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The unexpected power of virtual learning

Up Next… The new-found agility of corporate learning

Online learning has been around for many years. But the impact of COVID-19 means that most learning programmes now take place virtually.

Companies that previously ran learning events, team building conferences and other communication activities face-to-face are having to completely rethink how they can deliver them virtually, with increased remote working set to continue for some time yet.

This might seem like a constraint. How can you transfer existing learning programmes online? How can you capture the energy and networking aspects of face-to-face learning?

Over the past few months, we have helped several clients through exactly this process, transferring face-to-face events online. What we have uncovered is not barriers, but unexpected positives – huge benefits of virtual learning events that give learning even more impact for the long term. Here’s why:

1. Virtual learning creates a level playing field

In face-to-face learning sessions, strong characters can dominate. This can leave other participants disengaged and detract from their learning experience. In virtual sessions, with groups working in smaller teams and with more structure, every personality is allowed an equal share of voice. This maximises access to learning for everyone.

2. Learning is embedded through increased debrief and reflection points

During virtual simulations, we use more reflection points and allow more time for debriefing. These reflections are not full group-wide but tailored to each small group. This makes them much more personal and helps embed the learning for the longer term. Participants can clearly see the impact of their personal decisions as well as those of their group.

3. Virtual learning is more agile

Previously, face-to-face events would have been planned months in advance, allowing sufficient time for venue selection, travel and accommodation. Programmes might need to be repeated across different global locations. For virtual learning events, the only real constraint is time. Events can be organised and delivered in a matter of weeks, at much shorter notice. New skills can be shared much more quickly across wider audiences. Organisations can experience the benefits faster.

4. Engaging, competitive and fun 

Feedback from participants and clients continuously demonstrates that virtual learning events can capture all the energy of face-to-face sessions. In small groups, participants gain all the teamworking aspects of working together with others, having to influence and persuade each other, debate and deliver decisions together in a fast-paced, changing environment. Competing against other teams adds a layer of engagement and fun, with teams keen to top the leaderboard. Regular check-ins during the simulation allow everyone to see how each team is performing, encouraging them to work even harder to make better decisions, create value, manage relationships effectively and meet the objectives of the chosen simulation. 

5. Smaller groups lead to higher engagement

Usually, in face-to-face learning events, venue logistics mean that participants work in larger groups of four to six. For virtual simulations, individuals come together in smaller groups. Breaking participants down into smaller groups encourages cooperation and participation. People have to get involved and stay on task.

“I absolutely loved this challenge. 

It was great to work in a team and have a competitive atmosphere”

“It was fun, intellectually stimulating, and I learnt a lot from this experience.”

Over the past few months, we have delivered virtual business simulations across the US, Europe and Asia, and the feedback on these virtual L&D events has been ‘exceptional’.

Virtual leadership summit for 360 US Insurance leaders

We recently delivered a customised version of our Complex City decision-making simulation for a major US Insurance Company. They would normally run a face-to-face, week-long leadership summit each year, to engage with leaders on company performance and future objectives. Due to COVID-19, the decision was taken to run the event entirely virtually. Whilst the informational content of the summit could easily be delivered online, a vital part of the event was the networking opportunities between leaders and the social aspect of building relationships. 

With thirteen facilitators we successfully ran the simulation with 120 remote teams competing against each other in real-time. The feedback from the client was fantastic, describing the simulation experience as ‘exceptional’. They saw first-hand that it really is possible to create high energy events that bring people together in a fun and engaging way, wherever they are in the world.

Virtual Academy for Early Talent Acquisition

International Law Firm CMS run an Academy every year as part of their early talent recruitment scheme. The Academy usually consists of one week of training on the business of law and a two-week internship. We have worked with CMS and our partner Mind3 for several years to run face-to-face simulations during the programme, helping participants to learn valuable skills in a fun and engaging way.

Because of COVID-19, CMS had to completely redesign the Academy to deliver it entirely virtually in 2020. We facilitated a customised simulation with 126 participants based remotely in the UK, US and Asia and the client was delighted by how well the business simulation experience transferred online:

“It was fab to watch the simulation virtually, I strongly feel that the participants lost nothing in terms of experience by adapting the approach and I was really impressed with how smoothly everything went.” – Becky Lowe, Head of Talent Acquisition, CMS

Ososim is a global learning technology company that helps organisations to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Working in over 85 countries with major global companies, as well as government institutions, leading business schools and non-profit organisations, our digital learning experiences enable individuals, teams and companies to perform at their best.

To find out more about our virtual business simulations please contact us on +44 (0)1223 421 034 or email