Making a move from face-to-face to online training. Where to start?

So, you need to adapt your face-to-face training program into an online experience. Where do you begin? Is switching to a virtual classroom enough? Probably not. Here’s our practical advice on how to get started on the right foot.

Face to face vs online learning

It might feel like we’ve been flung into a digital-only world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but online learning has been in demand for a long time now. 

Back in 2018, a Towards Maturity report on people’s learning preferences noted that 70% say 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.

Traditionally, blended learning has contained face-to-face elements, but they’re by no means necessary. In fact, an online blended learning program can have just as much impact – if not more!

Can’t I just deliver my face-to-face workshop in a virtual classroom? 

Well, yes, you could. But you’re missing a trick if you want to keep up engagement levels and deliver impact. We’d heartily recommend going beyond delivering your face-to-face training in a virtual classroom. A blended approach will be more time-efficient (for you and your learners), sustainable and scalable. 

Here’s where to begin…

1. Do a top-down analysis

Start with the business and performance goals at which your training is targeted. 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 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. Take note of these differences.

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 is to cut out any theory or knowledge that isn’t necessary and 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 

You don’t have to start from scratch – you can reap the rewards of the time you’ve invested in developing your face-to-face training. Revisit the content with fresh eyes. 

Break down the content that’s left, noting the learning objective for each part. Then think about the way you’re delivering the different sections right now. It’s more than just explaining the content to the participants – right? You probably have some of the following:

  • Discovery activity: learners uncover something for themselves
  • Practice activity: learners take part in an activity either alone or in a group
  • Demonstration: learners get walked through the “how”
  • Case study: learners see skills come to life in a contextual example
  • Tutorial: learners are talked through a theory, process, etc.
  • Story sharing: learners and/or facilitators share stories or personal experience
  • Mythbusting: uncovering misconceptions from learners in order to correct them
  • Assessment: testing learners’ ability to apply their skills

What works well from this list? What will motivate and engage your learners, according to your learner profiles? What directly supports your goal? Cut out anything you don’t need. 

3. Consider your learning channels

You probably already know what works well in a face-to-face context, so consider how you can create a similar experience online. 

Channels you might have available to you:

  • Mobile-friendly elearning 
  • LMS discussion forums
  • Intranet pages
  • Virtual classrooms / web conferencing
  • Video production capability
  • Virtual mentoring / tutoring
  • On-the-job shadowing / supervision

You can mix and match – remember, a blend is anything more than a block of one thing, however small. Keep the overall experience in mind and make sure your learners know what to expect, where and when.

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