Breaking down training barriers with technology

Outside compulsory education, training helps people to upskill, retrain or stays qualified; it’s essential to some roles. Software specialists and support engineers go through continuous, rigorous training so their skills are always up-to-date.

Technology has had a massive impact on training in the education and training sector.

Once upon a time, if you were to attend a training course you’d sometimes need to travel halfway across the country for an intensive day or week-long session. Your physical presence was vital. But thanks to technology, you can upskill or retrain from the comfort of your own home or office.

Training courses that require physical attendance are hugely beneficial. But distance learning has allowed more people to learn more. You can learn when you need and still get access to a tutor who can support you.

>See also: Pearson’s learning platform can help transform the education industry

There’s also the argument that distance learning has made training accessible to those who otherwise might not have afforded it.

It’s unsurprising, then, that the 2014 Further Education Learning and Technology Action Group (FELTAG) report recommended all publicly-funded courses should have a minimum of 10% online component by the 2015-16 academic year, with this increasing to a huge 50% by 2017-18.

While it’s unclear whether the first target has been met, this indicates the huge technology-driven shift in education and training.

Whether this is feasible remains to be seen, however, what is clear is that technology is undoubtedly helpful when it comes to effectively training your staff.

Online modules

It’s an obvious place to start, but the shift to online learning is the single biggest change to the way people are trained.

By offering training online, you don’t have the headache of getting your remote or nationwide employees together in one room for intensive training. They can do it from their desks or home offices, and take the learning at their own pace.

It can be beneficial for the employee to learn individually rather than in a classroom-based environment. It also means training can be tailored to the individual, allowing for a personal learning experience. You can offer support over email, chat or the phone if an employee is struggling.

Online training can take a number of forms: presentations, recorded lectures, reading lists, live or recorded webinars, podcasts, videos and interactive content. You don’t need a huge budget to execute online training, or even a bespoke or expensive platform.

>See also: Why cloud, mobile and the education sector make a perfect match

The flexibility of a SharePoint intranet means that can become your staff’s central learning hub. If you want to be a little bit more sophisticated, you can host your modules on a dedicated learning management system (LMS), a platform that allows employees to track their progress, and provides evidence that they’ve completed mandatory training.

It’s not just your own training materials that can be delivered online. For example, the 365 Cloud Academy allows employees to train themselves on Office 365. The 365 Cloud Academy allows employees to learn at their own pace, and fit it in around their workloads.

Colleagues can check in on their progress, and modules are split out by apps – so those who deal with a lot of data can focus on their Excel skills, for example.

Online examinations

There’s a misconception that online examinations learners can complete at home, in their own time, cheapen qualifications. Microsoft is leading the way not online in online learning, but in secure online testing.

In addition to its online academies, Microsoft allows learners to sit their exams on their own PCs. All they have to do is download software that disables other functions of the machine to prevent cheating.

But what if they have notes around them?

Exam-takers are also monitored by webcam and required to do a ‘sweep’ of the room to show they have no notes hidden. While that can feel a little bit Big Brother for some, it’s no different to sitting in an exam hall and having an invigilator walk past your desk every minute or so.

Test environments

Learning on the job is often the most effective method, but it’s natural to make mistakes when getting used to a new system; it’s how workers understand what to do and what not to do. But how do you allow people to learn on the job without those initial learning curve mistakes impacting on the business?

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It can be daunting for employees to learn new systems. Thanks to technology, you can now create ‘sandbox’ environments for people to test out. That way, they can really get to grips with a programme and replicate real-life situations they’re likely to face in their working day, but in a safe environment. Cloud technologies make this easier than ever.


Not all learning is formal; 70% of learning takes place on the job and is, in fact, informal. For new colleagues, learning how the business works is essential, but they don’t need a certificate for that.

That’s where support from colleagues comes in; new employees often have intense introduction and training schedules. But when it comes to doing, communication is essential. If you’re a national or even international business, you might need to regularly collaborate with colleagues based elsewhere. That’s where technology comes in.

Employees are used to picking up the phone when they need to talk to a colleague, but tools like Skype for Business have revolutionised the way people communicate. The tool also allows for conference calls, so colleagues can deliver interactive training wherever they are.

Collaborative environments like SharePoint or Yammer add another dimension to your training environment; workmates can share training guides, hints and tips – this can be team-specific or open to the whole business.

So why bother with all of this in the first place?

According to an ADP study, Brits are the most likely to job-hop; 47% of professionals surveyed said they’re planning to change jobs within the next 3 years; the European average is 34%.

>See also: 6 steps to creating a digital classroom

Further, career development is one of the top three non-financial motivators for employees accepting, or staying in, a job. A huge 76% of employees look for opportunities for career growth (Clear Company), and 40% will leave a job within a year if the on-job training is poor.

Talent attraction and retention is hugely important and it’s obvious that employees value training, both formal and informal. But if those statistics aren’t enough for you, and you want to know how this will ultimately impact on profitability, consider this: companies with robust training programmes have a 24% higher profit margin. Further, the income per employee is higher at 218% (ASTD).

Training and development is hugely important to businesses. It impacts on employee productivity, talent attraction and recruitment, and increases your profit. By using technology, you can be smarter about training your employees and reap more benefits than ever.


Sourced by Natasha Bougourd, marketing executive at UK IT support company, Technology Services Group (TSG)

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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