Veronica Chehtman Discusses the Current Urgency and Future Opportunities in E-Learning

by Evelyn Levine

Veronica Chehtman is currently the Learning Technologies Manager at AySA. Previously, she has worked with an array of organizations, including AVON, Banco Hipotecario Banco ProvinciaCablevisiónExxonMobilDIRECTV, Mercer, and The Clorox Company, among others. She has also consulted for NGOs and government organizations (FAO-FODEPAL, IPPDH, CIDH, Buenos Aires City Government, Secretaría de Cultura de la Nación Argentina, Ministerio de Justicia de la Nación Argentina); and served as distance education advisor for several Universities.

Veronica now teaches postgraduate programs in Learning Theories (at the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional) and Instructional Design (at the Universidad de Belgrano) and has previously taught at FLACSO Argentina, Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Universidad de Quilmes. She recently appeared as a panelist on a panel entitled Reimagining Learning during a Critical Time at ICELW 2020, the 13th International Conference on E-Learning in the Workplace. 

I spoke with Veronica about her work and her role; a slightly-edited transcript of the interview appears below.

Q: What is your current role, and how has it changed during this current crisis period?

A: I am the Learning Technologies Manager at AySA (Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos, or the Argentine Water and Sanitation Agency). My role didn’t change in terms of its functions due to the pandemic, but changed in its urgency and priorities. We had to switch to remote learning overnight. Alliances with key agents in the organizations (particularly IT and Internal Communications) had to be strengthened. Decisions had to be made on content, technology and, most important, on how to support the organization in its urgent mission.

Q: What were some key challenges and accomplishments in your work during this period? Do you foresee any long-term positive outcomes that may arise from this crisis?

A: In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, Argentina entered lockdown and a very restrictive isolation at the beginning of March. Since then, we have begun to navigate uncertainty and huge organizational change. The vast majority of us work from home. Training had to go remote. The most difficult challenge during this period is without any doubt to generate cultural and habit changes. And doing it fast. Our best practice for eLearning used to be avoiding “big bang” implementations and always designing a gradual strategy, in which change management, awareness and taking time for generating commitment has a very important role. Now, it had to be done right away as the challenge was huge and the deadline was yesterday.

In just a few weeks, we:

  • Generated a methodology for online synchronous training, with an important new feature of close support for trainers and trainees;
  • Developed  a new coaching approach for help desk operations; and
  • Established new processes to ensure learning has occurred.

I think all this has contributed to creating “Resilient” L&D teams: Teams that learn to be agile and empathetic, and can cope with complexity and uncertainty.

Q: What does “Re-imagining Learning during a Critical Time” mean for you?

A: Re-imagining learning means aligning all this innovation to leverage post-crisis business strategy. This crisis has taught us that learning can be not only a continuous and permanent but also ubiquitous process. Moreover, that learning is a leading process to keep the workforce connected and committed in a workplace that will never be the same.

After having gone 100% digital, I visualize the future of learning as a process completely merged with every worker’s daily routines, supported by audiovisual languages, synchronous methodologies, and performance support approaches.

Q: Do you think that the process of re-imagining the future of e-learning has already begun?

A: No. Business will change, work will never be the same. But this critical time is a mostly “hands on” period. We are working very much as an ER: triage, assess, clinical evaluation and quick delivery.

Though many new ideas and thoughts about “the day after” have emerged, I think the sense of urgency calls for a “parking lot” strategy—to wait for the crisis to end and the time to analyze these new ideas.

Q: What are some next steps for the e-learning field?

A: I think the “new normal” will require companies (depending on size, industry, etc.) to develop different strategies for keeping learning ubiquitous as much as possible. I doubt that in big metropolises such as Buenos Aires, for example, commuting for training will continue being the rule.

The first step would be to seriously assess which activities must go back to face to face. Then continuous and seamless learning environments including face to face, blended and distance learning has to be considered. Workers will expect to find it anywhere they are. This means responsive platforms for mobile devices, flipped classrooms, training-the-trainer for meaningful online teaching, relevant content and useful strategies and methodologies.  

Evelyn Levine works as a Training and Staff Development Director for the U.S. Courts. She writes on worldwide learning and development trends in public and private sectors. She can be reached at levinee@prodigy.net.