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Published on:
March 21, 2022

Distance Learning for Business: Types, Tips, and Top Tools

When you’re looking for information, there’s no better modern tool to help you find what you’re looking for than the internet.

When you ask yourself the question, “what is distance learning?’ the internet is likely the first thing you’ll think of.

The online world provides an endless database of human knowledge at your fingertips, with the limitless potential of what you can learn.

So why not add formal education and employee training to that mix?

More and more, we’re relying on the internet for everyday tasks, from purchasing items, paying bills, finding entertainment, and working — so it makes sense that employers would be taking advantage of the internet as a tool, especially to train their workers.

Want to know more about why modern workplaces are transitioning to online distance learning? This article will define distance learning, explore the different types of distance learning, and provide insight into how you can successfully implement distance education in your business.

Let’s get started!

What is Distance Learning in a Business Context?

distance learning in business context

The distance learning definition is when classes or lectures take place online without the need for the learner to attend a physical location.

Corporate training is nothing new, but the way that training has been delivered to employees is constantly changing. Distance learning class provides a solution for the fast-paced, rapidly-changing corporate environment by enabling businesses to train and onboard employees faster than ever before.

Distance learning provides a way for companies to train their employees consistently and efficiently, regardless of when they are hired or where they are located. 

Since the pandemic, there’s been a lot of talk about the “new normal” and what that means for employment expectations moving forward. According to a study done by Owl Labs, 1 in 3 people would quit their job if they were forced to give up remote work entirely, and 71% want a hybrid or fully remote working environment.

It’s clear that employers that are sticking to their guns and wanting everyone to return to the office are going to need to adjust their strategy to keep staff.

So how does this relate to the question, “what is distance learning?”

Traditional methods of training new employees, like one-on-one or job shadowing, are not always possible, especially in remote work environments. Instead, management can use their own knowledge and work with existing employees to create comprehensive training programs that will give newcomers the knowledge and tools they need to succeed.

And distance learning class isn’t just a solution in fully or partially remote working environments. It can also be used for in-office training when one-on-one contact with a manager or senior employee isn’t possible or when someone just needs to brush up on a certain skill (which applies to remote working as well).

In addition, when we compare distance learning classes to traditional in-person training, online learning typically:

What Does Distance Learning Mean: The Types of Distance Learning 

type of distance learning

Distance learning isn’t one size fits all — there’s a variety of different types that have been created to suit different learning styles.

When we ask the question, “what is distance learning?” it requires us to take a look into the different distance learning class types and what they mean.

Here’s an overview of the different types of distance learning:

Synchronous Distance Learning 

As the most traditional method of learning, synchronous learning is when an instructor or teacher is actively teaching a group of students — whether that’s in a classroom or online, the latter of which is usually referred to as instructor-led training (ILT). 

That’s right — distance learning doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re just sitting in front of a computer taking courses by yourself. You can take courses online where you have to show up at a certain time and listen to an instructor, just like you would in a traditional classroom setting.

The benefits of synchronous learning are mainly:

  • More interaction with instructors and peers
  • Better sense of community and collaboration
  • Easier to ask questions and get immediate answers
  • Instructors can react to student feedback in real-time

While the drawbacks of synchronous learning include:

  • Learners must attend classes at a specific time
  • Learners can zone out or otherwise miss important information
  • Internet or technology issues can affect learning
  • Time zone barriers

Asynchronous Distance Education 

When someone is learning entirely through an eLearning course with no interaction with an instructor or other students, that’s asynchronous learning or open schedule distance learning. That’s not to say that the learner can never interact with others. It just means that they need to reach out through messaging, email, social media, or other means to ask questions and get feedback. 

Asynchronous distance education in a business setting usually just means sitting at your desk and taking an eLearning course with a set learning path, where quizzes, exams, and other activities test your knowledge and mark learning milestones.

The benefits of asynchronous distance education or open schedule distance learning include:

  • Flexibility — learners can take courses anytime
  • Less expensive — you don’t have to hire an instructor or set aside time for a manager to teach
  • Better for learners with more introverted personalities
  • Time zone barriers are eliminated

The drawbacks of asynchronous learning include:

  • Less interaction with other learners and instructors
  • Can lead to a feeling of isolation
  • Might not be as effective as synchronous learning for certain subjects
  • Relies on self-motivation

Hybrid Distance Learning 

One interesting option that has graced the eLearning space is hybrid learning, which is a combination of both in-person or face-to-face and asynchronous learning. In other words, courses can be taught in a blended manner, where certain activities, usually more theory-based, are set out for the student to complete on their own within a certain amount of time, while other parts of the course are saved for a live meeting.

For example, a learner reads a book or research paper and then presents their findings and interpretations to the class during a live video call or in-person session. Hybrid distance learning could also be used in a regulated industry, where the theory portion of the course is done online, but the practical part of the course can be done in person or through a live meeting. This is a great way to save on classroom and travel costs or get around restrictions on in-person meetings that might be in place due to the pandemic.

