Overcoming Employee Hybrid Learning Challenges

Organizations have been transitioning to hybrid working now for several years, trying to reap the benefits it brings with a more engaged and productive workforce.

63% of high-growth companies have already adopted a “productive anywhere” workforce model where they are optimizing the resources to ensure a healthy and productive workforce regardless of physical location.

However, there are challenges that need to be overcome to be able to provide effective workplace environments, as well as support the “productive anywhere” initiatives to ensure employees working both from an office and remotely are performing and fulfilling their objectives.

For learning and development (L&D) teams, these workplace challenges can seem overwhelming, and understanding on how to approach and overcome them is becoming a top priority.

Hybrid learning challenges for Learning and Development teams

  1. Stakeholder support
    Stakeholder support goes beyond getting buy-in from other areas of the business to support you in delivering learning and development strategies. Hybrid learning has evolved, and L&D teams must ensure their business has the systems and capabilities in place to deliver hybrid learning programs at scale — something which was nice to have is now a necessity. The challenge is to provide business with plans to justify return on investment, and the investment to support ongoing development of those hybrid learning programmes. Successful hybrid learning needs upfront support to bring the systems online combined with continuous support to evangelize the use and growth of the program.
  2. Coordination
    Hosting a hybrid training session has added complexities over delivering an exclusively online or in-person session. Hybrid is hard as you juggle both sets of participants and coordination requires double the effort to make sure everyone has the same communication and expectations before a session.
  3. Creativity
    Most employees find organized creativity off-putting and, from a business perspective, it isn’t a productive use of time. Having people join a hybrid session and take part in a collective creative ideation session can work. But, to get the creative juices flowing and think outside of the box, consider the opportunity to kick around ideas as part of smaller groups, break-out sessions or even giving individuals time to think.
  4. Engagement levels
    The larger the session, the harder it is to manage engagement with all participants. For instance, facilitators can find it hard to engage with people who join remotely and have their cameras off. The training and course materials that once worked for in-person sessions does not keep remote learners engaged. Adapting a hybrid learning environment often will make people feel more engaged during a session and more likely to turn on their cameras.
  5. Learner progress
    Another challenge with hybrid learning is tracking learner progress and understanding if individuals have grasped the course outcomes and objectives of a session. Within a hybrid session, tracking remote learners’ progress becomes complex and relies on real-time assessment, but with the right technology polls and analytics data can be used to monitor engagement and participation levels.
  6. Human connection
    For most L&D professionals human connection is crucial to overcome for successful hybrid learning. Hybrid learning makes it significantly difficult to establish and maintain a human connection with learners, which in turn impacts engagement. How do you create the balance between those physically in front of you and those virtually in the room? Vital non-verbal cues help create engagement and drive participation levels in a session, but it’s a struggle for facilitators to manage the balance and pick up on those cues within a hybrid session.
  7. Course materials
    Long gone are the days where you can provide physical handouts to a team. Adapting course materials and course design to work in both a digital and hybrid space is a shift. It requires more time and effort to blend the pedagogy with the technology. Technology needs to enable your in-room learners to have their own individual experience of the session in the same fashion as the remote participant and be able to make their own unique notes.
  8. Technical issues
    Technical issues can take many different forms, and with hybrid learning this opportunity for something to go awry is doubled — you have both people in the room and those joining remotely, and any tech issues disrupt the learning and teaching. Hybrid learning creates a connection between virtual and in-room participants is great progress, but what happens when the technology fails? For hybrid learning to be effective it needs to work seamlessly.

A guide to overcoming hybrid learning challenges

Equality is paramount for hybrid learning. Everyone who joins a hybrid learning session needs to have an equal learning experience, whether they’re in the room or remote. How do you overcome the fundamental challenges to provide a productive learning environment and deliver a consistent learning experience?

A seat in the room
Whether it’s a physical chair or a virtual seat, each learner needs a dedicated place in the room to be given the best opportunity to participate and engage during a session. This makes it easy for everyone to see and speak to each other and it is important for the host that everyone has a consistent place in the room. Similar to an in-room attendee, the virtual participant’s screen should not move around. But rather, have a dedicated position so they can be addressed directly and called upon when needed to reinforce their understanding and humanize the learning experience. Training solutions where people move around based on who spoke last rarely consider this feature and don’t provide the same level of engagement and learning consistency.

