?

Here is our take on the results:

Classroom Learning vs Digital Learning

We started with the obvious question, and were not surprised to see a shift towards digital delivery, prominently via webinars and eLearning. There is also an expected increase in podcast uptake, but not a lot more (‘a lot more’ is defined as above a 30% increase). This reflects that podcasts, due to their audio-only nature, are limited in their effectiveness as a distance-delivery method compared to those that combine audio with visual.

An interesting note here is that we received these responses in two stages, the first set one month into UK lockdown (early April 2020), the other about six weeks later. The scores for webinars dropped marginally in the second wave of responses, with eLearning showing a slight increase. Does this suggest a bit of webinar fatigue? This would marry with anecdotal evidence of PowerPoint-led webinar overload in the first few weeks of lockdown. This is perhaps a result of businesses rapidly adapting to the most immediately available tools.

Using Video in Learning

Video in learning can be incredibly engaging and serve a variety of purposes—from a CEO talking head video during onboarding through to complex drama and branching scenarios to gain emotional buy-in to your core message. At LEO, we’ve already acknowledged high-end video production has been severely limited during lockdown, and the results indicate this is reflected across the wider industry.

The anticipated uptake in live video demonstrations is interesting. We expected an increase, but not such a big one. These instructional-style videos can be relatively easy to produce and transcend distance effectively. There is arguably a wider acceptance of lower quality production values if the content still hits home. In the UK, this might be famed TV chef Jamie Oliver cooking at home, while in the US there’s popular YouTube channel, Binging with Babish. Lockdown has forced us to adapt and try things we were previously afraid to try. Now that we have, perhaps people are more willing to embrace these formats going forward?

We’ve seen examples of complex matters, such as equipment installations, being led through these videos. This would once have been the sole domain of a face-to-face session, with the associated time and travel costs.

Animation will see a predicted slight increase in use, as it’s an engaging delivery method that tells powerful stories and can replace high-end productions. Time-wise, it can also be highly efficient for learners. But animation can be expensive, and we know that budgets are being carefully managed due to the economic impact of COVID-19, so targeting this with precision will generate the biggest payoff.

The Adoption of Newer, Technology-Driven Formats

The lowest growth area in these formats looks to be Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR and VR), and similar to animation, this is likely due to cost and complexity.

The most significant uplift is in delivery modes that enable social learning, such as discussion forums and social media. Again, low barriers of entry (costs, easy interoperability, time, etc.) and audience familiarity are likely key drivers here.

What About More Traditional Learning Methods?

We were also curious to see the views on more traditional methods of learning, acknowledging that many of them do have digital equivalents that can be used for distance learning (i.e. using Survey Monkey in place of opinion surveys). Out of all the questions we asked, using traditional learning methods had the biggest response for ‘About the same’.

It was encouraging to see the biggest predicted growth is the use of shared documents. The demand for increased collaborative working and shared spaces also potentially reflect some of the limitations of using Zoom (and the equivalent broadcast message delivery methods). Having 200 attendees can make it hard to work collaboratively and doesn’t offer a safe space for your more introverted learners to contribute.

If you’re wondering about off-the-shelf eLearning, our results indicate that there may be a slight increase, but not substantially. This tallies with Fosway’s Digital Learning Realities research, and potentially indicates that these types of courses are already being used to capacity, as needed. Your standard compliance eLearning requirements are unlikely to have significantly shifted during COVID-19. The decision whether you buy these courses off the shelf or create context-specific content remains the same.

About the Authors

Geoff Bloom
Geoff is a Principal Consultant and has worked in learning technologies and learning design and delivery since 1980. He joined LEO (now GP Strategies) in 2008, and has worked with a comprehensive range of clients across industries to deliver learning content, and define and evaluate a variety of learning strategies. Geoff was heavily involved in designing the NHS Leadership Academy, working alongside KPMG and the Universities of Manchester and Birmingham to develop over 1,200 hours of blended online content for a Master’s in Healthcare Leadership program. In addition, he has worked on a range of blended leadership initiatives for clients including Volvo, British Airways, and BP. Geoff holds an MBA. He enjoys watching rugby, swimming, and going to see live music. Follow Geoff on LinkedIn.

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