The benefits of hybrid distance learning include:

  • Provides the best of both worlds — in-person interaction with flexible offline learning
  • Can work as a good introduction to online learning
  • Caters to different learning styles by providing both synchronous and asynchronous learning
  • More engaging than learning entirely by yourself

The drawbacks of hybrid distance learning include:

  • Less flexibility with scheduling since there’s still a live component
  • Courses have to be adapted to work with a hybrid model
  • Learners who don’t do the required work may not be able to participate in live classes
  • Learners must keep up to the set schedule, even when learning offline

Top 7 Corporate Distance Learning Tools 

top corporate distance tools

While there are a plethora of corporate distance learning tools out there, they are not all built the same. The features and benefits, like any piece of software, can differ between product offerings. 

Your business is unique, so the features and benefits you’ll be looking for in these platforms should be focused on what will be the most effective for your business. We’ve scoured the internet and created a list of corporate distance learning tools that will help you narrow down your choices.

All of the corporate distance learning tools on our list include the following features:

  • Branding
  • Built-in course authoring
  • Robust administration features
  • Robust integrations, including API support
  • Gamification
  • Events support
  • eCommerce support
  • SCORM compliance
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Mobile support
  • Video conferencing support
  • Content library
  • Certifications
  • Multi-language support
  • Onboarding and ongoing customer support options

So instead of focusing on the above features, the chart below highlights the unique features of each platform.

Without further ado, here’s our top 10 list of the most effective corporate distance learning tools and their main features:

Corporate Distance Learning Tool

Corporate Distance Learning Tool

Main Features

Tovuti

  • Easily upload your own content (videos, audio, PowerPoint, PDF, and more)
  • Media library for storing resources and materials
  • Course content library that allows you to purchase and expand upon your course offering
  • Robust learner tracking features
  • Ratings and comments
  • Personalized learner portals
  • Microlearning 
  • Blended learning options
  • Cloud-based
  • User roles (including single sign on)
  • Option for professional support, including course development

LearnUpon

  • Blended learning options
  • Group content into topics for easy browsing, or create a course from a group of content
  • Drag and drop course creation
  • Override SCORM settings (if you need to change the conditions of a course)
  • Easily change SCORM files without affecting the course or enrollment

Digital Chalk

  • Cloud-based
  • Unlimited storage (add as many courses as you want)
  • Ongoing customer support
  • Learners can upload materials for review
  • Assign courses to learners automatically

Axonify (products offered separately)

Train is the main LMS that includes the features listed above (except for gamification) but Axonify also offers two different corporate distance learning tools with these unique features:


Reinforce includes:

  • Content assistant (AI content creation tool)
  • Gamification

Communicate includes:

  • Forums
  • Quick links (on the dashboard)
  • Flex communities (a curated timeline of relevant content based on the learner)
  • Reactions and comments

360Learning

  • Big focus on collaborative learning
  • Built-in document editor including collaborative editing
  • Video recording
  • Discussion forum with reactions and “upvotes”
  • Customized newsfeed (dashboard) that shows the most recent posts and/or content first
  • Learners can create “playlists” of courses and share them with others
  • Manager dashboard

Lessonly Learn

  • Access to a pre-made content hub 
  • User roles (including single sign-on)
  • “Webhook”, which allows you to automatically send reports to a separate database
  • Unlimited storage (create as many courses as you need)
  • Smart groups (automatically assign learners to specific groups so they have access to relevant materials)
  • Tags for organizing course content

TalentLMS

  • Drag and drop course creation
  • User roles
  • Custom dashboards
  • Meet and connect: built-in video chat, messaging, and more
  • Survey creation
  • Perform bulk actions
  • Course store

Tips for Implementing Distance Learning in Your Business 

implementing distance learning in your business

 Now that you have a good understanding of the distance learning definition, including the answer to “what is distance learning” as well as an overview of the different types of distance learning and the platforms you can choose, let’s get into ways you can implement distance education into your business.

  1. Encourage Learner Participation

It can be difficult to get employees on board with a new program or piece of software at the best of times, let alone convince them to dedicate time to learning. But there are a few ways that you can keep employees engaged:

  • Make logging in easier by using single sign-on (SSO) to make logging into the system easier. It may seem like a minor thing, but considering that employees typically use around 9-10 applications per day. You can quickly start to see where it would get tiring to have to remember yet another password.
  • Use notifications to your advantage. If employees get reminder emails or Slack messages letting them know that training needs to be completed, then it takes the burden off them to remember.
  • Encourage collaboration with learning through messaging, forums, or video chat. This gives employees a chance to connect with each other if they work remotely and encourages social learning.

