If you have a family, a lot of learning already has moved to the kitchen table. This past spring, students and teachers alike adapted to using Zoom, storing assignments in the cloud, and working where they could. What happens when it is workplace learning that has to move to the kitchen table, too?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and organizations transitioned to a largely work-from-home model, many companies saw workplace learning as one of the first activities to suffer. Filling a classroom or sending the entire office off-campus for training simply were not options, and so a lot of training got put on hold.

On the other hand, ej4 clients using online learning saw a massive spike in our training video views in March and April with twice as many views as usual. Now, a few months into the pandemic we are still seeing fifty percent more views than usual this time of the year. Our clients have found that when employees are working from home, they make time for training on their own. 

Now, more and more companies are coming around to the idea that “workplace learning” doesn’t have to occur in the physical workplace. Learning can continue, but virtually. So how should you approach this?

Assess Existing Training

Take a look at your existing training, including the topics covered and any accompanying content. What training classes could easily be converted to different formats? For example, can a day-long class be broken down into subtopics and presented in multiple, shorter videos? Can parts of the training be done independently by the learners, then followed up with a webinar or Zoom meeting with the instructor to discuss workplace applications? Can any of the material be reinforced by creating infographics of papers in pdf format?

For example, when a coworker worked for a cable company, she had a full-day workshop on how to interview people. Much of that material could have easily been broken down into a series of subtopics (like behavioral interviewing techniques) and made into video courses plus a few handouts. 

Prioritize and Sort Content

When training was done at the office, things like time and space were a luxury. As companies shift to at-home training, scheduling is becoming more of a challenge, especially as kids are learning remotely or being homeschooled.

Switching from a captive audience to a time-challenged one means you will have to prioritize your training. As you review your content, ask yourself:

  • Which topics and courses will make the most impact?
  • Which are “nice to have” and which are “must have,” given the current business environment?
  • What are the legally required compliance topics that need to be covered in a specific time frame? 
  • Which skills are used by the most people? 
  • How soon can the learning be applied?  

Questions like these will help you uncover which training topics need to be converted first.

It’s OK if your priorities shift over time, too. If your employees are struggling in the work-from-home environment, providing topics on working remotely and time management are appropriate, as is coronavirus precautions training content. This might shift to other topics as your employees find their groove at home. (All the more reason to invest in an off-the-shelf library for your workplace learning needs!)

Keep in mind that format matters, too. Having training material that can be consumed in smaller, more digestible bits (for example) will be important for helping your employees manage their schedules. This might mean a short (7-9 minutes) video, a one-page handout, or even an interactive quiz.

Fill the Gaps

As you work through your assessment, you will likely find that there are gaps. Perhaps that onboarding training course on office procedures needs to be replaced with some tips on working remotely. Or maybe your employees need a refresher on video conferencing etiquette. Or maybe you’re just concerned about their mental health and are searching for a training course or two that could help.

Your first option is to look to reputable industry resources for any free training materials. The key word here is “reputable.” Industry organization websites are a good place to start your search. Some will have webinars, slide decks, PDFs, and more for you to download. These generic, free materials may be good enough to “check the box” in a pinch. 

Depending on your unique training topics, you may need to create those new courses and materials. In-house creation takes time, but it does give you 100% control over the content. For those reasons, it works best when you have something small and simple that could be communicated in, say, a PDF checklist or a short how-to article.

Video learning is possible, too, but requires a few more steps—think writing the script, design, recording, post-production, and so on—though you can make things easier on yourself with the right authoring tool.

Outsource What You Can

When you and your team are considering which gaps to fill and what content to create, consider outsourcing some of the steps. For example, you could partner with a vendor for:

  • Access to a library. A lot of topics don’t need a fully customized course! Think about it: Does your cybersecurity course need to be that different from what is widely considered best practices? Or your compliance courses? Having a library of courses ready-to-go can free up your team’s bandwidth for other projects.
  • Content creation. What if you could provide the in-house experts while someone else provides the recording and editing? When content creation is off your plate, you can focus more on distribution and reinforcement.
  • Learning management. If most of your learning management has been done via a spreadsheet, now is the time to switch to a thoroughly modern Learning Management System (LMS). Our own LMS, Thinkzoom, let’s you assign courses, track employee progress, provide student materials, and even give quizzes to assess retention.
  • Advice. While eLearning might be new to you and your organization, it isn’t new to us—it’s what we’ve been doing for years. Why not leverage that expertise to answer your questions and get started?

One Final Thought: Workplace Learning and Checking In

Most of what I’ve discussed here is about transitioning your training programs so that workplace learning can occur at home, too.

Let’s not forget that the environment has a large impact on how often and how well someone can learn. When workplace learning is happening in the home, you no longer have control over that environment.

That’s not as ominous as it sounds. It simply means you will have to check in with your employees. The mental health of your employees is incredibly important, and there’s no doubt that this pandemic has created its fair share of stress and anxiety.

I recommend checking out my piece on employee health at home, linked below. Content is important, but so is making sure your employees are in the right mental space for training.

Additional Resources


Kathy Irish

Written by Kathy Irish

Kathy joined ej4 in 2007 as our first Instructional Designer. She has over 15 years’ experience in Human Resource Management, Training and Organizational Development. In addition to managing and planning ej4’s yearly new content development, Kathy also oversees all the production on updates (both legal and style-wise) to current off-the-shelf content.

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