Learning & Development, Technology

Digital Training Can’t Afford to Be Seen as a Luxury

COVID-19 forced many organizations to pivot to digital learning within a matter of days. In March, most thought they’d be offering instructor-led courses again in a few months. Now, we’ve realized COVID-19 isn’t going awayit’s our new normal.

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Digital training used to be a luxury. Now, it’s become a “must-have” because businesses need to retrain their employees for a post-COVID-19 economy. Without it, companies might lose their competitive edge.

Digital-First Training

To meet the needs of a post-COVID economy, we need to rethink online learning. Rather than seeing online learning as just another channel, organizations should start thinking digital first, digital only, and digital all.

Today, companies often put instructor-led content online without adapting it. This shortsighted habit creates a vicious cycle. Learners access content designed for classroom environments. But when they don’t succeed, organizations blame digital training.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The modern learner wants personalized, engaging learning experiences. Digital-first training can deliver the experience the modern learner craves.

New Metrics for a New Reality

Instructor-led training is usually measured by the number of class hours. This metric exists mostly because classroom content needs to be scheduled. Unfortunately, digital courses inherited the same baseline.

Digital-first learning programs should create a new metric:competency. In the past, a lack of time and resources made competency hard to measure. New learning technology makes this goal attainable because learning platforms can mark assessments.

By focusing on competency instead of hours, digital programs can focus on improving learner efficiency. With evolving business needs created by the pandemic, speed becomes a huge business asset.

Best Practices for Digital-First Training

With this new goal for training in mind, to achieve competency and confidence in the shortest time possible, the question becomes: What are the best practices for a digital-first training program?

Learning technology excels at providing personalized feedback. Rather than crafting a linear learning journey, online programs accept that learners will move fluidly between sections. This helps learners access the right content at the right moment to get the job done.

The following do’s and don’ts will put your digital training program on the right track:


  • Allow learners to move fluidly, or even bounce, between the beginning, middle, and end.
  • Offer personalized learning paths and multiple modalities (audio, visual, and text).
  • Chunk content into microlearning modules.
  • Tag every module so your system can find the right content at the right time.
  • Assess learners frequently to allow for adaptive learning.


  • Design courses linearly because people consume online content sporadically.
  • Block learners from different modules based on completion of previous modules.
  • Focus on the number of hours spent training but rather on competency.

Where Are You on Your Digital Training Journey?

Below, you’ll find the three stages organizations pass through as they transition to a fully online training program. Plus, you’ll see your next steps on your journey to harness the power of digital-first learning.

  • Stage 1—The one-size-fits-all approach. You’ve transitioned your instructor-led courses online, but they follow the same design. You can transform your content into microlearning modules or hire a vendor to help.
  • Stage 2—When designing personalized learning journeys, training companies often silo their learners. They make assumptions that this learner wants a self-paced course or that learner needs instructor-led. Instead, use a diagnostic assessment or learner preference survey to create the personalized pathway.
  • Stage 3—These organizations already have a digital-first training strategy, but they can continue to refine it by using data analytics. With the right data, you’ll be able to see your organization’s skill gaps and proactively design courses to address them.

Why You Need to Think Long Term

Even before COVID-19, there was rapid growth in education technology. The World Economic Forum projects the market will reach $350 billion by 2025. Corporate learning was already adopting digital programs because they drive business results like productivity and upskilling. COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of digital training platforms.

Not only do digital training programs deliver business results, but they also reduce the cost of content creation. Unlike instructor-led courses, digital assets can be repurposed or updated, which lowers the cost to create new content. By investing in digital-first course design long term, you will improve your organization’s ability to scale and create digital assets.

What are you waiting for? The future of e-learning will be digital first, digital only, and digital all.

Ashish Rangnekar, is the Cofounder and CEO of BenchPrep. As the CEO and Cofounder of BenchPrep, he is focused on helping millions of people all around the world learn better and faster by leveraging the power of technology, data, and innovative instructional design models. Connect with BenchPrep on Twitter at @benchprep.

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