Learning as we know it in HR is rapidly changing. Gone are the days of physically traveling to a venue to sit in a chair and hear a presentation. Learning and training alike have gone virtual and there is no turning back.


There are few people you can speak to today that aren’t utilizing some form of virtual learning/e-learning. Imagine how many hours away from work, travel expense and the like you or your company would spend in getting you to real-life seminars if there were no webinars. Webinars have transformed the way that we learn and train. Suddenly, we have access whether for free or a nominal free to attend training seminars with key thought leaders from across the globe and learn something new in a lunchtime. It’s brilliant and I don’t know about you, but it is how I am keeping my finger on the pulse of the latest and greatest in HR these days.


Decreased budgets and time constraints are to blame for these novel technologies, but boy are we thankful. Another fairly new trend is the virtual conference concept. I have attended a few in the past, but I recently attended a virtual conference viaHR.com on “Social Media and Employee Communications”. It was for two days from about 10-3:30p.m. each day and chock full of great webcast sessions. There is a networking lounge where you can chat with others. There’s a virtual exhibit hall with vendors you know. You can even drop a business card and be contacted by a representative at the “virtual table”. In addition, they give you a survey at the end that asks you if you wish to be contacted by the speaker and guess what the speakers really reach out to you.


I have not been to too many national conferences, but this is a great way for professionals to get the conference feel of things without spending the $1,800-$2000 for entrance plus lodging and miscellaneous expenses that are inherent in some of the more notable conferences. Another virtual conference innovator isSHRM with the On Demand product. This product brings the national conference to businesses so they can provide access to the sessions to their employees.


Another great tool is podcasts. Whether it is via the radio or video you get anywhere from five minutes up to an hour of targeted learning a specific topic. It is a great way to learn about new tools or trends on the fly.


Last but not least, let us not forget about distance learning as it pertains to obtaining a degree. More than ever, colleges and universities are making their courses and degrees available online with the same world-class professors you get in an actual classroom. HR professionals and professionals in general can do anything from taking a prep course for their PHR to obtaining their master’s degree. There still remains some scrutiny of distance learning and whether it is comparable to being in a classroom. As someone who received all six of her certifications from Cornell’s online ILR school I can tell any naysayers that I worked my natural behind off. It was everything a classroom brings and then some-but truly rewarding.


For those that enjoy teaching there is a new service called Udemy and there are many others out there as well. However, you can create coursework and sell your classes for a price you set. Udemy will kick back a certain percentage of the profits from the class to the virtual teacher. This allows a person to teach what they alike across different disciplines and get paid while doing it.


What’s my point in all of this?


These innovations bring learning and training to HR professionals like never before. Here is where you receive the biggest bang for your buck:


1) Virtual Learning allows your employees to choose what they want to learn therefore making their training and learning personalized.

2) Less money and resources spent in sending a few “key” people to events. Instead you can send everyone to learn because it is virtual so all you have to provide is a computer and the internet and who doesn’t have those these days?

3) It is a way for the company to invest in the employees, but a way for employees to truly own their own development. Virtual Learning makes it fairly easy for anyone to keep up with the goings on in HR.

4) The scrutiny that comes with sitting in a classroom with others is diminished by personalized, targeted coaching and teaching that comes with distance learning. Now you can truly learn at your pace in and in your own way without feeling judged.

5) Bringing in the social! There aren’t too many webinars, webcasts, courses online etc. whereby you don’t make some connection with the speakers or teachers via social media. Virtual Learning plus social media brings greater accessibility to professionals and thought leaders than ever before.


I am not diminishing the positives of sitting in a chair in a classroom, because there are many positives to name. However, tight budgets, decreased resources, less time to dedicate to traveling to a venue make these innovations attractive and I don’t suspect we will see them going anywhere in the future. I look forward to more strides made in this area.


Knowledge is power, but virtual learning is brilliant! Keep learning everyone.


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