With teams now more distributed, the need to move classroom training online has increased. The obvious benefit of this is reaching people in different locations. We can reach more people as we scale up the numbers. At least some of your training can be re-purposed for self-paced learning for others to take later.
So, before we get into it, we need to understand that we have two broad options, live or virtual learning (synchronous) and self-study or on-demand learning (asynchronous). The first involves an instructor delivering a live training session via a training or meeting application. For the second option, learners take the training at their own pace. For instance, this can be an online course that includes video, onscreen interactions, activities and assessments or it can be any other form of multimedia such as stand-alone video, texts, podcasts or using social tools.
If you’re in a hurry and needs must, a quick way to bring your content online is to deliver a session via a virtual training tool. You can use Microsoft Teams or Zoom if you have access to these. In this way, you can get your training out there quickly, where quick may be better than perfect.
However, in many cases, this is not optimal. We are using training designed for a classroom in a totally different environment. We are relying on the instructor to make it work, on the fly and prioritise what to focus on. A better practice is to use a dedicated solution for virtual training (Adobe Connect stands out as a market leader if your budget allows). With this purpose in mind, you can re-design your training to be most effective for online learning.
So let’s answer the question, how do we bring our training online. Let’s look at three areas to get right:
Re-Designing your training
Often the best approach is to re-think your training as opposed to seeing how you can bring it all into one virtual learning or one on-demand learning course. A classroom session can run for days, where online courses typically run from a few minutes to a few hours at a time. Look to re-design the course into shorter sessions, possibly having multiple sessions over time. Use multiple mediums or learning experiences to cover content that does not need to be covered in a live group session.
Revisit the learning objectives from your course. Are you looking to transfer knowledge, change behaviours or develop particular skills? For each objective, identify the best way to achieve this objective using a blend of online learning experiences.
Choosing online learning experiences
Virtual Learning can be great where discussions are really important. They allow for those social interactions that allow us to learn from each other. We might want to ask questions where learners build on their own knowledge and experience to develop their thinking. These interactions can be with the instructor or within online groups as you would in a classroom activity. Altogether roleplays, group brainstorming, group activities and exercises can be completed during a virtual online session.
For example, consider stripping out parts of a classroom course that provides information such as talking over slides or watching videos. You can include these features in an eLearning course, video or online resources.
Review what works really well in the classroom training. What are the best bits, those ah-ha moments for students? The trainers know what these are, and they might be captured in the feedback sheets too. Good online training tools have features to replicate these classroom moments, such as break-out rooms, polls, white boards and chat functionality. Identify the places, where best to use these features.
What actually needs to be learned and what needs to be a reference closer to the time of doing? If possible, look to take content out of your classroom training and convert it to a performance support or job aid. With this purpose in mind, why not take the opportunity to improve the training using this best practice.
So, what other learning experiences should you use? We have lots of options such as podcasts, micro-lessons, mini-challenges, assignments, video, reading material or case studies. Look at where your learners are. Podcasts can be great for Medical staff or Sales staff on the move for example. Business professionals might be more used to reading case studies, while floor staff might prefer video or online courses.
For practical work, software demos or video demonstrations may be optimal where simulations allow us to practice with software, interacting with people and completing physical procedures. Review what tool are accessible to you in your organisation. Think about what might suit your learners and what might work best for meeting your learning objectives.
Like with classroom training the quality of the Instructor can be the defining factor in how well a training session is received. It is the same for virtual classroom sessions. A great classroom or field trainer may not automatically translate to a great online experience. Trainers need to understand their re-designed courses for virtual and be very familiar with how each section should be carried out. Therefore, completing a dry run is a must for any new course.
Instructors should be very familiar with their chosen online tool and be able to seamlessly use the features to manage microphones, cameras as well as chat, break-out rooms and whiteboards. There is nothing like losing credibility and testing the patience of your learners by muddling through the technology. There are a lot of softer tips and tricks for delivery such as starting a session, leaving more time for learners to respond, how to manage icebreakers and increase learner engagement.
Pulling it all together
Taking your training online really works. It’s about re-thinking your current approach and creating a blend of experiences to deliver the results you achieve from your existing training.
Create an overview or course map, which shows your learning objectives and the corresponding experience for each. Then plan the experience from a user’s perspective. How will they be informed of the approach? When should they take each experience? and how will they access the learning? For virtual training courses, like with classroom training, a facilitator or Instructor guide should be created, that guides the facilitator through the session and ensures a consistent experience for all learners.
Cobblestone Learnings Consulting Services can advise you on the best approach to take for your unique needs while our Partner Services can provide you with the practical design support to bring your learning content online.