The mass shift to remote work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic seemed like it would only bring challenges to government agencies. Actually, the shift to remote work has brought opportunity for many government agencies to innovate their workplace training and education programs.
In a webinar hosted by GovLoop, panelists from government agencies and the private sector discussed how they have leveraged remote learning tools effectively. The webinar included a presentation from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which has been developing virtual training programs since before the pandemic, due to budget cuts and a dispersed workforce that made traditional classroom learning less feasible. The IRS discovered that a shift from in-person learning was necessary in order to train employees more effectively. Kelly Barrett, eLearning Specialist for the IRS, said “Research has shown that only about 10% of learning really comes from formal training events.”
The shift to remote work has not hindered the development of workplace training and education programs; instead, it’s been a bit of a revelation for federal agencies. Agencies have recognized that many in-person programs were both costly and not living up to their full potential. In fact, the majority of what is taught in formal learning environments ends up lost. The shift to remote work compelled agencies to look at technology in new ways, especially how it can enhance learning opportunities and innovate training programs.
When shifting to virtual learning programs, traditionally, the focus for establishing “success” might be on whether the organization is equipped with clear A/V signals and the latest software. While this may provide a solid foundation, current innovations are focusing on meeting a learner’s specific needs. A successful learning program means that the student is able to complete the course, absorb the information, and put it to work.
As people have become more adept at using online tools in their personal lives, training programs need to adapt to these cultural and technological shifts. For example, when people want to learn something new, their first instinct is often to check sites like YouTube or WikiHow for quick, on-the-fly, tutorials. A primary drawback of in-person trainings was that they often pushed people to digest a day’s worth of information all at once. An entire curriculum had to be capsulized to a specific amount of time within a specific setting, increasing the likelihood that new skills could be lost before they were put to use. With the help of online tools, people are now able to learn at their own pace.
Focusing on the individual learner also means tracking employees’ experiences – making sure they are set up with everything they need, including proper surroundings and equipment. While this may seem like a lot to consider, cloud technology solutions have made it easy to understand user-based problems. These tools can help segment learners to identify and address any factors that may inhibit learning experiences.
In the GovLoop webinar, Kevin Mills, Head of Coursera for Governments, also explained how AI in online learning tools can ensure that the learning path is tailored to the unique learning styles and experiences of the individual. Integrating AI into their learning platform has made it possible to track engagement and build a tailored pathway for each learner. As Kevin put it, “Let the automation and algorithms informed by all the data of our 77 million learners tell you what is the most efficient learning route and credential route to that outcome.” Whether a student needs split-screen project guidance, custom assessments, or coursework that reaches specific certifications or degrees, AI technology can help better guide learners across the best curriculum paths.
As government agencies adapt to using technology to meet learners’ needs, they will become more successful in developing scalable workplace training programs and increasing skillsets and cross-collaboration, which ultimately leads to cost-savings.
To learn more about how the IRS and other government agencies are effectively training their employees remotely, sign up for GovLoop’s webinar, “Fireside Chat: Virtual Meetings, Virtual Trainings, Virtual Everything – How to Actually Collaborate”.