Virtual training is a broad term that is used to cover different types of training delivered online, including eLearning, blended learning, and mobile learning. Within that group, there are many synonyms for each of those types. For example, “hybrid learning” and “blended learning” often seem to be used interchangeably.

This can be very confusing when a designer or developer is looking for software to do a particular task, but using different search terms only results in distinctions without a difference. It may take developing a specific strategy to find exactly what you need.

One such strategy is to look for methods that support learning on an individual basis, when and where they fit workers' needs. Overcoming the limitations on learning imposed by time and distance is another way to think about the features supported by virtual training.

Is the employee going to be learning alone in a virtual space, using or reading curated content on a shared site, a discussion board or blog, or a private group on an office or public social media platform? Will the employee be using or practicing with virtual software ? In these asynchronous settings, learners perform assigned or optional activities on their own.

On the other hand, learners may be involved in groups in “virtual classrooms” at the same time. In such a simulated virtual environment, an instructor is able to explain, show, and give immediate feedback. The group setting supports discussion, sharing, and team building. The methods include conferencing software, shared whiteboards, games, and other flexible methods led by an instructor or by learners themselves.

In building a solution for learning, the designer is free to combine asynchronous and synchronous approaches as needed to meet the learning objectives. Choices are based on three factors:

  • The learners and their learning needs
  • The type of content
  • The time availability of the learners

Learning management systems and learning experience platforms are important tools for designers and learners alike. Consider the roles that those software applications play tactically and strategically in supporting design and learning.

Using software review sites

Unfortunately, each software review site has its own approach to organizing and searching reviews. There is little-to-no standardization in terms or system. One way to approach solving this problem is to begin by mapping out your learning application: What are the steps and the approach in delivering the support needed to reach the outcome desired? If possible, do not think of the application as a “course” but as a set of outcomes and integrate them into a learning plan.

Select several software review sites and study each one. How are the learning outcomes for software categorized? You will probably find that your searches will deliver a mixture of software types, some of which have little or nothing to do with the outcomes you are trying to support.

Discuss your plan, or map, with colleagues who can provide suggestions for refinements. Estimate budgets for options and time to develop.