LAWW 2022: how virtual learning will aid the industry recovery
This week is Learning at Work Week. OTT has been helping travel agents to learn at their place of work - whether office, hybrid or home-based, since 2010.
We talk to OTT’s founder Julia Feuell about the importance of lifelong learning and why, in a rapidly changing world, it’s now more important than ever for travel trade businesses.
Can you describe the ways that OTT supports workplace learning?
“At OTT, we recognise that life is getting busier and busier. Learning, at its very core, needs to be engaging and in bite sized chunks. I think that’s why the platform is so well engaged is because it fulfils that need. But it isn't just about courses. Since the pandemic, the platform has merged more into a more rounded communications and learning tool.”
“At OTT we’ve got a whole range of learning events - all of which allow travel professionals to boost their knowledge in short timeframes. We’ve got the virtual events like webinars, coffee break sessions,which take more than 20 minutes. Companies use these to explain what they do and demonstrate different ways to learn about a destination, maybe through cooking or another activity.”
“We've also got virtual classrooms which will be going live soon. And that's another way of learning. For example, Egypt will be running a short session on archaeology and hieroglyphs so you can then learn about that as well as more about the country at the same time. Cape Town will be talking about shark diving in cages, and they're going to do an explanation on how that works. What that's doing is getting the trade interested, putting the destinations foremost in agents’ minds. If anyone has an interest in shark diving, then they're now more knowledgeable and they can reassure customers on any safety issues.”
“There’s also quizzes – asking the agents about what they've learned in a light hearted way, so there’s many different ways you can keep up to date on what's happening in the industry generally."
The travel industry has been massively disrupted by the Covid pandemic - how will online learning aid its recovery? “The trade has lost so many people over the pandemic. There's a lot of new people coming in and wanting to learn new skills. Our skills section on OTT has doubled in revenue in the last year which is a very interesting trend. Product training, engagement and learning is one thing but then the other side is the actual hard skills you need to know such as reservation systems. We've also got some quite interesting courses that have gone live recently, including one by the United Nations Tourism Organisation about venue security for governmental VIPs and delegates.”
“Before the pandemic, a lot of people did training face to face conferences. Now, of course, there’s been a shift to virtual, so we're going to be helping experts in their fields to put their content online to get to much bigger audiences, whether that’s by using virtual classrooms or using course creation technology, to create courses and sell them on OTT.”
The OTT community is full of highly motivated learners. Can you explain some of the ways the platform satisfies and maintains their curiosity?
“OTT is not just about learning, it's about virtual events and it’s also a useful information resource. The different methods used on the platform cater to individuals’ different styles, whether their preferences are visual, auditory, or reading and writing. You can revisit the courses, return for a one hour training session, find collateral such as brochures, suppliers, contact details – it’s one of the key learning resources for the travel trade.”
How do you work with partners to promote the role of Learning at Work Week in improving product knowledge and sales?
“OTT highlights the importance now of continuous learning and even more so as most people work virtually or in a hybrid way, maybe a couple of days in the office, and then they're home. In order to keep up, you've got to make sure you're keeping up with your own skills and knowledge so again, it's a resource platform. We're going to continue to improve all kinds of different training that's relevant to today's workforce to help bridge any gaps.”
The last two years have been the toughest on record for the travel industry. Can you explain how important the role of online learning will be, both in terms of refreshing skills for agents and reconnecting with a more fragmented industry for brands?
“I think people will be returning to the industry during recovery as the love of travel runs right through everyone you meet in this industry, it’s kind of almost like a calling. There's not many jobs you could say that about! That's what is going to attract the new starters - they're the ones that have already been travelling around the world backpacking and are going to gravitate towards the industry.”
“There's a lot of pressure on the travel companies, especially where either people have decided to close their offices or have a hybrid working model and now have more junior people or who have come from another industry, or are straight out of university or college.”
“Normally, in an office, you'd have a mentor – someone who might be able to answer your questions. But that person might be there just a couple of days a week in the office and then you're on your own again. So, virtual training or having a company specific training academy, needs to be there and it needs to be kept up to date. It needs to be relevant to what those new people need, which is going to support the industry’s recovery.”
What remaining barriers are there to online learning… and does OTT have any plans to help people overcome these?
“I've discovered that a lot of the good skills training and excellent knowledge is sitting in the brains of the people that were running these offline initiatives. Now the task is to get that out of their documents and publish it online. Not only will it be good for them, because they will earn money, but for the industry to then have an opportunity to learn as much as they need, when they want, on demand, rather than waiting for a seminar to come up on a particular topic or a conference.”
How will you mark Learning at Work Week at OTT?
“Some of our clients will be running some special competitions, plus we’ll talking to industry representatives about their own initiatives.”
What is your biggest learning achievement?
“My biggest achievement is spending £1 million so far on OTT’s technology and building a significant global platform. Essentially, what I had was an idea. And then someone said that's a good idea, here's some money to build it. Once you've raised money to build something, you're committed.”
“I was learning as I went and you’ve got to go right from the ground up gaining that knowledge so that you don't miss anything. As the scale of the opportunity became more and more apparent, I then had the task of raising more money, so I had to learn all about funding. It’s been my steepest learning curve.”
Can you share something that you would really like to learn?
“I wouldn't mind learning more about aromatherapy. If I had the time, I’d love to know more about the properties of scent and how they can be mixed into lotions and potions.”