Impact of COVID-19 on software developer training

The impact of COVID-19 on software developer training has been mixed. This photo shows a smiling young woman taking notes during a virtual instructor-led training. She is taking part from home, using video conference technology.

In case you missed it, DevelopIntelligence recently hosted a webinar to explore the impact of COVID-19 on software developer training. DI CEO Kelby Zorgdrager moderated a panel interview with L&D leaders at enterprise organizations. They discussed changes to consider in the next 90 days to 1 year, in response to COVID-19 realities.

Here are some highlights, followed by a sneak peak at our next L&D Roundtable topic:

It’s important to give employees dedicated time for virtual learning.

With in-person instruction, participants get permission from their managers to take time off for a class. The same needs to happen for virtual.

“Screen fatigue is a real thing.”

When designing full-day or multi-day in-person training, instructors build in breaks, opportunities to move around, etc. Amidst COVID-19, employees are sitting in front of a screen all day, for both their work and their learning. Consider breaking courses into shorter segments that employees complete over multiple days or weeks. If this is not possible, find creative ways to incorporate movement and mental breaks.

Organizations are no longer constrained by classroom size.

L&D can leave registration open for high-demand classes and serve a larger number of participants in each training. Not having physical space constraints lets trainers explore creative new ways to deliver content. This was an unanticipated positive impact of COVID-19 on software developer training.

Create shared experiences. 

With virtual instruction, it’s hard to duplicate the community feel of an in-person class. But it is possible. For an infusion of fun, consider sending food or drink to participants to open together at a specific time.

Design more just-in-time learning opportunities.

Right now, employees seem more focused on acquiring skills and knowledge they can apply immediately to the work at hand. Some are still doing exploratory learning, but for most, a central question is “what can I use today?” The following topics have seen a spike in interest: Security, Cloud, DevOps and Kubernetes.

“The opportunity to ask questions accelerates learning.”

Another participant’s question may help a learner connect the dots in a way that would not have happened through self-study. Design Q&A tools and opportunities into virtual courses.

Knowledge retention comes from practicing skills.

Lectures and reading aren’t enough. Organizations must find creative ways to help remote learners apply their new knowledge in simulations or real-world projects.

Rethink your approach to mentoring.

Pairing one mentor and mentee isn’t the only way to “do” mentoring. Formal peer-to-peer encouragement can play a role in the learning process. “One-to-many” mentoring allows a single mentor to help more people. And mentors can assist directly in the design of an employee’s learning program.

Take a careful look at the cost-benefit equation.

In-house subject matter experts know the internal nuances of how employees will apply the learning. But they also have day jobs. How do you leverage a SME’s knowledge without taking too much of their time away from mission-critical work? Should SMEs be teachers or guest speakers? What is the most cost-effective delivery model for blending SME knowledge with internal or external L&D experts?