The creation of virtual meeting rooms is a training initiative that transcends geographical barriers while conducting training sessions. We call these more appropriately Virtual Classrooms.

Most IT corporations have become familiar with the use of virtual meeting rooms and on-demand information gathering tools. Director of IBM Learning said that their sales training program which required up to nine classroom days earlier has now been reduced to about three classroom days because of these Virtual Classrooms.

Patni Computers employs software called ‘Centra’ which enables them to create a virtual classroom to conduct training for people across multiple locations. They started using Centra three years ago and the product has improved over time, as several new features have been added to it. To give clarity of voice, even the bandwidth has been improved. The effectiveness achieved is almost 90% of classroom training. In fact, there was an instance during PMP certification, when they trained onsite people using this initiative.

Technology can help to share learning and deliver training consistently across offices worldwide. The technology gives training processes built-in efficiency, standardization and scalability.

It is indeed interesting to note how enterprises have been striving to emphasize on the ‘fun’ aspects of training employees. Organizations have been exploring a variety of ways in which training can be delivered with maximum effect, while appealing to the interest and hobbies of those it is intended for.

Cognizant, for example, decided that a great way to keep their 35,000 strong manpower engaged in continuous learning was to use Podcasts as one elements of their learning program. Employees can download training modules onto their personal MP3 players and learn while they’re outside the office. There are a number of programs that are being adapted to include Podcasts as a part of the delivery. Gong forward, Podcasts will form a part of almost all learning programs.

At IBM, the management decided that since most work based learning happens in a haphazard way, a structured approach that entails ‘bringing learning to the work, instead of taking the worker to the learning’ made sound sense. Though the company uses a large number of e-learning and knowledge management tools to give users access to a virtually endless directory of information, it also realized that nothing gets someone’s attention faster than games and animation. One initiative that IBM is unrolling in India – titled ‘Mail Cast-brings Flash based animated learning directly into the e-mail inbox of the target user.

Apart from this, the company uses technologies such as Second life (a 3-D animated world where users can ‘buy land’ and ‘create their world’) and games as tools to help users recreate actual business experiences and handle challenges in the virtual world.

On the whole, training and learning in organizations has come a long way. These initiatives may sound overwhelming and they may do the job just as well but the question is whether people are deprived of that crucial human touch which many trainers would agree is essential in any form of training. As long as companies manage to strike a balance between high touch and high-tech, they need have no fears about alienating their workforce.