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Mar 04

David Sharp

Coronavirus: remote learning in safe hands?


The spread of Coronavirus is forcing us as a society to think differently about the way we interact, including within and without the workplace. With official government warnings that forced isolation could come in the near future, it's time for businesses to start preparing alternative ways of working. As business continuity becomes business as usual, continuing development should not suffer. Has digital learning finally found its moment?

Whether you consider this shameless profiteering from a global health crisis, or more simply a step change in the way businesses engage with and support their staff in their career development, it's clear that digital learning offers solutions beyond the much-toted 'saves time and cost'.

Delivering learning and development programmes through a digital interface minimises physical contact - not always arguably a good thing - but in this scenario certainly reducing the risk of spreading any form of virus. As we’re seeing from news headlines all around the world, that’s not only important in containing a threat to public health; it’s also vitally important to ensuring that business can continue to function as normally as possible, containing the threat to the wider economy. Just because people can’t go in to work doesn’t mean they can’t carry on learning at work.

For employers and their people alike, it’s a powerful form of remote control.

But this is just one of many drivers for the unstoppable shift to digital. We’ve seen it through the way retail has shifted from high streets and shopping centres to online.  Retail has been obliterated by digital, and the physical fabric of our lives (and the way the government taxes it) has changed forever.

Listening to our customers, we've been struck by their desire to reach out to every corner of their organisation, to deliver broadly the same learning and development experience to everyone regardless of their level in the organisation or location in the world. We heard time and again how important it was for them to invest in everyone from the ‘bottom up’, whereas in reality what they were doing was focusing their budget on training the ‘top 5%’.

We see digital as the way to achieve these goals. Controlling the standards centrally to ensure a consistent approach to content. And dispersing that content digitally to democratise access to learning and track and report on progress.

We believe that the time for digital learning is now. Setting aside the obvious benefits of remote delivery in the current global health crisis, there are many other reasons why this is the case.

  • Climate. Digital helps organisations to make their business model more sustainable, by managing and reporting on carbon emissions, cutting energy usage, reducing business travel,  food waste and so on.
  • Cost. Digital can reach a much higher percentage of workers than classroom training alone, giving much more bang for your buck.
  • Time. Through machine learning, digital can perform administrative tasks to save managers’ time, personalise learning for workers, and crunch learner data securely and efficiently. 
  • Social. Digital makes learning at work more social and more impactful. People can share knowledge and useful tips, recognise colleagues for their expertise, and view leader boards to track their own performance.

Some of our customers still want ‘traditional’ face-to-face training, and we agree there will always be a place for it. But whereas 80% of the training contact time we delivered 12 years ago was face-to-face, now 80% of it is digital, which is where our innovative Workplace DNA® service - a news-driven digital update service designed to promote continuous learning at work, using artificial intelligence to deliver personalised learning and track learner engagement - comes in.

It's likely that COVID-19 will continue to dominate headlines (including ours) for some time, and will - either in the short- or long-term - affect working practices. Just this week it's been announced that MIPIM - the world's leading real estate market event, scheduled to take place in France next week - has been postponed, amidst France's policy to ban large-scale gatherings in an attempt to control the spread of the virus. It is likely this will not be the only event - training and development or otherwise - that is similarly disrupted. If digital learning can be one way to help maintain business as usual in a time of great change, the time might be right to learn more.

If you would like to find out more about Workplace DNA® and how your organisation can benefit from digital learning, please email



David Sharp

CEO at International Workplace

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