Posted: 06 Apr. 2020 5 min. read

COVID-19: Using technology to maximize virtual learning

Posted by Michael GriffithsJason MagillEmily DeWeirdtElam Lantz, and Kriti Vij on April 6, 2020.

In our last post “Learning technology to the forefront” we discussed launching and enhancing an integrated learning technology strategy as part of your organization’s response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Many virtual platforms are highly mature and can be mobilized quickly as organizations and the workforce adjust to new realities. 

In this post, we will discuss some options to consider as you aim to replace in-person learning, meetings, and events with virtual and digital alternatives. As people adjust, it is important to act quickly while also thinking strategically about the needs of your organization, employees, and culture. A shift to virtual will involve flexibility as workers continuously adapt and strive to enhance their use of these platforms.

Considerations as you go virtual  

You should start by considering a range of factors. Some of the questions you may consider include: What is the nature of the learning or event? What do you anticipate as the output? What is the audience size? Do all participants need to access the material simultaneously or do you want individuals to seek out learning on their own? Would the learning or event benefit from cohorts or individuals collaborating? Is the meeting or event internal or client-facing?

The answers to these questions will help you select among available solutions.

We have created a decision framework by categorizing the types of platforms into the following four categories:

  1. Synchronous virtual delivery platforms
  2. Blended learning programs
  3. Digital collaboration platforms
  4. Event management software

Synchronous virtual delivery platforms

Many widely recognized virtual meeting platforms offer synchronous virtual delivery that includes video and other standard features such as chat. These platforms can facilitate virtual meetings and handle day-to-day operations. If your meeting has high visibility, such as a presentation by a C-Suite executive, consider a platform that incorporates increased production capabilities with the ability to accommodate a higher audience size.

The COVID-19 outbreak is resulting in many organization-wide meetings and conferences being delayed or canceled.¹ There are many cost-effective and interactive solutions for conducting such meetings virtually. Engaging event platforms can provide studio-grade production, which can display up to dozens of remote participants simultaneously. Interactive tools enable participants to engage with the meeting moderator as well as with each other. Other features of these platforms include live discussion and collaboration as well as automatic response surveys (ARS), text chat, and responsive polling. In many ways, the virtual function of synchronous delivery platforms allows participants to communicate and engage with each other as if they were in a live meeting. One thing to consider when adopting a virtual delivery platform is to provide training for users and to set meeting etiquette for using video conferencing technology prior to any meetings.

Blended learning programs

It is also important to consider if your life learning or event can be redesigned to include asynchronous, self-directed, or small-group components. Many platforms exist which support creating blended events, cohort programs, and personalized learning where experiences can be replicated at scale for thousands of participants. This is another way to increase the mileage of your content and potentially even re-use videos of live components.

The following types of technologies can help:

  1. Video management platforms allow you to rapidly produce video content and assess learners while providing analytics. There are many video management platforms on the market. These platforms provide the functionality to automatically sync video, slides, and on-screen content and enable video editing. Users may also be able to share videos with viewers using a mobile-responsive HTML5 HD video player. Video management platforms can also function as a video library where videos can be uploaded and users can search across intranet sites, cloud-based portals, and other file shares. The functionality of video management platforms can include recording, screencasting, video streaming, sharing, and built-in user assessments.
  2. User-generated content is created by learners. Many learning platforms (including learning management systems (LMS)) include integrated content development tools that enable employees to create learning content quickly, with online widgets or even just a smartphone. Enabling user-generated content, or adopting a platform which allows for its creation and integration, allows an organization to crowdsource learning content from its learners.
  3. Finally, learning experience platforms (LXPs), program delivery platforms (PDPs), and micro and adaptive learning platforms provide another option for redesigning and delivering learning and events. They feature highly customizable learner experiences with individualized pathways and advanced content creation and curation capabilities. These platforms can also add timely content to a learners’ path, such as guidance on how to lead virtual meetings or COVID-19 messages. This kind of platform can also provide ready-made content to be added to blended learning lesson plans and provide the ability to collaborate in a virtual environment by embedding video and virtual events of a program into participant learning paths.

