Online learning has been on the rise for quite some time now. And since the global outbreak of the Corona virus in early 2020, it has become even more centric in education of any kind.
While schools and universities have to switch to online lectures, a lot of companies also face the challenge of bringing some of their offline training courses online. Due to the distance regulations, offline training seminars simply cannot take place. But how exactly do you digitalize such courses in the best possible way?
You might be tempted to quickly record any offline trainings that you have in your training repertoire. Which is more or less one of the worst things you could do. Online learning works different compared to offline learning. “Simply” recording a training session (e.g. a person/yourself standing in front of a PowerPoint presentation, holding a monologue) would probably result in not only fewer participation rates but also less engagement and ultimately fewer employees who can reproduce and apply the information taught.
Thus, in todays blogpost we would like to share some tips and strategies that you can use and should take into account when digitalizing your offline training content.
Identify training needs and set priorities.
First things first - don’t panic.
You won’t be able to switch from offline to online within just a couple of days. Depending how many offline trainings you need to bring online, it will take some time. So, before you start, it can make sense to think about your employees’ most urgent training needs and set priorities accordingly.
Basically, you should constantly ask yourself: What needs to be available first / next? You could create a list of all the courses that should be switched from offline to online, prioritize them and then use that list to work from top to bottom.
One way of prioritizing your training needs could look as follows (however, depending on your specific company, this could look different).
Courses that need to be available immediately
Start with training courses that need to be available more or less immediately, be it due to government regulations or because new employees cannot start their work without a certain onboarding course.
Courses that are mission critical
Continue with mission critical courses - what courses should every employee have to work through, what knowledge / what skills are absolutely essential to your business operations?
Courses that need to be updated anyways
Following, address trainings that no longer meet compliance standards or are outdated and thus would have had to be updated anyways.
Lastly, focus on additional courses, that are not absolutely necessary but would increase efficiency, company culture etc.
Create your online course materials
Once you identified what courses should be taken care of first, you can start thinking about the actual creation of your online training content. There is a myth that creating great online courses is as easy as uploading the materials that you use in offline settings or simply recording a monologue. It is not. But, trust us, it is also not as hard as it might seem to be. And you can totally make use of the concepts and materials you already created for your offline trainings.
1. Find a platform to “host” your online offering
Before you actually create your first online course, think about a way to make it available to your employees - be it via the company’s intranet page, a learning management system that you are already using, your learning experience platform (in case they offer you the possibility to assemble your own training courses) or even a “simple” Google Drive folder in order to get started quickly.
2. Decide, which courses need the presence of an instructor / lecturer
Regular online courses can be done at any point in time, making the learning experience much more flexible. However, not every topic should be covered in an online course without a lecturer or mentor available in real-time. So before you start working on your first online course, you could take a look at the list you created in order to prioritize which courses to focus at first (see above) and decide, which of these offerings should be covered in an interactive webinar.
For all topics, that require real-time interaction between fellow learners or the learner and the instructor. E.g. courses about critical ability, ways of giving feedback, communication within the team etc. You could use break-out sessions (basically dividing your learning group into smaller parts with their own “virtual room” - e.g. available via Zoom) for practical exercises.
Pro: Possibility of interactive, practical exercises + direct answering of questions; possibility to re-use a lot of course aspects that you already used offline
Con: Similar to offline seminars everyone has to be available at the same time
“Standard” Online Course:
For topics, that don’t necessarily require a lecturer to answer questions on the spot / require no real-time interaction between the learners. This is often the case for hard-skills or standard courses such as onboarding trainings.
Pro: Learners have the possibility to learn at their on pace + choose when to work through the material; the course is re-usable without further effort from the course creator
Con: Limited possibility to answer questions or provide guidance in real-time (make sure to appoint mentors for the different course topics that leaners can contact in case of questions!); course needs to be created first
3. Use different types of media, take learner types into account
Most online courses consist of video material. This is not a bad thing - a picture or video often says more than a 100 written words. However, you should make sure to not create a bunch of videos >30 min, simply talking about information that is displayed on a PowerPoint slide. Chances that an employee will learn a lot from such a course are pretty low.
You also should take into account, that all learners are different. While for some of your employees learning with videos will work extremely well, for others working through reading material or discussing information learned in a group might be the key to success.
How can you possibly take all of that into account? We summarized a few tips for you:
Provide small snippets
Do not record a video that takes >1 hour but rather split your course into main content blocks and create smaller sections that are easier to work through. How long each video should be is highly skill dependent and can vary between 2 - 20min.
Mix it up and don’t use long monologues
Do not record only talking-head videos (videos showing your upper body) but also make use of different presentations, graphics or diagrams. You could also think about switching your video styles - e.g. integrating a screen-cast, in case you want to show your employees how to use a certain tool / a certain work-flow.
Involve your learners
Ask your learners to take notes or draw a sketch on their notebook on a specific topic during the course (this way you’ll also address people that learn well by writing something down).
Create challenges and form learning groups that should work on those challenges together - either during an interactive webinar or after completing a certain percentage of the learning course (this way you’ll also include learners that are of the kinesthetic learning type, who tend to remember best what they do).
Provide further (reading) material
Provide additional (potentially optional) material in text-format for your employees to download and work through. This is not only helpful in order to provide additional information on topics you only scratched the surface of but also is relevant in order to address people that like to dive deep into a topic by reading about it.
4. Think about ways to make it even more interactive
Regardless, whether you are deciding to plan an interactive webinar or are choosing to go with a “standard” online course, you should think about various ways to make your offerings as interactive as possible. In an online setting this is even more important than in an offline setting. Why? Because the chances of your learners attention sliding away, while watching a training video alone in her room, are pretty high.
Possibilities that you could think about are:
Quiz features + drag & drop activities
For webinars you could make use of the webinar tool you are choosing to go with, they typically offer different ways in order to interact with the learners. Or you can simply pose a question and ask your employees to answer it verbally / using a chat feature.
In an online course that employees are watching / working through on their own, you could either again make use of technology (e.g. if your LMS or LXP is offering ways to create interactive courses including quiz features and drag and drop activities) or pose a question (either multiple choice or open-ended), wait a couple of seconds to let them answer the question on their own and then state the correct answer.
Learning community (break-out session + chat features)
As mentioned above, break-out sessions are a great way to create smaller, interactive groups that consist of different learners, either in order to discuss information learned or to work through interactive exercises. Additionally, a chat feature where employees can pose questions or discuss learning materials is a great way to create some kind of community without actually being in the same room.
You could also think about creating additional possibilities for your learners to interact. E.g. create learning channels using collaboration tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. Provide mentors, that can be publicly or privately contacted in case of questions and actively foster exchange and communication within these channels, e.g. by posing questions or little quizzes in those learning channels.
To sum it up
All in all, this list could go on and on. The most important thing for you to remember, is that bringing your offline content online is a process that will take some time. So do not stress yourself to have a perfect online learning offer within a couple of weeks but rather take this challenge on step by step. The easiest way to see what works well and what does not is to look at learning analytics (in case you are using a platform / LMS system that is providing you with such insights) or to simply ask the ones that actually use your offer: your employees. Continuously thrive for feedback and improve your offer in the process.
In case you have any additional questions / ideas that you would like to share with us or would like to provide some feedback - don’t hesitate to reach out!