Closing the Gap on Distance Learning in the Software Space

With more people working from home than ever before, software companies are being forced to rethink how they deliver ‘hands-on’ software training. To provide the same quality of training, they need customizable, cost-effective, scalable, and flexible online learning environments.

In the face of uncertainty around COVID-19, more people are working from home than ever before. A recent Gartner survey found 88% of organizations are now asking employees to work from home, regardless of whether they have coronavirus symptoms or not. Even after the corona-dust settles, it’s predicted that remote working will continue to rise – by 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30% due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce.

In this new era of remote working, how do software companies deliver on the need to quickly bring new users up to speed on their platforms? How can they make the switch from face-to-face training and hands-on workshops to online tools, while ensuring optimum results and certifications achieved? For sales teams, how can a product demonstration fly when there’s no physical meeting of minds?

Here, we chart the changes in distance learning to help your software business or training company prepare for a future of remote learning.

Education institutions lead the way

When it comes to remote learning, the business world can look to the education industry for inspiration. Over the past decade, the tertiary learning sector has seen a steady shift towards distance education. From 2008 to 2017, the percentage of undergraduates enrolled in the US in at least one distance education class has grown from 20 to 32% of all enrollments. During this time, remote learning has become an accepted way for students to acquire new skills; in fact, many embrace distance education for its convenience and easy fit with other daily routines and rituals.

The global COVID-19 pandemic – which has forced the temporary closure of schools and universities – is accelerating the shift to online learning in the education sector. Most students are now online and becoming familiar with the classroom-via-video conferencing mode of learning.

Yet online classrooms are not enough for software vendors

Ask any software vendor how they like to train new users, and the answer generally involves “hands-on experience” – perhaps using a sandbox environment or a simulator. This method is widely accepted as one of the best ways to learn how to use software solutions. And it’s fine when you have the capacity to bring students into a classroom lab setting to walk them through it all. But, with remote working on the rise, things quickly change.

Software vendors face the issue of working out how to provide new users and/or employees with online access to their software environments and content for the purposes of training, sales and support. They need simple, robust, mobile, cloud-based solutions designed to make learning attractive and intuitive. A simple video conferencing tool doesn’t cut it; nor does a basic learning management system.

Software vendors need to recreate the hands-on experience proven to work in training new users – delivering it virtually, at cloud scale.

Best practices for software training

With all this in mind, what does the ideal online learning environment look like? Here are some things to look for in an interactive learning environment:

Customization
Blended learning is more than a buzzword. It’s an approach to education that delivers a range of learning modalities to cater to all types of learners. Online platforms can – and should – offer a blend of learning opportunities, including on-demand, instructor-led, live labs, demonstrations, and more.
Cost-effectiveness
Historically, setting up an online lab for learning led to technical teething problems – complexities around custom workflows, requirements for costly infrastructure, and so on. It was prohibitively expensive for people to set up and manage full lab environments online. The economy and scale of cloud change this, making online learning a much more cost-effective proposition.
Scalability
Whether you want to host your lab environment on-premises or use a hybrid model to burst into public cloud capacity when needed, your solution needs the ability to scale on demand to meet the rigors of a fast-growing audience of remote users.
Flexibility
With the exponential rise in remote working, you need the capability to deliver your on-demand or instructor led training program to anywhere in the world. Your customers, students, and employees need the ability to connect to your content from their device of choice, at any time.

 

 

 

VMware Learning Platform is built for today’s demands

The VMware Learning Platform – which has been used internally at VMware for seven years, with over 40 internal teams using the product – is now available for public usage; and is specifically designed to deliver hands-on lab content.

The end-to-end on-demand digital learning environment manages infrastructure, provisioning, user management and entitlement, lab lifecycle, manual delivery, and creation in a single supported solution – so subject matter experts can focus on the creation of quality content instead of how to deliver it.

Look out for our next blog on how VMware Learning Platform works. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the platform, please reach out to vlpinfo@vmware.com

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