Our MD Matt Turner reflects on the parallels between L&D and Marketing and explores when to use Virtual Classrooms and why…
“When does it make sense to use Virtual Classrooms and why?”
I often get asked this.
To answer the ‘when/why’ of Virtual Classrooms in the context of L&D, it’s worth considering a parallel in Marketing, where I started my career.
(I worked in advertising and promotions agencies in the UK and Latin America and after about 10 years I had worked in most areas of interest and discovered I felt more rewarded by helping others. I side-stepped into Training, initially a role within an agency and then working for a Face-to-Face training company where I really began to learn about L&D.)
It was straightforward in the early days of Marketing. Put simply, Advertising was the main tool for pretty much everything.
As Marketing matured, established industries grew in Direct Marketing, PR, Sponsorship and more.
A fine line
A ‘line’ appeared… which grew to be almost as divisive as the East/West one during The Cold War.
Above the line you had Advertising. Below the line – Direct Marketing and Promotions.
The easiest definition was whether you bought the media you used or not. That was the Line.
People and agencies used to get very hung up on what discipline was best and why.
Personally, I was, for once, agnostic. I could see the benefits in all disciplines and it puzzled me when certain ‘zealots’ glorified or vilified one or the other. And anyway, Sponsorship and PR blurred the literal Line as they sometimes paid for media too.
Times have changed
The whole above vs below argument has petered out now. As more disciplines evolved – Event marketing, Shopper marketing, Digital marketing etc. the line blurred further and now the focus is on agencies working together on blended campaigns, with the consumer at the heart of everything.
You can see the parallels with L&D, which is perhaps a little behind the world of Marketing.
For L&D, you can simplify this to say the line is about whether the experience is shared or not.
Face-to-Face is the original, like Advertising – and the largest and most well-known with the widest adoption and biggest spend. It’s very powerful for its personal feel and participants being able to share experiences and learn together. And sometimes Face-to-Face rests a teeny bit too comfortably on its laurels, just as Advertising did before realising the true importance of other aspects of marketing.
e-Learning grew as technology did – which is why it is closer to Direct Marketing – and both are brilliantly efficient for specific, targeted actions. Like Direct Marketing, e-Learning is vociferous about constantly trying to prove its worth and fighting its corner.
Which brings us to Virtual Classrooms. Virtual Classrooms are closer to PR or Sponsorship as they straddle both lines. Virtual Classrooms can be efficient like e-Learning and a shared, personal experience like Face-to-Face. However, that does not make them a panacea as both Face-to-Face and e-Learning can be more effective than Virtual Classrooms in certain situations.
So, when do you use Virtual Classrooms?
A good guide is if you ask yourself three questions:
- Is scale important and reach a challenge?
- Are there benefits to be had for sharing experiences?
- Are there several ‘grey’ areas in the subject matter?
If the answer is yes to question one and at least one of the others, VC makes sense.
But this is where L&D can really learn from Marketing.
The truth is, for many learning campaigns the requirements are complex.
Which is why I am so pleased that the LiveTime Learning team and I work on more and more ‘multi-discipline’ campaigns with clients where we collaborate with another agency or partner to produce a blended solution. Recent examples include a campaign with a global bank on compliance-related content and another for a major, global consultancy on building competency in retail consulting.
The less we focus on specific disciplines and the more on overall outcomes for learners, the better – in the same way that Marketing has learned to do via sophisticated, customer-centred, multi-discipline solutions.
It’s just that someone still in Marketing would come up with a much snappier paragraph than that last one… 🙂
Matt’s personal blogposts can be found on LinkedIn Pulse.