Digital collaboration platforms

Many times, learning or an event needs to go beyond simple “presentations” or discussions to involve more collaborative innovation or creation of work outputs. If this is the case, consider a platform with a high degree of digital collaboration and/or a lab-like environment. If you are running a design sprint or agile team, consider repurposing a work platform that offers a learning opportunity right in the user’s flow of work. Other platforms that require a high degree of collaborating and interactivity can be leveraged for remote workers. The functionality of these types of platforms can include shared screens, digital whiteboarding, and simultaneous content creation, allowing participants to join in real-time for a virtual “lab-like” session.

Many of these platforms are seeing a significant spike in its number of daily users as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.² Leveraged extensively by many companies, digital collaboration platforms enable accessibility of deliverables for simultaneous collaboration. Of course, as with any technology platform, using these tools requires the right governance, generally accepted “rules of the road” for users, and working with your company’s technology function to follow the right security protocols.

Event management software

Some events that are intended to be large live meetings or conferences may also require support for additional parts of the experience such as registration, venue management, integration with event marketing and sales, and enhanced analytics. While the live components around things like venue management may not be a short-term priority, many of these platforms offer valuable features for virtual events as well and are helping event organizers transition their customers to virtual meetings, conferences, and events. If this is the case for you, consider integrating an event management software in your learning technology portfolio.

The bigger picture: Organizations are heading in the same direction

For years, the shift towards virtual learning has moved in tandem with the move from designing learning content to curating more broadly defined learning experiences.³ For many, the coronavirus crisis is accelerating the transition to virtual learning and virtual options for other types of live events. The option for remote learning has existed for years. However, for many organizations, learning technology is at the forefront of their response to the COVID-19 crisis as they face the challenge of continuing to educate their workforce, many of whom are now remote.

An effective transition to virtual can help an organization maintain efficiency and business continuity during this period. 

One example is IBM, which is hosting its “Think 2020” client and developer conference as “a global, digital-first event” with a combination of live-streamed content, interactive sessions, certification, and locally hosted events.⁴ IBM has used Mural for years as a digital collaboration tool with remote facilitation features and agile frameworks. Widely adopted across the company prior to the COVID-19 crisis, it is enabling agile and design thinking core competencies across all parts of the organization and has already helped save travel cost for design thinking sessions by $16.4 million.⁵

Similarly, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Deloitte redesigned its March 11 Workforce Innovation Forum for digital delivery. This required managing expectations of global participants, delivering real-time communication to senior leaders, and pivoting to a facilitated virtual session in 16 hours. The delivery team and participants leveraged the learning technology options discussed in our framework while demonstrating flexibility and resilient teaming under high-degrees of ambiguity.

Working together while apart

As people continue to adjust to the changing circumstances, technology can help connect us all. These types of virtual platforms are just the tip of the iceberg. Realities on the ground will continue to change, and organizational appetite for virtual technologies will likely continue to grow, even after the COVID-19 crisis. Now is the time to drive quality human experiences, knowledge sharing, events, and learning by enhancing your learning technology strategy and building your learning technology stack.


Michael Griffiths is a partner in Deloitte Consulting LLP and leads Deloitte’s Learning & Leadership Consulting practice in North America.

Jason Magill is a senior manager in Deloitte’s Learning & Leadership Consulting practice and is a leader in the Learning Technology practice in the United States.

Emily DeWeirdt is a senior consultant in Deloitte’s Learning & Leadership Consulting practice.

Elam Lantz is a senior consultant in Deloitte’s Learning & Leadership Consulting practice.

Kriti Vij is an analyst in Deloitte’s Consulting practice.


3A New Paradigm For Corporate Training: Learning In The Flow of Work” Josh Bersin
4 "What Companies Can Learn From COVID-19 Remote Learning ‘Experiments’” Forbes
5IBM Scaling Design Culture Globally

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Michael Griffiths

Michael Griffiths

Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Michael is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP with more than 20 years of experience, working with organizations on key transformational programs. Within the Human Capital practice, he leads the Workforce Transformation offering, helping clients with learning transformations, workforce planning, workforce experience, becoming skill based, in addition to other workforce-related issues. He is well published in the field of learning and talent, and is the leading market voice on becoming a skills-based organization. He is an author for Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends research and report, co-leading the report in 2023 – the largest global report, of its kind, in market.