How to better engage in a new world of online learning

Abhijit Bhaduri highlights why organisations need to rethink online learning as they look to better engage with employees.
By: | September 17, 2020

By Abhijit Bhaduri, an executive coach, advisor and author of the upcoming book Dreamers & Unicorns due in October 2020.

Online learning has grown exponentially during the lockdown as the world of work continues to shift online. However, the lack of training of facilitators, of time to plan the pedagogy for the new medium, as well as poor hardware, software and bandwidth issues at home have made the online learning experience ineffective.

Hours spent

Corporate learning teams have flooded overwhelmed employees with free webinars that are getting tucked into every vacant time slot of the day. One employer announced that their employees clocked “2.43 lakh hours of learning in April”. Remember how employers used to compete on training days per employee?

According to research by Dentsu and Google, only one-third of the ads get full attention. Viewers skip the rest or look away, and it is forcing marketeers to rethink metrics like ‘impressions’ and ‘reach’ .

This may be a good time to rethink online learning and to stop thinking of it as a lecture delivered to a camera.

Plan the Pedagogy

  1. Focus on pedagogy, then the medium

We are in a world where getting distracted is easy. Alarms, reminders, beeps, clinks and notifications are constantly shortening how long we can focus on any content.

When the person is sharing the content on their screen with the students, it is hard to know whether the participants have put the device volume to zero and completing their online shopping before the facilitator notices. Online is just a medium.

2. Build high interactivity

Taking the same slide deck and sharing it online is a perfect recipe to disengage a passive participant. Whether it is language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software, it is important to build the pedagogy by leveraging technology along with instructional design methodology.

3. Shorter session time

Some research shows that on average, participants retain 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a lecture. E-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom. Sessions longer than 45-60 minutes seem to be threshold for an online learning experience.

Plan the Delivery

  1. Low airtime for the facilitator

If there is pre-work done (preferably in groups), it helps to get participants to share their ideas and have an engaged conversation online. One of the B-schools gives every student a 30-minute video lesson by the professor that the students watch individually before the class. The time spent online is for asking questions, making presentations and sharing experiences and opinions.

2. More than one facilitator

Having more than one facilitator makes it possible for one person to monitor the chat rooms and short exercises and discussions done in breakout rooms. This is a unique feature of online learning. It takes more than one person to manage the discussion, breakout rooms and answer the conversations in the chat room.

3. Hybrid Approach

Great content that can be delivered using multiple media formats and platforms can get attention in a world that is always distracted. Audio is an under-utilised learning medium.

I have asked participants to create podcasts and even leave audio responses in their respective WhatsApp groups. While video is growing in its usage, the content is what creators have to build a deep relationship with the viewer.

The Learning Teams

  1. Build Context

Creating a common time chunk where a team can learn together while on video with the team leader leading is an effective way to contextualise content. Think of this as a way of building a common context for the entire team.

Learning teams do not only have to be from the corporate learning and development team. The real learning team is the work group. The team leader is the best facilitator who can explain how to implement the learning.

2. New business models will need new skills

The pandemic has changed how we sell, work and learn. Each of these changes has given rise to new business models and opportunities. Business leaders have to make their organisation more adaptable and resilient.

As customers have become more digitally savvy, they need the sales team to work with them to co-create solutions and help them grow their market share and profitability.


Online learning is going to be the way for great content to be distributed more efficiently, but it needs to be supplemented by high dosage coaching in small groups. The ability to build great content that engages the learner; facilitators who understand the new media and the corporate culture that values learning is at the heart of this new world.

Abhijit Bhaduri will be making a keynote presentation at HR Tech Festival Asia Online 2020 titled How to prepare the L&D team for the post-pandemic world. Register for the session here.