The technology genie is never going back in its bottle, and with every passing year, new advances put greater demands on workers. Today, being a successful professional means familiarizing yourself with a wide range of technology and software platforms – any of which can go from unknown to ubiquitous in a breathtakingly short amount of time.
For businesses, this new reality means investing in employee education and training. Business leaders have a vested interest in keeping their employees up to date on the latest in-demand skills, but that training comes at a cost.
The Cost of Doing Training
According to Training Industry, total employee training expenditures in the United States reached $366.2 billion in 2018, a four percent increase from the year before. This number is expected to increase by $7.5 billion in 2019.
As technology and software become more prevalent in our lives, training priorities are shifting to include more marketable technology skills. Consider how much the role tech companies play in our lives has grown. For instance, here are the five largest companies, by market capture, in 1998:
- General Electric
- Exxon Mobil
- Royal Dutch Shell
And, here are the five largest companies last year:
With the growth of technology in both our lives and our work, training departments have had to adapt their training delivery methods. More employees are using technology at work, and you can’t effectively teach technological skills the same way you teach soft skills.
How do you teach technology skills in an affordable way? At first, training departments did what they were most familiar with: in-person training at physical training facilities. But as training departments (and learners) looked at the costs of travel and accommodations, and instructors continued to experience the headaches of shipping, setting up and tearing down computer labs, everyone began to wonder: Is there a better way?
That better way is online training. When you compare in-person training to online training, online training is more affordable. Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) typically costs anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent less than comparable in-person training. The result is a virtual training platform that allows for effective delivery of IT training. Expert instructors are there to answer questions, provide direction and keep students on the right track. With VILT software, students gain instructor oversight while being able to experience real-life, hands-on practice with the software they’re learning to use.
Virtual Training Lab to the Rescue
The best way to teach technologically advanced skills is with a technologically advanced approach to learning. Online classes are a convenient, low-overhead way to provide employees with instructional materials. Unfortunately, traditional e-learning models aren’t up to the task of giving learners direct, hands-on experience with the technologies they’re learning.
Virtual training labs combine the convenience and ease of use of online classes with the power and flexibility provided by contemporary technology. Like using a remote desktop program, with this type of training, learners can use their own devices to log in to a remote computer, view its desktop on their own screen and input commands from wherever they are.
With virtual training labs, training departments can offer hands-on technology exercises without shipping or setting up computer labs. When you combine these cost reductions with improved productivity, virtual training labs are the better option for teaching technology skills to employees and customers.
In a virtual training lab, learners are remotely accessing the equivalent of a powerful workstation running a full-featured installation of the software they’re training on. More importantly, the lab software allows instructors to monitor and interact with students. They are able to see what students are doing on their own screens, set up breakout rooms for side discussions, provide whiteboards for collaborative work and much more.
Virtual Training Labs: The Pros
Skills training pros and cons are inevitable for different types of virtual training programs. Here are some benefits of a hosted training solution for virtual training labs:
- Virtual training software offers more scheduling flexibility. No on-site staff is required to keep virtual training labs open or maintained. As long as they have high-speed internet, virtual training labs are accessible whenever students need to use them.
- Training promotes employee development, which translates into greater productivity and revenue for their employers. Virtual training labs (also known as a lab environment) are a cost-effective way to offer a wide range of educational options to your staff.
- Virtual training labs are contained and secure, giving learners a safe space to practice their skills without the risk of corrupting live data, leaking sensitive information, or damaging expensive hardware.
- By offering practical skill acquisition methods that minimally disrupt work schedules, employees can learn vital, career-advancing skills without having to travel or take time off.
Virtual Training Labs: The Cons
Of course, no single instructional method has all the answers. There are some drawbacks to virtual training labs, especially if you try to introduce them into a workplace setting that isn’t already technologically savvy and tuned in to the latest innovations. Here are a few cons to keep in mind:
- Learners who are still in the process of acclimating to a technology-heavy work environment may not enjoy online training or may have difficulty appreciating its advantages.
- Virtual training labs are a new, innovative approach to learning, and navigating them well is a skill in itself. Some workers may find the shift from traditional to virtual learning to be jarring.
- Some workers may need general technology skills training before they feel comfortable using virtual training labs.
- Offering prerequisite technology skills training may lengthen the process for rolling out virtual training labs and can overburden support staff with questions about how to use them.
- Assessing your potential learners and their level of technological competence can be as important as providing the virtual training itself, but it can be time-consuming and costly.
- You must factor in the time, expense and effort required to prepare and train instructors and other relevant staff to teach virtually.
For workers in today’s job market, it’s vital to receive adequate ongoing training in the newest technological advances and innovations. Without direct support from their employers, many workers will struggle to access the training and education they need. Virtual labs pros and cons may be present, but the benefits outweighs its disadvantages.
Most companies will obtain a great return on their investment when they provide their employees with training opportunities. Cloud lab environments may not be a universally applicable solution for every company, but when you weigh the pros and cons of labs, they stand out as a powerful, cost-effective and flexible way to help workers learn and master the technological skills they need to thrive in the 21st-century workforce.