Consistency is key
Learners — irrelevant of their location — should be given the same tasks and course materials for a session, be able to make their own individual notes and collaborate with their peers as needed. Functionality to record a session or access content after a session has finished is also valuable to ensure inclusivity. This is ideal for those who need to catch up or spend additional time on a specific area or task.

Cameras on
In a group setting connecting and communicating with eye contact helps to build trust and emotional connection. You can pick out non verbal cues such as a smile, a disagreeable face or an inquisitive pose. For hybrid learning it’s not about recreating the interactions as in person, rather it’s about creating other meaningful moments in the session that engage with everyone in the room, whether that’s virtual or physical.

A great example of how this doesn’t work is with a gallery view, where in most circumstances people turn their cameras off to avoid people seeing them when they’re not talking. Using technology in the right way can help with this – for example only showing the last four speakers helps reduce the tension so, while everyone has their cameras on they aren’t visible in a gallery view to everyone and allows facilitators and participants to see each other.

Learning spaces
Having a room that is set up in a way that works for both in-room and remote learners is vital to the success of your session and learning. You might need to move things around to create the optimal learning space, and consider moving screens with remote learners so they are behind the in-room learners. This will help the host see everyone participating in the session, and pick up on the critical non verbal cues.

Focus time
Communication of the session expectations is important for success, and all learners should be encouraged to be present and feel as though they’re in the room. Those joining remotely should be asked to close other browsers and software for their undivided attention. Those in the room should have their phones away and be ready to learn. To make this easier, interact with people as they enter the session, whether that’s in-room or virtual.

The technology in a hybrid learning environment should enable the host to know if a remote learner is being attentive. This way if someone is not paying attention they can draw them back into the conversation, just like they would with someone in the room.

Use breakout groups
Breakout sessions are a valuable way to allow participants to chat and exchange points of views and opinions in a more comfortable and intimate space. These sessions also require a defined learning objective. They are impactful if used correctly and can generate more ideas and contributions as people have the time and environment to speak freely. Creating breakout groups with hybrid participants can be complicated, and difficult to achieve, but is key to running a seamless session. The right technology can help bridge this gap by ensuring participants can communicate and collaborate together, and by giving the facilitator the opportunity to see each group’s work and share it back to the wider group.

Preparation is key
Tech issues will always be unpredictable but there are certain things that can be done to mitigate issues. This includes recommending that remote learners have a strong internet connection and checking the technology in the physical room works as expected. A good idea is to do a dry-run before each session to alleviate any issues and get comfortable with the technology. It helps to think of hybrid sessions as live broadcast environments like a tv show with a live audience. You wouldn’t just turn up and present, you would rehearse and be prepared. This doesn’t mean the technology needs to be complicated, but preparation is key to the success of your hybrid sessions.



A Hybrid Learning Software Helps Solve for Learning and Development Team Challenges

X2O OneRoom provides hybrid learning environments that give remote users an equal seat in the room with their own unique perspective and audio stream along with an intuitive UI for an immersive learning experience.

With an integrated whiteboard and content repository learners can contribute and annotate on assets together or individually. OneRoom includes content sharing capabilities that visually bring to life training for learners, whether that’s using external devices or using smart annotations that can be revisited in subsequent sessions are powerful and increase engagement. All session content should be accessible to everyone, regardless of where they are.

OneRoom enables you to deliver engaging sessions using interactive tools such as polls and breakout groups including creating smaller breakout groups with a blend of in-room and remote participants.With the support of the analytics dashboard instructors can also track learner engagement and see how learners have contributed.

At X2O Media we work and support you and your team to conceptualize and create the hybrid learning experience that is right for your organization. Talk to a representative about solving your hybrid learning challenges, or download our Engaging Hybrid Whitepaper which shares some of the best practices L&D Managers have learnt as they adapt to hybrid learning.

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