Can virtual learning for soft skills be better than face to face? Up until recently, we would have answered a resounding “no” to that question.  However, an opportunity came up to really put it to the test in a side-by-side comparison and the results were astonishing.

The brief was to create two versions of the same programme – one face to face and one virtual.  Exactly the same content was to be covered and the learning outcomes were identical.  The only difference was the delivery medium.  The topic was “Maximising Performance” – helping managers to understand the drivers of performance and how to have fantastic performance conversations.

We delivered both versions of the programme at the same time, over a 4 week period. The programme comprised three modules:

1) Understanding Performance

2) Performance Conversations

3) Action Learning Group

The virtual programme utilised all of the same design elements as the face to face programme did – group discussions, breakouts into small group discussions, pair work, individual reflection and tasks in between modules.  The only differences were that we could deliver each module in half the time of face to face and it took place at participants’ desks or home offices or wherever they happened to be at that time.

After the programme, we gathered feedback from the participants on both versions of the programme and we were astounded to find that the virtual programme scored higher than the face to face, with an impressive 4.5 out of 5.  What drove this? We spoke to some of the participants and here are some of the things they mentioned:

  • Appreciation of the short sharp workshop format (max 2 hours) which would have been difficult face to face
  • They liked not having to travel and spend time away from their families
  • They really enjoyed meeting their colleagues from all over the world
  • They loved how interactive the workshops were and felt engaged throughout

Is virtual learning right for all soft skills development? No, of course not.  It really depends on what the organisation is trying to achieve and some of the constraints surrounding that.  For example, if people are located in the same office, face to face makes more sense.  If they are highly dispersed, you might want to consider virtual.  We still really love face to face learning and the intangible benefits it creates for participants like better connections with their colleagues, team building and so on.  However, our eyes are open wider as to the possibilities of virtual!

If you’d like to find out how virtual learning can help your organisation, get in touch at jenni@management-dynamics.com or phone +44 333 305 7635