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Ten top tips on how to move training online


Barry Wilding-Webb answers ten questions raised at a recent webinar on how to move training online.

Recently I ran a webinar for Citrix entitled "How to move training online". Throughout the webinar I shared some of the challenges that I faced in doing just that when working with public sector organisations in south-west England.

A theme that I continued throughout the webinar was that not all training was suitable to go online, not as a straight transfer at least, and that online training does not have to replace traditional methods but be allowed to augment and enhance them.

I spoke frequently of a blended approach to learning. Not just blending online and face to face but using a range of learning material and methods to engage, excite and satisfy the learner. I emphasised the need to appeal to all learning styles (Honey and Mumford) and to ensure learning domains (Bloom) were considered during the design and delivery phases.

"An open plan office is generally not a good venue if the learner is expected to contribute verbally during the webinar but if listening only then it may work."

As a follow up to the webinar I have answered ten questions that weren’t answered on the day due to the huge number that were submitted.

1 What were the expected outcomes of the case study?

[I talked through a case study in which I took a leadership programme online.]

As with any commissioned learning event or programme, I spoke at length with the main stakeholder to establish what outcomes he wanted from the online programme. He was looking for a reinforcement of the good work they were already doing, but also a steady improvement over the next 12 months to ensure the team was able to respond to current and future customer needs. Areas of leadership, management, motivation and the ability to embrace new technology into the learning environment were the main themes that emerged.

2 What does the blend look like in blended learning?

My approach to blended learning starts with knowing who is going to be undertaking the learning, their experience, their current skills, their knowledge and above all their attitude. Only then can the right blend be put together. A sound knowledge of educational theories and experience of putting that into practice at many levels is essential to ensure that the blend matches the learner.

Considerations include: understanding the implications of different working and learning styles, how people communicate and the different ways people absorb information, how long that is retained post event and the process for transferring that into learning and subsequently the desired change in behaviours and how that impacts upon the business.

3 How can online learning enable you to deliver training that has a strong "values" content?

This is probably one of the most challenging areas of which there is scant evidence. To address this, the online facilitator should try to create a learning environment for the learner that will enable them to challenge themselves. Appropriate case studies that the learner reflects upon, some reflective questioning by the facilitator or virtual small group work managed effectively and tactfully by the facilitator. One of the most suitable areas for this method is around equality and diversity.

4 A lot of people like to get away from work for a training course, how can online training recreate that?

The purpose of any training is to develop staff not give them an away day. Having said that, the venue is very important and should be appropriate to the training and that includes online venues.

An open plan office is generally not a good venue if the learner is expected to contribute verbally during the webinar but if listening only then it may work, especially if the training needs to be put in place at work very quickly. Accessing online learning from home may be a favourable option for a whole host of reasons. On the flip side, for some people home working is not an option either due to lack of internet access or other interruptions.  The quality of the training needs to be good enough to create that virtual learning environment in the same way as online gaming (not gambling) takes people into their fantasy world.

5 What advice would you give in setting up online training for a geographically and functionally diverse workforce?

That’s quite difficult to answer without more detail, but here goes. My advice would be to create an environment that all your learners can relate to. That may be an existing training room that they have all used at one point or somewhere that they all know and use this as your "training room". This could be reinforced during the training by making reference to the room, the building or any particular features of it. This of course may all be virtual. We talk about a VLE a Virtual Learning Environment this could be a real virtual room…if that makes sense. Then look at my response to question two above.

6 How do you ensure you keep people’s attention and how do you know you are?

Great question. In a training room it’s easy you pick up visual or non-verbal cues from people. Online that’s tricky, although the CITRIX software does tell you when attendees move away from the training material screen either to check their e-mail, look at their Facebook wall or check whether their e-bay bid has been successful. 

The pro-active approach is to ensure your audience is engaged and involved. By that I mean you get them to think about what you are doing. For example, if you are outlining a theory you want them to be thinking how that relates to their practice or work, take a TIP Theory Into Practice. If you are introducing a new process or piece of legislation you want them to be thinking of the impact or implications of that to their work. Get them to write down their thoughts and reflections and give them time during the webinar or training.

7 What’s the recommended length of time a webinar should run?

The more webinars I attend and deliver the more I think an hour is a really good length of time to aim for. If the nature of what you’re training has to be longer then chunk it up or build in a break or breaks, just as you would in the training room. Above all be realistic, and that depends on the nature of the training and your method of delivery. Most school periods and business and development training sessions are about 50 minutes as this takes account of attention spans, learning curve and general interest.

8 How long does it take to develop online material compared with face-to-face training development?

It takes about the same amount of time, or it should do. What makes the difference and is an advantage of online over training room usage is that it is sustainable and reusable. 

It can be recorded and reused at anytime by anyone anywhere. A training event is a one off in one place at one time, if you miss it or it’s on the other side of the world . . . bad luck. It’s not just a case of using an existing PowerPoint presentation that was designed for the training room, there are other dynamics to consider. However, if the original slides were designed and developed based on sound andragogy then that will shorten the transition time to convert to an online environment.

9 How do I choose which webinar provider or software to use?

It is essential to choose the right provider for your needs, they all vary as do your needs. Speak to someone who has experience of using the technology and seek advice. Most companies will give you a 30 day trial, take advantage of this. I can only speak as I find having used several, and find CITRIX GoTo products to meet my needs and those of the organisations I work with.

10 What are your 10 top tips when starting out?

  1. Choose wisely when engaging your webinar host.
  2. Use an experienced colleague or consultant.
  3. The date and time of your webinar is crucial.
  4. Ensure your content is of good quality.
  5. Establish your webinar etiquette early on.
  6. Use several different media for your presentation.
  7. Use the survey tools before and after.
  8. Record your webinar and make it available.
  9. Follow up with participants by e-mail or article.
  10. Review your feedback and refine, nothing’s perfect.

Barry Wilding-Webb has been a L&D professional since 1984 when he completed his instructor training course with the Home Office. Since then he has had a range of roles from training mnagaer to teaching fellow with the Peninsula Medical School at Exeter University. As a  leadership and management advisor, he introduced online learning and web-based development opportunities across the organisation and its partners. Barry has presented on national and international webinars and delivered the key note address at Training Zone Live in 2010.


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