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how-plaid-builds-engagement-into-virtual-experiences

Making learning sticky and social: How Plaid builds engagement into virtual experiences

By Kelly Duval on Mar 15, 2021 11:17:54 AM

Plaid LLC is an organizational training and development firm serving higher education institutions, corporations, non-profits, and government agencies, with a focus on US fraternities and sororities. Their ultimate mission is to help individuals, teams, and organizations be the best version of themselves. Plaid does so by creating and facilitating educational programs that help their partners and customers meet their learning outcomes. 

Before COVID-19, Plaid had primarily focused on designing educational curriculums for online courses and large in-person programs. “We needed to find a tool very quickly to help our partners adjust to the changing landscape,” says Chris Woods, Managing Partner at Plaid

Plaid began using Howspace to move their partners’ and clients’ events from in-person to virtual without compromising the experience. Through this digital transition, they discovered the additional training and development benefits that a learning experience platform brings.  

An LMS alone isn’t enough to engage participants in a virtual experience 

While Plaid uses their in-house learning management system (LMS) to provide clients with standard online education courses, they weren’t able to engage participants in virtual experiences through this platform. Many of Plaid’s clients tried replicating in-person events using Zoom and mobile event apps, but fell short.

When Plaid first started looking for a new platform to host virtual experiences, they couldn’t find anything comprehensive enough for their needs that could mimic in-person interactions. Most tools only allowed for one-way communication and content delivery—none were sticky or social enough. 

“Take the social aspects of Facebook, blend it with the community aspect and topical information of Reddit, put them together into a format where you’re controlling it as a facilitator, and that’s Howspace.”

After discovering Howspace through another consulting firm, Plaid decided to give it a try and was impressed by how Howspace enabled social learning. Pretty soon, they began transitioning all their digital experiences to Howspace, using it in tandem with their LMS. 

“For many years, learning management systems have been the primary tool for digital learning. Now we’re starting to see the shift towards learning experience platforms, which is where Howspace comes in. When you put these two together, you’ve got a really comprehensive solution for digital learning,” says Chris. 

Chris describes Howspace in a nutshell: “Take the social aspects of Facebook, blend it with the community aspect and topical information of Reddit, put them together into a format where you’re controlling it as a facilitator, and that’s Howspace.” 

Promoting deep engagement at every stage of the learning process 

Switching to virtual experiences during a global pandemic wasn’t Plaid’s only challenge. Prior to COVID-19, they struggled to engage participants before and after in-person conferences. While they had some techniques in place for after the conference, they had nothing engaging enough to bring participants back to the education so that they could understand and share how they were applying it after leaving the conference. 

“With Howspace, you’re able to build momentum. You’re able to create excitement around an event or experience because you can engage with them on a deeper level [...] So from hereon into the future, we’ll be using Howspace in all our programs—whether virtual or in-person—to engage the participants on a deeper level and stay connected to them after the experience is over,” explains Chris.  

“From hereon into the future, we’ll be using Howspace in all our programs—whether virtual or in-person—to engage with the participants on a deeper level and stay connected to them after the experience is over.”

Before using Howspace, Plaid also experienced challenges with obtaining participant responses when measuring learning outcomes. “Howspace gives us much more control and oversight over the participants to understand how they’re using the information and applying it to their roles and responsibilities,” says Chris.

Plaid’s clients now use Howspace for a range of virtual programs—from one-day events to month-long learning experiences. For these longitudinal experiences, Plaid starts off with developmental learning to get participants ready to engage in a two-day capstone event. They then facilitate follow-up trainings with all participants to ensure they can practice what they’ve learned in their roles. 

Participants can have authentic conversations within Howspace, and Plaid can guide the conversations and adjust participants’ paths as needed. In doing so, Plaid helps to avoid misinformation from spreading and ensures participants feel connected to their organization.

“Participants that are accustomed to in-person experiences don’t feel like they’re missing anything” 

While many of Plaid’s partners miss the in-person conferences they’ve held for the past decades, they’ve found that the best aspects of in-person events—like networking, socializing, and engaging with people in the same space—are possible to mimic with Howspace. 

“Participants that are accustomed to in-person experiences don’t feel like they’re missing anything because they’re able to engage with other participants online. The great thing about Howspace is that it checks the most boxes for what we can still do. We can provide the networking, the room where everybody’s collaborating together, and the social hour you might want after the conference,” says Chris. 

Since Plaid works with a lot of non-profit organizations that don’t have big budgets, cost was also an important factor—especially now that many organizations are no longer charging participants at events. “Howspace has been great because they provide not only a better but also a more affordable solution for our partners,” says Chris. 

Chris adds that designing and facilitating programs is easy with Howspace: “You don’t have to be a computer genius to use Howspace. I can design how I want the participants to engage with this education, just like we would in person. But now I can control it through my computer so that they are participating in activities and interacting with different topics when I want them to.” 

Mimicking the in-person conference—and beyond

Plaid hasn’t simply moved their in-person events online—they’ve added immense value for participants by engaging them in a social community. 

“Howspace builds a virtual community with your participants where you can engage and provide education in a format that mimics in-person learning, but in my opinion, is a lot better in many respects. Nothing’s going to replace face-to-face interactions, but Howspace allows you to keep tabs on the education that you want to provide.” 

“Howspace builds a virtual community with your participants where you can engage and provide education in a format that mimics in-person learning.”

Plaid’s partners especially love Howspace AI features, which allow them to analyze discussions, understand how participants move through a workspace, and see what they engage with.   

The future of events is hybrid 

While Plaid has been focusing on fully virtual events since Covid, their clients will start venturing into the world of hybrid events, which combine in-person and virtual elements. 

Whether an event is in-person, virtual, or a mix of both, Plaid will continue bringing value to their partners and clients by engaging participants at all steps of the learning process and empowering them to connect with one another. 


If you want to learn more about successful organizational learning in a digital setting, download your free copy of our ebook “8 ways to Boost Engagement in Virtual Organizational Learning.”

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