The long-awaited evolution of learning labs to respond to a cloud-centric world (VB Live)

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The transition from on-premises to the cloud and SaaS has significantly decentralized IT. While each business unit once looked to IT to install and maintain its technology, each department now has its own platforms to manage. This has been a huge boon for efficiency and business intelligence, but now every team needs to be trained in the technology they need to do their jobs, especially as these platforms start to evolve. , from security to governance to troubleshooting and creating new solutions.

“There are a lot more people out there who maybe have some business acumen, but maybe don’t have the technical skills to do some of the things they need to do in the cloud,” says Frank Gartland, product manager at Skillable, the lab platform that drives Skillsoft’s Cloud Challenge Labs. “We and many of our partners are seeing a lot of people who just need cloud training, beyond the basics – topics that go into pretty technical areas outside of IT. “

But vocational training has not evolved as quickly as technology. The “expert instructor” learning model, where teachers talk and students listen, is more popular than ever and is now increasingly delivered as asynchronous videos that are easy and inexpensive to produce.

“People want the responsibility for learning to fall on the instructor, on the expert,” says Gartland. “What we found is that not only is it not working, but people are also starting to understand that you can’t figure out everything you need to know by watching a video or a demo. You have to get your hands on the system and actually get the job done.

Multiple choice quizzes only judge the outcome, rather than a learner’s ability to find the correct answer on their own. And in addition to this main problem, there is also the fact that in every organization there are undiscovered talents – employees who could easily improve their skills and become extremely valuable in a new position, but who simply might not. not be very well tested. But if you put them in front of a machine and challenge them, you might see them shine.

“I almost promise that if this is a tech-based business and they have things that run in Azure or AWS or on VMware or in a container, they’ll be blown away by whatever. it can offer its audience in terms of learning. and a competent point of view, ”says Gartland.

Why learning labs need to take it to the next level

A learning lab has often been a middle ground between listening to an instructor and being thrown into the mix. However, in most labs, an instructor walks learners step by step through a task and then tries to connect the dots at the end for them. And in the end, new learners really didn’t learn to follow a teacher’s instructions – they didn’t really learn what they did.

“People focused on building laboratories that job instead of building laboratories that teach“Says Gartland.” No one even thought of going to the labs that teach the game. “

But a guided hands-on lab takes someone who’s just started in a particular technology and gives them a task – for example, you’re on day two of your job and you need to set up a new user in a different time zone. . From there, the learner can experiment, figure out where the menus and settings they need are located, and find out from there.

“Adult learners need this – they have to be able to understand it,” he explains. “They have to fail quickly. The more you explore the more you find out what’s wrong, the next time you come across a related issue you will recognize it and know where to go.

It’s Robert and Elizabeth York’s notion of desirable hardship, Gartland says. Yorks’ study of adult learners found that in order to hire an adult you have to thread the needle between giving them a lesson so easy that they check out and challenging enough that they are sure they can solve the case with it. a little bit of work.

How technology overcomes barriers to learning by doing

The challenge of learning by doing has always been to evolve the hands-on learning environment, both for the hardware configuration and the cost of accessing the software. Labs are complex for a learner to set up and maintain, not to mention the lesson setup and sandbox that a whole class can use. This is where Cloud Challenge Labs with Skillsoft has been a huge win, as the tools are already integrated, so even a distributed workforce can access teaching labs and assessments anywhere in the world.

The best educational labs teach as they go, evaluating the learner’s work and recognizing successes when they perform each task correctly, or slowing down to offer advice whenever they struggle, as validation is done. . This is an essential distinction: not only can this learner do it, but they get the validation that they have done it correctly.

“What I want to make sure is that when the security breach occurs and there is penetration into the network, the team that is responsible for identifying, isolating and eliminating this violation, don’t do it for the first time – I don’t ‘I don’t want them to guess, “Gartland explains.” I want them to be confident, and trust comes through validation. thinks that doing challenge-centered learning, hands-on experience, that is noted and validated by the results of what you do, is something the world has been waiting for since the beginning of technology.

To learn more about how virtual lab platforms like Skillable enable companies to design scalable, hands-on learning frameworks for your teams, the growing benefits of skills upgrading and retraining, and more, don’t miss this VB Live event!

Register here for free.

Participants will learn:

  • Competency Plans: How to Create Learning Paths with Scored Hands-On Experiences to Ensure Your Team Acquires Relevant Skills
  • Validation: See how learners can prove mastery of their skills – not just course completion – with scenario-based labs
  • Reporting: Find out how to develop a validated competency map for your team members to see where people are excelling and where growth opportunities exist


  • Frank Gartland, product manager, competent
  • Seth Colaner, Moderator, VentureBeat

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