Live Online Learning and the Future of Training: Insights From Arlo Training Management System CEO John Mitchell

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Arlo, a New Zealand company that specializes in end-to-end training management that helps companies promote, sell, and deliver courses and events, has been helping companies with their complete remote training solution

We caught up with Arlo CEO, John Mitchell, to learn more about what the training industry has experienced so far adjusting to virtual training, blended learning and eLearning.The company’s growing solutions offering, as well as the hot trends he predicts the industry will embrace in the near future. VR anyone? 

Hello John! To start off, please tell us about Arlo and what you do

I’m John Mitchell, founder and CEO of Arlo training management software. I’ve been in the education business for over 20 years now and actually set up Arlo back in 2007. Arlo is a training management system that we built and is specifically designed for commercial training providers. They use the software in a variety of ways: they might run our public schedule of courses, private in-house training, or a combination of both. 

Arlo essentially runs their whole training business and it’s their website for promoting the courses, taking payment and registrations, and their scheduling tool for face-to-face meetings and running live online courses. Additionally, it acts as their CRM for managing client data, as well as all the marketing tools for running the courses.

How has the pandemic impacted your business?

Our business has actually grown over the last 12 months. I think training providers needed to pivot right at the start of the pandemic since face-to-face training wasn’t happening and hasn’t happened for a long time. So, many of those training providers needed to change to a system that supports live online training and blended learning. I think the change at this challenging time has also meant that providers were looking to become more efficient and automate some of the processes, so Arlo was a good fit for them.

How have your customers/providers responded during this unusual time and what are some of the trends you’re seeing?

Many providers were doing primarily face-to-face training before the pandemic… one or two-day workshops, either public or private. The game basically changed overnight for many of them. The successful ones really switched and pivoted very quickly to live online. In fact, in March 2020, there was a point where there was a huge transition where we saw an increase from 20% to 90% in live online registrations. At one point, we saw online registrations increase to 12,000 when the week before had been about 300.

It’s been amazing to see the quality of live online delivery improve since then. Many trainers were fairly new to live online delivery, and it’s been incredible to see how quickly people got familiar with the technology. The training providers now know that they really have that ability to create rapport very quickly, so people are comfortable with that sort of training.

Can you comment on the quality of training content that providers are delivering today?

Initially, most tried to deliver the same content in their virtual instructor led training sessions, as in their in-person sessions. I think we all know that eight hours of live online web conferencing can be painful and that people max out at about two hours. It was also a good catalyst for people to step back and rethink how they were delivering learning or how to deliver effective learning. 

It’s been quite exciting to see this transformation for some providers who have taken the opportunity to not only convert their face-to-face courses to online but consciously split up the course. The result is a theory part to the course, which a person can learn at their own pace, as well as eLearning modules to keep the sort of interactive live online practical element of the course. Splitting that theory and practice is important and engaging. The overall result is an improvement on the whole learning experience, as course participants learn faster and it’s a better experience. Those training providers have also become incredibly efficient.

What are the top benefits of delivering online courses versus in-person?

The cost savings are huge when delivering a course where the trainer doesn’t have to travel to the location and all the expenses associated with that. On top of that, it saves them time because their actual time of delivery is shorter. To that point, there are trainers who really invested and took the time to just step back and create great content at a significant expense.

There are also other providers that might not have the funds to invest in some of the flashy eLearning modules, but even those trainers can convert originally printed material into online resources. Tools such as Articulate Rise and Coassemble make it easy to produce really engaging material. In short, some companies invested heavily to really transform their learning materials, while other ones have been able to produce incremental advancements in terms of their content, including moving to live online sessions.

Arlo has launched a learning design service to help support training providers through this new shift to online. Can you tell us more about that?

Anyone who has attempted to convert some material or create a really engaging piece of learning will find that it’s not so easy in the sense that there’s a high expectation these days. It’s difficult to keep people’s attention and create an engaging piece of learning.

We saw that many providers just don’t have these skills in-house to deliver and create these types of materials, so we built a team with the skills to help our customers—whether it’s creating some online course modules, upskilling their team, or helping them to create their own material. When you get into the detail of learning design services, you realize it’s not just about creating the material for them or simply training them to do it themselves. It can actually be a combination of both, and the mentoring component of it can be really important. That’s what we do.

It’s also a chance to step back and look more holistically at the training services you offer and reviewing the learning strategy at a high level for a company. It’s about helping companies question: ‘How do we really get the best learning outcomes for a course? How do we blend in live online with eLearning and engage learners?’ There’s a bigger picture that can be looked at and potentially improved upon in many cases.

What does the future hold for the training industry?

One of my hot topics is virtual reality (VR). I don’t think it’s going to happen tomorrow, but I think it’s going to be the next big wave. It’s a case of when, not if. What we’re seeing now is the technology is moving very quickly and it’s very affordable. VR is really perfect for recreating those scenarios that are too expensive to set up, such as simulating a fire for health and safety training. The cost of trying to reproduce a scenario like that is very high. 

But then imagine creating a VR simulation of that which you bought once and maybe built three different scenarios. Then, having literally millions of people around the world be able to experience that simulation. And not only that, they’ll be able to continually run that training on a periodic basis.

What are the key benefits of VR training for learners?

VR will help with knowledge retention and improving the pass rates on a course. I think learners can learn the theory by themselves, self-paced. If they can then enhance that with real-life simulation, that’s even better, as the learning retention is improved. But if you throw in those simulations that are all different and test different scenarios, the learning gets even better. People will have their own VR headsets in the future. With that in mind, learners will be able to get refreshes and keep on testing themselves on their learning.

Certainly, people are now more open than ever to new technology. And it comes down to ROI. If you’re running a business, you need to make sure that if you’re going to invest in technology, that there’s an actual positive outcome. With VR, there are two real driving forces for ROI. One is cost savings with being able to reproduce an environment and rerun it. The second is the learning outcome. Why do we do training? We do it to learn, and the hope is that with the right training, the learning stays with us and we can retain the lessons that were presented throughout the course. Being able to repeat scenarios multiple times, and cost-effectively, will help with the entire learning process.

What can we expect to see from Arlo in the future?

VR is a deep interest of ours, but in the short term as a company what we’re focusing on in the next 12 months will be offering more integrations and interactions with other applications. We’ve just launched an integration with Zapier, which is a middleware piece of software. With Zapier in place, Arlo can now integrate with any other application that integrates with Zapier, which means access to about 2,000 applications out there. From there, we’re building out what we call zaps or part of those plugins for that integration. 

We’re also going to invest in better learning, blended learning, and eLearning functionality. We’ve got some cool, exciting new experiences coming out. That’s still a bit of time away, but it’s on its way. We’re also going to expand our learning design team and we’ll definitely look at bringing in VR and making that just another delivery method within the blended course offering. We’re looking forward to the next 12 months, for sure!

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