   2. Choose a System that is Easy to Use

It can be frustrating for employees to suddenly have to dedicate time to using a system that is difficult to navigate, has unclear menus and links, and doesn’t easily present them with the information they need. If employees have to search around in the distance learning platform to find courses or materials, then it’s taking away from the time they could be spending learning.

Thankfully, you can eliminate this issue from the beginning by choosing software that has an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. If you’re unsure, ask for a demo or free trial so that you can try the software out for yourself.

   3. Keep Directions Simple and Straightforward

We get that you might want to create these elaborate eLearning courses. After all, when you get a shiny new distance learning platform, it can be tempting to try out all the features and incorporate every fun learning tool into every course.

But consider that sometimes, simple is better. Chances are your employees have other things they’d rather be spending their time on (at least at the beginning of their online learning journey) and might get annoyed at the third matching game in one module. Keeping things simple and straightforward is often the best way to keep employees engaged.

   4. Take Advantage of Microlearning

Did we mention that employees are busy? It can be hard for employees to take time away from job tasks to complete eLearning courses, especially if they have full and demanding schedules. Microlearning is when courses, resources, or other learning activities are designed to be completed in minutes, giving busy employees a chance to stay engaged in learning when they need a quick break from the daily grind.

   5. Find a Good Balance between the Different Types of Distance Learning

The different types of distance learning — synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid — should be incorporated into your distance education platform wherever possible. It can be boring for employees to stick to one style of learning for all courses they need to complete, so variety is key here. Consider a webinar to train a bunch of employees at once or encourage social learning by getting employees to break into groups during a training session.

   6. Prioritize Courses with High Completion Rates

Most distance learning platforms (Tovuti included) have a library of courses to choose from, where you can browse and add courses created by third parties to your training system. To keep employee engagement high, choose courses that tout high completion rates whenever possible.

Most platforms also allow learners to review courses as well in some way, typically by leaving comments or reactions. Once you have a library of courses and employees are able to leave their feedback, be sure to go through your course library and see what employees are saying. If some courses are consistently getting bad reviews, it might be time to adjust the content or remove it entirely.

   7. Use Subject Matter Experts 

Let’s face it, sometimes the manager isn’t the best person to train a new employee on a specific task or job. The same goes for course creation — why wouldn’t you get the expertise and knowledge from an employee that does the job every single day? When you’re creating course content, be sure to utilize the knowledge and experience of your subject matter experts. After all, new and existing employees should learn from the best.

   8. Keep Courses Updated

Outdated course content doesn’t help anybody. It can be easy to fall into a “set it and forget it” kind of attitude with distance learning, especially if the courses are designed to be mainly asynchronous. But as we all know, the corporate world doesn’t slow down, and that means new processes, procedures, policies, and more are always in the works, meaning that careful attention should be paid to distance learning course content to ensure its relevance. You wouldn’t want to waste time training a new employee on an old system, after all.

   9. Keep Engagement Up with Quizzes and Assessments

When an employee knows there’s a test they have to pass, they’re much more likely to pay attention to the material. Aside from testing knowledge, quizzes and assessments also provide managers with a way to gauge employee skill levels. For example, if most employees are getting a lower score on one section of a test, it might indicate a skill gap that should be addressed with further training.

10. Ensure Mobile Compatibility

These days, we’re all glued to our phones, and your employees are no different. A distance learning system that is mobile responsive gives employees more opportunities to complete training, especially if they are on the go. Mobile responsiveness also goes hand in hand with microlearning, making it that much easier to complete training in small, bite-size chunks.

Conclusion

what is distance learning

In a corporate setting, the typical distance learning definition evolves into questions, like “how can I keep employees engaged in training” and “how can I improve knowledge retention” inevitably come up. Thankfully, there are a variety of different types of distance learning — synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid — all with the intention of catering to different learning styles. By ensuring that you offer a variety of eLearning courses, you can easily cater to these different learning styles and keep employees engaged. 

The answer to “what is distance learning?” in general might seem very straightforward; you log onto a system and complete courses. When choosing a distance learning platform for your business, it’s important to consider the different features that each platform has to offer. On the surface, many of the distance learning platforms out there might seem the same, but each one typically has at least a few features that set it apart from its competitors. Make a list of features that are important to you and match it to the eLearning systems you research in order to make the best choice.

If you’re looking into a distance learning platform that checks all the boxes, consider Tovuti. Our platform is built from the ground up to be easy to use, easy to implement, and have robust features that businesses need. Watch our demo, and we’ll walk you through our software and give you suggestions on how to best use it for your business’s training needs.

Author:
Tyson Chaplin

Tyson Chaplin earned his Master of Educational Technology degree from Boise State University in 2014. He also earned a graduate certificate in Technology Integration and holds teaching certificates in online teaching, special education, and history.

Tyson is an Idaho native who is passionate about technology and how it can help all people learn and better themselves. He has worked in both public and private sectors. Tyson enjoys cooking and traveling with his wife, Malia, and restores vintage video game systems in his free time.

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