Discover why hands-on, virtual labs are strategic tools to use in your training strategy.
From accelerating skills development and increasing critical thinking to lowering costs and validating skills, hands-on learning experiences through virtual labs are the missing piece to building more effective and valuable training programs.
The shortage of digital skills has organizations rethinking and reassessing their training strategy, searching for methods that enhance and accelerate skills development, provide more hands-on learning opportunities and increase how quickly new skills can be job ready.
While traditional training materials (i.e., PowerPoint presentations, videos, lectures, knowledge checks, etc.) are important to developing new knowledge, skills and abilities, hands-on learning opportunities such as those offered via virtual training labs (also called virtual IT labs) are a critical step in providing safe environments to practice applying what they’ve learned.
The growing accessibility of experiential learning platforms that provide scalable hands-on training, virtual IT labs, robust development tools, powerful analytics are expanding how organizations and learners stay digitally savvy.
Here are 10 benefits to hands-on virtual labs.
1. Hands-on practice for technology, software and platforms in protected live environments.
Organizations looking to accelerate digital skill development are investing in hands-on environments. Traditional training methods are ideal for providing an initial introduction to new concepts, skills, best practices, etc.; however, to increase knowledge retention and mastery in the environments they’ll be working in, hands-on practice is vital for long-lasting, effective skilling. Training labs can be designed to replicate the live environments where learners can use the real tools or applications to reach a certain objective. By taking a ‘learn while doing’ approach over ‘watch and listen’, organizations will see significant increases in learner retention, engagement, productivity and efficiency.
2. Drive critical thinking and relevant skills application via engaging hands-on learning experiences.
While basic knowledge assessments or click-through labs provide learners with initial context, they fall short to fully engage the learner. It’s too easy for them to “tune out” and complete steps without completely learning the material.
Training labs designed from real-world scenarios where learners are tasked with reaching a desired outcome using their existing and newly-developed skills are much more engaging. Not only can learners see exactly what they’ll be doing once training is completed, they also get a “reality check” of their current skills, showing where more training and effort is needed. Increasing engagement subsequently increases skills retention and satisfaction which enables employers to minimize wasting time and money on ineffective training.
3. Validated learning that provides targeted skilling feedback.
High quality virtual labs (like those powered by Skillable) can incorporate validated learning. The process refers to continuously assessing, developing and validating learners’ skills in a specific area. More simply, it’s telling learners: ‘We’ve given you the information, now show us you know what you’re doing’. This approach is highly beneficial as it more effectively identifies and closes skills gaps, improves learner retention, and improves training/learning across the enterprise.
Virtual training labs provide an ideal platform for which validated learning can occur. Featured tools such as scored assessments or real-time Instructor feedback identify where learners’ skills lie and where additional training is needed. The data from these assessments can be used to effectively identify and close the skills gap, enabling businesses to take more proactive steps to close them.
4. Integrated into existing learning environments and LMS’.
Despite the overwhelming desire for more learning and development opportunities among today’s workers, employees only have about one percent of their work week to devote to skills development—that’s about five minutes every day. When it comes to incorporating hands-on practice into an organization’s existing platforms, it must enhance and complement learning paths and curriculums as seamlessly as possible.
For example, organizations who leverage Skillable’s API can integrate their virtual training labs into their current learning management system (LMS), customer relationship management (CRM) system or other learning platform instead of sending learners into disjointed platforms.
5. Scalable while maintaining performance.
Organizations who successfully keep up with evolving technology have 1.8 times more earnings and more than double growth in enterprise value compared to “digital laggards”. Virtual training labs enable businesses to keep up with rapid digital change due to their scalable, stable nature. For example, labs can easily be integrated into new learning tools or methodologies as technology evolves. Or as businesses expand to locations worldwide, labs can easily be replicated via lab templates or lab profiles to meet new needs.
6. In-depth training analytics/reporting for creating tailored learning paths and relevant curriculums.
According to Techjury, 95% of businesses cite the need to manage unstructured data as a significant problem. In regard to training, datasets contain valuable insights that can tell employers, training managers or L&D exactly where to focus training efforts. Virtual training labs make sense of data created during training by automatically capturing it and generating a report that presents information in an easily digestible way. The analytics highlight where learners are excelling, need extra training or show where training modules may need to be improved.
For example, Skillable’s analytics break down learner activity into the amount of time it takes users to complete a lab, how many trainees completed courses each month or engagement levels for each course. Using this data, L&D can make necessary improvements, resulting in better skills development for learners.
7. Offers performance testing capabilities for high-stake skills validation and/or certification.
Performance testing (PBT) is an outcome-based means of assessing a person’s ability to apply their knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) in the real-world scenarios they’ll encounter on the job. It goes beyond the limitations of multiple-choice questions (MCQs).
A growing use case is in high-stakes certification testing. Organizations with certifications such as Microsoft, AWS and CompTIA are incorporating skills validating, hands-on labs into their exams to better assess a candidates mastery of the subject matter.
One of the current challenges with existing high-stake testing environments is that MCQs are susceptible to exam fraud, exam dumps and cramming. A learner who passes the test with flying colors may not fully understand how to apply training material to on-the-job tasks. This risks devaluing the credential and its reputation, sets the person up to fail in role and puts the organization, who is relying on that person to have those critical skills, at risk. PBT creates environments where learners have to show and prove they have the KSAs to perform the required tasks.
Other adopters of performance-based virtual labs include IT, L&D and HR to gauge and measure learners’ skills.
8. See which training programs effectively skill builders and which ones need to be restructured or scrapped.
If you believe (or know) there’s too much guessing on whether your training programs are effective in building skills, there’s a good chance your investments aren’t reaching their potential. With companies spending more than $350 billion on training every year (according to Harvard Business Review) and only 30% of employees feeling they have mastery of skills needed to do their job, that’s an enormous amount of waste. The enormous waste of revenue can be attributed to numerous factors, but a major contributor is due to poor training delivery and uninspiring content.
Implementing the means to better identify where learners are “getting it” and where skills gaps still exist helps create more agile, adaptable and tailored upskilling programs. Instead of learning this the hard way on the job, hands-on experiences such as virtual labs provide learning environments where learning can practice applying their skills.
This is done through hands-on assessment tools like scored or collaborative labs. Using these insights, L&D and other business leaders can ensure money is not being thrown at ineffective or irrelevant training concepts that are not critical to business performance.
9. Secure learning environments and protect L&D IP.
Too many businesses leave their training content unsecured and unprotected, thereby leaving them vulnerable to security vulnerabilities. For example, competitors can access content and steal ideas or, even worse, malicious users can access and exploit private or sensitive company information.
Even your learning environments’ attack surface needs to be assessed, reduced and protected. It should include robust and in-depth security measures that prevent unauthorized users from accessing company training material.
For example, Skillable holds ISO-27001:2013 and SOC 2 Type 2 certifications. We’ve been heavily auditing that our use of security best practices, sophisticated technologies to safeguard technology stacks, accounts, data and networks meets stringent guidelines and threshold. Tools like single sign-on, redundant firewalls, intrusion detection systems, vulnerability testing and 24/7 proactive system monitoring ensure all training environments are completely secure. You are safe because Skillable is safe.
10. Reduces the burden of maintaining constantly-changing training materials.
Rapid digital change has created several business disrupters, including corporate training. Organizations worldwide struggle to create agile, future-proof training that can scale and adapt as technology changes. Implementing virtual training labs enables organizations to stay ahead of digital change due to their flexible, scalable nature and their unique instructional design methodology.
Learners focus on reaching a certain objective rather than completing a series of steps using real-world tools and applications. Coupled with targeted, focused training, employees are taught future-proof skills they’ll use again and again rather than on skills that will be obsolete in the next few months.
Usher in the new era of skills development and experiential learning.
Hands-on learning and virtual IT labs can significantly improve the way you deliver digital training and its effectiveness. From overcoming the limitations of traditional training methods to increasing learner engagement and skills retention, virtual training labs cater to the needs of the modern learner and keep up with rapid innovation.
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