Top Features of Virtual Training Labs and Hands-On Learning Platforms.

Scalability, automated skill verification, reporting, analytics, authoring tools and integrations are must-haves for hands-on skill development.

Not all virtual training platforms are created equal. For virtual labs to enhance skill development, they must be equipped with certain features and capabilities that reduce lab development time, validate skill proficiency and accelerate job readiness. A list of some of these must-have features is below.

Learning experiences can be scenario-focused.

virtual training labs

Traditional step-by-step (or procedure-oriented) virtual labs are not effective skilling methods. Typically, learners click through a series of steps with minimal engagement and little to no learning occurs (despite the certificate “proving” a learner has completed a course on a particular topic).

Beware of these types of labs; instead, look for labs with scenario-focused instructions. Rather than giving users a series of steps to complete, learners are given a scenario or situation they might encounter in real life. This approach is far more effective in skilling individuals as learners are more engaged with relatable context and more likely to remember how to complete tasks or solve problems.

For example, giving individuals a challenge-centric scenario, such as configuring a Microsoft Dynamics environment with the proper security permissions for a specific user, forces the learner to rely on their existing skills to complete the job tasks. It also encourages critical thinking, which increases overall engagement and knowledge retention. Once they’ve completed the scenario, their actions are evaluated via automated scoring tools, enabling instant feedback for the learner and valuable skill data for their organization.

Lab reporting and analytics.

Virtual training labs equipped with reporting and analytic capabilities provide L&D teams, Instructors and other business leaders with the data needed to enhance training. Below are two ways lab reporting and analytics help identify where training can be improved:

  • Course content: Employers waste $97 billion on ineffective training. This is primarily due to L&D teams or Instructors providing irrelevant training. The data captured by virtual training labs coupled with additional organizational data such as working processes or output levels, can reveal knowledge or skill gaps. Organizations can then focus training courses and content to be more relevant, effectively closing knowledge gaps.
 
  • Learner assessment: Look for virtual IT labs that provide information regarding employee strengths and weaknesses via analytic tools. For example, Skillable’s scored hands-on labs provide end-of-lab reports that offer employee-specific feedback such as where they excelled and where more training is needed. By capturing individuals’ skill profiles and mapping them to larger skill taxonomies, leadership can ensure the right individuals are in the right roles.

Ensure the platform can generate real-time reports that include in-depth data around individual user activity via data analytic tools. With these insights, organizations can avoid wasting time and resources on ineffective training and better prepare employees, customers and partners.

Automated skill verification with scored labs.

Automated skill verification provides leadership with actual proof learners are at the right skill level before they even begin working. Take Skillable’s Challenge Labs for example. As individuals complete real-world scenarios within the lab environment, the platform automatically checks their lab environment to ensure the scenario was completed correctly. In guided labs, the platform highlights where learners need more guidance or support are quickly provided through hints or relevant documentation. As learners progress down the learning lifecycle, hints can be turned off. The lab then increases in complexity as learners’ skills grows, ensuring they’ve learned and mastered these skills. Finally, because scoring is entirely automated, Instructors or Lab Admins don’t need to complete manual or rudimentary grading—everything is done by the platform.

Virtual Training Lab End-of-Lab Score Reports. Automated skill validation.

End-of-lab score reports provide learner-specific feedback and recommended areas for improvement while L&D teams can analyze organization-specific skill data at scale.

Learn more about scored labs.

Built-in lab advisor.

Look for virtual training platforms that provide automated suggestions on how to make labs more efficient, secure and relevant. This ensures labs are built on a solid foundation designed to optimize skills development.

For example, Skillable Lab Advisor constantly scans labs to identify any potential issues based on configurations and specific lab components. Lab Advisor then presents findings and recommendations for improvement to Lab Developers, enabling them to resolve issues, lower costs, improve in-lab experience, boost performance and enhance security.

Instructor engagement tools.

Giving learners the opportunity to interact with Instructors while training benefits both parties. Learners can ask questions and get clarification throughout the learning lifecycle, which can prevent skills gaps from forming. Instructors see first-hand how learners are applying skills in real scenarios and identify if any additional instruction is needed.

Tools such as real-time over-the-shoulder monitoring enable Instructors to see individuals’ progress and provide guidance or support. Should a student need help, Instructors can easily jump into the lab environment and provide direction. Additionally, Instructors get a direct look into the lab environment and how it’s performing, enabling them to resolve or report lab issues.

Instructor engagement tools

Integrated in your learning ecosystem.

Employees expect their organization to provide them with more opportunities for skill development. To do so, employers should utilize virtual training labs that have integration capabilities into your existing LMS, LXP, CRM, ERP or other learning solutions. This enables learners to complete training on their own time in a familiar environment. In addition to system integrations, being able to customize the environment with company branding, colors, typography and logos furthers the familiarity and makes the experience even more seamless.

Provides a global infrastructure and support.

Virtual training labs needed to be easily accessible, deliver a seamless experience and process learner actions quickly. Unfortunately, not all virtual lab providers provide all three.

To avoid implementing a virtual lab platform with these errors, search for a lab provider that has a global infrastructure and support ecosystem. This ensures that users, regardless of their location, have an optimal lab experience and can easily complete learning objectives or courses, regardless of where they are located or when they choose to complete their work.

Global hands-on learning environment infrastructure

Intuitive self-service tools.

Hands-on lab self-service tools

Look for virtual training labs that feature easy-to-use self-service tools. These tools make it easy for Lab Developers, IT personnel or Instructors to make changes to labs without vendor assistance. Additionally, providing intuitive self-service tools reduces downtime and frustration, scales easily, lowers support and training costs and ensures that employees always have access to the most up-to-date training materials and resources.

For example, Skillable’s hands-on experiences feature intuitive self-service tools such as Instructions Editor, Customer Configuration Control Panel, customizable lab themes and layouts via WYSIWYG tools and more.  Automated skill verification makes management easier too. Together, these features make it easy for Lab Developers and Lab Authors to make changes to content without support from IT.

Additionally, Skillable’s Script Authoring AI CoPilot can automatically generate scripts based on lab intent/purpose, enabling authors to create new labs within minutes.

Adaptable learning environments based on skill level.

Learners need the flexibility to begin their individual learning journeys at their current skill level. Virtual training labs with desirable difficulties—such as those supported by Skillable—allow learners to start or continue their skill development based on their current skill proficiency. They can switch between how much guidance they receive during the lab. Skillable Challenges offer off-the-shelf content for multiple skill levels. Individuals can begin courses or labs at their desired level and progress to more difficult “expert” levels.

Hands-on practice is the critical space between learning and job readiness.

Take the time to carefully evaluate virtual lab providers to ensure their labs offer the outcome-based, hands-on features needed for long-term skill mastery. This will ensure you deliver hands-on training labs that enhance your training strategy and equip your workforce with adaptable, job-ready skills.

At Skillable, you’ll find all the top lab features mentioned above and more. From validated scoring tools to customizable instruction, our hands-on experiences are designed to maximize training impact and learner skill acquisition.

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