Brace Yourselves – The Virtual Renaissance Is Coming

If you think you have Zoom fatigue, buy some Advil and brace yourself, because virtual meetings, trainings and collaborations are not going away anytime soon.

During a recent GovLoop training, government and industry experts spoke about the evolution of virtual collaboration and training, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. While online learning has always had an audience, the use of virtual tools has skyrocketed during the pandemic and experts anticipate that this is the beginning of a virtual renaissance.

“Especially in the federal government, [agencies] have relied heavily on in-person training. So, when the pandemic came, they really had to instantly shift,” said Kevin Mills, the Head of Coursera for Governments. “We added 28 million learners last year and had an 850% spike in enrollments from our government clients.”

Mills stated that agencies, which originally viewed online learning as a trend during the pandemic, now see it as a long-term staple, as it is a cost-effective, well-embraced alternative to in-person events.

If you enjoy all things virtual, this may be great news by itself. But if you turn into a curmudgeon whenever you receive a Zoom invite, here are three takeaways that might brighten your outlook.

Online learning is evolving

“I think we’re also seeing there will be a surge in innovation in online learning,” said Mills.

Online learning, he said, is much like the days of early cinema. As online learning becomes more commonplace with students, public sector and private sector employees, and the public in general, companies will experiment more with online learning, producing more creative and engaging ways to learn virtually. Similar to how creative storytelling changed after filmmakers mastered the basics of filmmaking,  virtual trainings can exceed our expectations now that we understand them better. Whereas in-person events usually consist of a group of people sitting in a room and listening to one person speak, virtual learning’s value lies in its versatility. One can learn from a panel, a single presenter, animated clips and other mediums – all in the same session.

Virtual trainings are also easier to improve upon using human-centered design. Feedback surveys have become vital in helping training creators improve their products. Many online trainings send the audience a survey right after the training ends, and presenters can incorporate polls throughout to understand the audience’s perspective. This real-time collaboration between users and creators constantly improves the product.

Collaboration is better

During the session, 40% of attendees said their agency’s collaboration has improved since the pandemic, showing that our digital work lives trump the ones we had pre-2020. When it comes to pitfalls, 43% of attendees said inexperienced users produced the biggest barrier to virtual collaboration.

To combat this issue, agencies can assess the skills of their workers and provide assistance to these employees, so they can cooperate with their teams better.

“It’s very important to know your user base and who is going to need that extra help to get them set up and using a platform efficiently,” said Cody Bell, a Federal Account Executive at Vyopta.

James Greene, the Business Development Manager for the North American Public Sector at Jabra, raised the point that the effective use of tools can improve collaboration. He used the example of wearing headsets during virtual meetings to improve one’s focus.  “It helps them focus on tasks at hand and not what’s in their environment.”

Virtual onboarding: less confusing, more effective

“Formal training is a one-and-done event,” said Kelly Barrett, a MicroLearning Video and eLearning Specialist at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). “You take a training once and often that training is so full of information that you leave sometimes confused, sometimes lost, or with a splitting headache.”

To combat this issue, Barrett decided to create a program called Self-Help Online Tutorials (SHOTs) eight years ago. He has since grown the program to an enterprise-wide initiative with over 540 SHOTs videos for all 84,000 IRS employees to view, anytime they need to. SHOTs uploads videos every month.

Barrett designed these videos to be three minutes or less, and the videos have narration and demonstrate a specific process or action. What makes these SHOTs more effective than formal training is that employees can revisit them as many times as they want. Instead of attending a one-time training and having to ask a coworker or Google later, employees can view SHOTs and work alongside the video as they complete their tasks.

The virtual onboarding allows employees to feel more confident as they learn because they do not have to feel self-conscious about not knowing everything yet.

Embrace the digital future

Don’t fear the rise in virtual learning and communication. See it as a way to innovate your work life and professional development.  As Barrett said, “Look for the new, better ways to improve the work around you, and that way we can make everyone’s jobs easier.”

If you want to learn more about virtual collaboration, check out GovLoop’s guide, “Your Guide to Virtual Collaboration and Training in Government.”

This online training was sponsored by:


Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply