Enterprise software training has changed. It wasn’t long ago that face-to-face sessions and tools like on-demand video were mainstays. While they continue to have a place, they clearly have limits.
It takes time (and money) to bring people together and update materials, so it’s easy for knowledge gaps to creep in, especially when changes to software occur so quickly. We’re also talking about complex technology, and with on-demand video, students can’t get real-time help from instructors when they need it most, never mind a hands-on experience.
Lack of interactivity leads to inactivity; students stop paying attention.
Not surprisingly, enterprises and independent software vendors (ISV) now gravitate towards training programs that revolve around interactive virtual labs. The environments made possible provide the best learning experiences, both interactive and hands-on. Make it virtual instructor-led training (VILT) and you’ve got the best of all worlds. Yet, if not properly implemented, virtual labs can be frustrating for students, as well as trainers with high hopes of simplifying processes and acquiring greater capabilities.
That said, here are several things to keep in mind when creating and managing interactive software training.
There was a time when the only option was to fly students and partners to a training center on the other side of the country for that interactive, first-hand experience with new software. Today, online learning offers a more cost-effective and nimble approach. Still, and foremost, the learning platform needs to be accessible to all students, and that means leveraging the cloud.
With the cloud used as a hub for delivery, training can be provided wherever and whenever it’s needed, so long as there’s an Internet connection. Students will access the platform via PC, Mac, Chromebook or other devices. It isn’t realistic to expect students to install software directly onto their devices, at least not without issues, so the platform needs to be browser-based.
And because the trainer and student won’t be in the same room, it’s crucial to create a training environment that’s as immersive as an in-person event. Virtual labs should easily enable that by allowing for scenarios that replicate real-world usage.
Interact and Act
A trainer needs to be able to interact with students and make materials available as quickly as needed, whether it’s a supporting PDF, quiz or survey. It’s also imperative instructors are able to see students’ labs and can assist them remotely in real-time, share sessions, perform demos and other functions.
The right virtual labs will provide these capabilities.
Still, as important as it is to ensure students interact with trainers meaningfully, the health of a learning environment is critical, too. Lab-based training has traditionally suffered from scalability issues. It’s one thing to manage a handful of employees at corporate headquarters, quite another to make training available to a thousand while coordinating logistics from invites to the distribution of course materials.
Make sure your platform ensures you can interact and that it’s accompanied by tools that enable you to act more efficiently.
Control the Environment
Regardless of scale, virtual training labs should perfectly mimic a production environment, yet be sandboxed to prevent anyone from doing any damage to actual resources or infrastructure. Creating a scaled-down version of the production environment can do a disservice to students; it could present a scenario different from the one they will actually work in and create further confusion.
A truly effective training platform allows the trainer to build a cloud-based environment that simulates the software exactly. Even so, be aware public cloud providers often bill customers for resources they consume, so the portal should include tools to help training managers easily control costs.
Further, given the amount of work involved in developing training that brings a production environment to life, it’s important for trainers to be able to reset after each class. This keeps them from having to recreate a lab from scratch each time, hopefully, reuse proven resources, all while preventing human error and configuration drift.
A platform needs to provide actionable insight into the training process. This is a significant investment, so it’s imperative to be able to evaluate training effectiveness, as well as student comprehension and retention.
Look for platforms with tools and reporting that make this possible. Remember, you do need to prove value to those in the C-suite, and the right solution should have tools to easily do just that.
Finally, regardless of whether your training program is self-paced, instructor-led or facilitated by a virtual instructor, your platform should be customizable. It must be based on technology specialized for complex software training environments – able to evolve so your investment isn’t wasted – so it’s important to know the cloud provider is committed to space.
Commodity service provider approaches cannot enable the training you need to distinguish your enterprise software training. Their goal is to reach the broadest audience possible, and as a result, the underlying technology isn’t designed with the robust capabilities custom-fit for software training.
From training users to educating salespeople, taking the complex and making it available in the cloud for participants to learn from, play with, is the most impactful, cost-efficient way to ensure your people are handy with critical software.
Author: By Michal Frenkel, VP of product, CloudShare