Part 3: Flexible Professional Development Through Virtual Learning

While many of us have settled into working remote or having shorter commutes, the question becomes what do we do with the extra time?

When stay at home orders were enacted in a number of states in March, I found online learning to be something that gave me the opportunity to expand my professional and personal development. Courses from Coursera and Udemy provided a bit of structure in my personal life that I needed to cope with all the uncertainties in those early days of the pandemic. It gave me the opportunity to grow in areas that I had only dreamed of taking my career, and I could focus on the areas I was truly interested in.

In past years, many professionals would plan to attend 1-2 conferences, go through in-person certification programs, pursue degrees, or take courses through their company’s training department (if you were lucky enough to be part of a large corporation). Many of these opportunities for professional development or general learning required travel, lodging, fees, etc. to participate.

With COVID, everything changed. Large conferences moved online or were cancelled. Trainers and industry experts, who would normally travel to companies to give in-person trainings, moved their curriculum online. And traditional universities and higher education, were forced to move their classes virtual and add online programs as part of their recruitment strategy.

And, professionals and students benefited. Ways to learn and build skills in such uncertain times has exploded. Want to deepen expertise in your field, or pivot your career in a new direction? There’s a course, training, etc. for that. And many of these are self-paced or flexible enough for customers (students in this case) to navigate around hectic work/family/personal schedules. As an added bonus, many of these learning opportunities are free or low cost.

So what does this have to do with customer experience? A lot, actually. As we’ve seen with some of my other posts, COVID has necessitated reinvention, evolution, creativity.

In education and professional development, we’re seeing an expansion of how learners can gain skills broadly, instead of having to enroll in a university for another degree or spend large sums of money to attend a physical conference. Education and learning is more democratized than ever before for working professionals and that is super exciting!

It will be critical for virtual learning providers to implement exceptional customer experience through delivering the following:

  1. Clear Expectations: Clearly outlining what the student will learn from the session/course is something that is very basic, but many times is not executed well. Students need to know the target audience for the course, the content that will be covered, the time commitment, if there are assignments/quizzes/tests, and what the expected outcomes are. Training that has been set-up by a university or seasoned training firm tends to do a pretty good job on this front, but that isn’t always the case for conference sessions (even in-person conferences). Setting clear expectations for your course/training/session will ensure the student knows what they are getting themselves into and lessen the possibility of customer disappointment.
  2. Quality: In addition to setting clear expectations, the quality of the content needs to be good. You’re consuming someone’s time, and if the content isn’t high caliber, you’re going to lose your students. In addition to the content quality, the platform you’re using to deliver that content has to work, and work well. Nothing is more frustrating to a student than having to deal with a platform that continuously crashes, has a set up that is hard to navigate, or repeatedly kicks the student out while they are trying to participate. Before you push your content out to be consumed, make sure you test the platform. (Or, run the risk of losing your customer.)
  3. Value: Learners need to know they are getting value for the time they put in, and in some cases, the expense. Even though the expense for virtual learning is much lower in many cases, time is valuable, and providers need to ensure they are open about what students will gain from taking the course. The value someone gets from your course feeds from delivering on setting those clear expectations and providing something of quality. To ensure you are providing value, make sure you solicit feedback from your students/customers and use it to continuously improve upon the courses you’ve created.

How do you see education and professional development changing in the future? Have you taken advantage of virtual learning/conferences? If so, what did you like/dislike? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments below!

Published by Shelby Bono-Mitchell

My passion for exceptional customer experiences started early in working for major brands in the advertising industry and on the corporate side. I've had the opportunity to work with brands in the tech, retail, automotive and financial services industries to develop brand & communications strategies, optimize digital experiences, introduce UX analytics platforms to gain customer insights and shape customer messages. It is through a single customer experience that we have the power to captivate or sever our customer relationships, and my goal is to captivate.

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