Are you considering a move from face-to-face to online training? In this article, Simon Greany shares some practical advice on how to get started with the transition.
Many training providers are moving toward online or blended learning offers and for various reasons: to reduce production, maintenance, and delivery costs and to reach wider audiences or simply because customers want it.
A recent report by Towards Maturity on people’s learning preferences announced that 70% say that online learning improves job performance and 90% access learning on their mobile devices. Online learning gives audiences more control with its self-paced and readily-accessible content. But audiences also rank collaboration, tutor-led, and social learning highly, which is why blended learning can provide the ultimate solution.
If you’re thinking about making the move from face-to-face but aren’t sure where to start, this post provides a practical guide. It’s the first in a short series designed to help you piece together modern online and blended training packages for your customers. The first step: analyze.
1. Do a top-down analysis
You start with the business and performance goals that your training is targeted at. Even if you already have a face-to-face course in place, it’s worth going through this exercise to ensure that the learning strategies and content still align with your core goals. Do this without looking at your content!
Ask yourself the following:
- What business goal is this training aiming to meet? (e.g., reduction in errors, increased sales; better retention of staff). Try to make this SMART.
- What do learners need to do to attain this goal? (e.g., start or stop doing x).
- What are the ways in which they can demonstrate that they are doing this? That is, what specific activities or actions do they need to do to meet their performance goal?
You may find that there are differences in the actions required by different learners, for example, a manager may need to perform different actions to a team member. Map any differences out.
Notice that all these questions are about action not knowledge. You can then drill deeper and identify the examples and theory that the learners will need to help them do the above. The idea with this is to cut out any theory or knowledge that isn’t necessary and to keep the focus on the outcome. Anything that doesn’t link back to the goal, scrap.
Cathy Moore calls this approach action mapping.
2. Then go bottom-up
If you have been delivering workshops already, great. You can use some bottom-up approaches. You’ll have objectives, content, expertise, and, hopefully, you know what works well and what learners find most challenging. The latter is probably the most important. If you don’t have this information, now is the time to get it. Ideally, you know which elements of your workshops, such as activities or discussions, work well and why.
Surely you can just take the content and convert it to online learning? Well, yes, you can, and it will probably work, but your workshop will be much more than just content, right? You’ll have other additional elements.
You don’t want to accidently convert a great practical activity into tutorial content if there’s a way to make an interactive practical, right? Equally, you won’t want to lose all that contextualization and story-telling and just focus on facts. So, you might need to do a little re-design to ensure that the new format delivers learning experiences and not just content.
It might help to break your workshops down into their components, such as the following:
- discovery activity: learners uncover something for themselves
- practice activity: learners get to take part in an activity on their own, in pairs, or groups
- demonstration: learners get walked through the “how”
- case study: learners analyze and learn a skill from a contextualized case study
- tutorial: learners are talked through a process, theory, etc.
- story-sharing: learners and/or the teacher shares stories and examples (this can occur during breaks too)
- collaboration: learning takes place because people are working together
- myth-busters: knock-down common misconceptions or include surprising facts
- assessment: assess learners’ ability to apply the skill
- observation: observe learners practicing/applying the skill
When using the top-down approach, make sure that everything you do maps back to your goal. Creating this list should help you work out what can be “done” with your learning. For example, elearning can cover off a lot of the above, including an element of (pre-captured) storytelling, but you might realize you need something extra, some video or animation to help you with some demonstrations or case studies if they are in-depth or soft-skill–based or include some social learning.
3. Consider all learning channels
If you’re leaning towards a blended approach rather than pure elearning, it’s worth mapping out what learning channels are available to your organization and what may be available to your learners. Remember, a blend is anything more than just a block of elearning, however small.
Do this without making any decisions as a listing exercise. For example:
- mobile learning
- discussion forums (in an LMS, perhaps)
- virtual classroom
- video production/viewing capability
- virtual tutoring
Once you’ve objectively gathered all this information, you’re set to start designing a fit for purpose learning journey.
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