A Better Way to Teach Government

This blog post is an excerpt from our recent pocket guide created with Blackboard, Virtual Learning in Government: Breaking Down What You Need to Know. To download the full report, head here

Continuous learning is critical to the professional success of public servants, whether they’re civilians working to preserve and extend local or federal government institutional knowledge, or soldiers receiving new training while deployed in a far-flung region. Today, using technology to facilitate that learning is critical.

Agency resources are strained with cuts to both budgets and workforces. An outflow of retirees – as well as their institutional knowledge – only exacerbates this resource problem. To backfill gaps in workforce and knowledge, agencies compete with the private sector to recruit new talent. But hiring freezes, coupled with a shortage of highly skilled candidates, make that difficult to achieve.

As a result, current public servants have to fill those skills gaps and take on more responsibilities to continue meeting agency missions. They can’t do that without training.

But traditional training models, where an instructor teaches a classroom of students for days at a time, can’t meet this learning need in government. In-person training costs money state, local and federal agencies simply don’t have. And with a workforce that is increasingly spread out in locations outside of agencies’ walls, it doesn’t reach every employee. Most importantly, classroom lectures are shown to be ineffective at providing the necessary hands-on practice and understanding that personnel need to retain and apply new skills to their roles.

To overcome these challenges and meet training objectives, many agencies have invested in learning management systems (LMS). A basic LMS provides an opportunity for agencies to move training online, reducing travel costs while making content more accessible to employees. It’s a sufficient solution if you just need to launch and track completion of certifications or regulatory requirements.

But if you want to develop new knowledge throughout your agency, your personnel require more than simple online training. A robust virtual learning strategy that blends in-person and online teaching methods in a thoughtful, personalized way can set your agency up for success.

Most agencies have invested in some level of online training either to cut costs or reach an increasingly spread out workforce. But while many agencies have placed their training materials online, they haven’t all created real virtual learning. What’s the difference?

First, it’s critical to identify the misconceptions of virtual learning that often lead agencies to invest in and deliver ineffective training. Virtual learning is not:

  • Transferring in-person training content to an online environment
  • Creating static online content for remote users
  • Developing a one-size-fits-all curriculum
  • Using in-person tactics to train virtual users
  • Removing personal contact and support from learners

Virtual learning is the strategic use of online technologies – including but not limited to learning management systems – to deliver relevant training that is interactive, flexible and personalized. More than the simple transfer of content online, virtual learning adapts information to a variety of formats that make learning – whether about HR regulations, new IT skills or management tactics – more modular and engaging.

How do you accomplish that sort of training? Our latest pocket guide explains how to develop your own virtual learning program to encourage, inform and prepare your knowledge workers for the next stage of government.

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