If you had to make a quick transition to online training because of the pandemic, you’re not alone!
Countless instructional designers, learning and development professionals, and teachers were forced to shift their strategies.
How did your transition to online training go in that first month? If it was overwhelming, don’t worry! Recently, I sat through my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, where the teacher had to take her entire curriculum and transition to online learning for students. Can you say yowser?
I am sure making that transition to online was a big task for her as it was a big task for me to shift my entire day to sit next to my daughter while she learned how to navigate online learning as a 5-year-old.
Now that we’ve all settled into a new normal, I’ve got some tips for making an efficient and effective transition to online training. Because I’ve got some news for you: online training isn’t going to disappear with the pandemic! It’s time to embrace the new opportunities that come along with online training instead of just reacting to them!
I mean, has anyone else gotten used to curbside pickup? Just the other day, I ordered 10 gallons of paint from Sherman Williams, paid for it, and drove it home without ever getting out of my car or touching anything. Hello, can we keep that service?
Anyway, I’ve got some great tricks for stepping up your game with engaging and collaborative online learning solutions for those already comfortable developing eLearning. Online learning can be in the form of eLearning courses in a learning management system, live instructor-led webinars, and educational videos.
After months of working and even socializing through a screen, dull online training doesn’t sound too appealing. It’s time to get creative with how you create and deliver online learning.
I even have some tips to help relieve the workload for my corporate learning and development professionals. Plus, I’ll throw in all the amazing benefits to this shift in the learning landscape that will make everyone’s job easier!
Converting Face-to-Face Instruction to Online Training
Instructional designers understand taking an existing, instructor-led training and converting it to an online format is easier said than done! So it can be frustrating when stakeholders or clients assume the transition to online training will be quick and easy.
Having organized content from a face-to-face (F2F) course is a great starting point. Dumping those contents right into PowerPoint might be fast, but it’s unlikely to leave you with an engaging course. Follow these best practices when it comes to converting face-to-face sessions to an online format:
1. Conduct a training needs analysis.
Yep, even though you’re converting an existing course, I wouldn’t skip this step! Especially if you weren’t the one who developed the F2F course. This step will help you understand the objectives and the training audience.
During the analysis stage, you’ll gather the information you need to decide what online format is the best fit for the project. I also recommend getting stakeholder input on any updates that might be required and any feedback from learners collected in the past.
Grab a copy of the free Training Needs Analysis template here.
2. Determine the best format for the online version of the training.
Once you’ve got a better idea of your audience, you have a few options to choose from for your online training. These are some of the best delivery methods for a converted course:
Video-based learning is my personal fave. I have a whole blog explaining why. One of those reasons is because this training method has a broad reach. It’s easy to distribute, and it’s useful for a general audience.
I have a free DIY Online Course Builder template that’s perfect for video-based lessons.
Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) saw a massive increase in popularity due to COVID. This is partly because so many training sessions had to go on. There just wasn’t time to convert them! Webinars allow for some simple collaboration, plus the audience can ask questions in real-time.
However, this is typically a synchronous format. That means the audience must all login for training at a designated time. Plus, you’re reliant on the availability and consistency of a trainer and internet connection. I don’t know about you, but since COVID hit, I have had some spotty connectivity from time to time.
You can always record live VILT for learners to access later, but this isn’t always the best choice depending on the audience.
eLearning Training Modules could be the right choice if your organization has a learning management system in place. With modules, you can embed video lessons, knowledge checks, PDFs, and other content. Here’s a resource with some more detailed information about creating eLearning training modules.
Like with video-based learning, this is a self-paced, self-directed training style. Unlike video-based learning, training modules require the learner to navigate an LMS, which isn’t for everyone.
If you just can’t narrow it down, you might need a Blended Approach. A blended approach is just what it sounds like: combining online and live sessions. This option is probably the most time-consuming, but depending on your audience, it can also be the most beneficial!
3. Update the content.
Since you already have to transition to online training, you might as well take another look at the course content. Maybe this is a course that you didn’t initially develop for the client. Perhaps it was designed years ago and has some out-of-date information.
If you’re not in a time crunch, it’s worth reviewing the existing course content. Ask a subject matter expert to look over the lesson. Review any data or feedback collected during the face-to-face sessions. Engage with other stakeholders. You’ll be able to make valuable changes to the new course that will only improve its effectiveness!
4. Incorporate multimedia.
I’m talking about audio, video, images, or animation. Adding multimedia thoughtfully helps keep the user engaged and reinforces key points. What you add and how much will depend on the format of your training. It could be as simple as finding relevant images (I like Envato Elements as asubscription or try Unsplash, which is free).
You might need to hire a voice-over artist or enlist the help of an eLearning developer before you can finalize your course. So even though it’s the last item on my list, it shouldn’t be your final consideration during your transition to online training!
Benefits of the Transition to Online Training
Online training was a preferred method of learning even pre-pandemic. Your clients or management team might need a nudge towards investing more resources into their online training project. So here are just a few of the benefits to online training post-pandemic:
- A remote workforce is the wave of the future! Online training allows for distance learning regardless of office location.
- In-house online training is an alternative to expensive, third-party training. These often require participants to travel and miss their typical workday.
- Online training provides consistency since all participants receive the same information. This is especially beneficial in big companies with multiple locations.
- Convenience- you don’t have to worry about scheduling an instructor, space, and make-up sessions for online training.
- Easy to access and distribute. Once you’ve created a training, it can easily be sent to new hires. Employees can also revisit training whenever they need the information.
Make Engaging Online Training
One of the challenges in your transition to online training is keeping your learners engaged even though they’re not sitting in front of you. The good news is, you can leverage what you already know about learning strategies.
With a few tweaks, those skills can be translated to the online learning environment. If you need a refresher, check out my course, 7 Learning Strategies Every Course Should Have. Here are some of my favorite engagement strategies that are specific to online training.
This strategy in online training takes video-based learning and training modules to the next level. Lectures can be tedious, regardless of whether they’re online or in-person. Break up your content by asking the learning to engage with it.
Using interaction well in your transition to online training maximizes your course effectiveness. However, as I’ve said before, clicking next is not engagement! Here are just a few interactions that make online training more engaging and effective:
- Embedded flashcards
- Drag and drop scenarios
- Knowledge checks
- Branching stories
- Click to reveal tabs
When choosing an interaction, ask yourself this: is it adding to the learning experience? If the answer is yes, go for it!
With so much content available at our fingertips, mobile accessibility is huge when it comes to online learning. If your transition to online training doesn’t include making your courses mobile-friendly, I’ve got a quick scenario for you.
Let’s say you’re on your phone and you scroll past an ad that grabs your attention. When you click the link, the desktop version of the store is the only thing that displays. Do you waste time zooming and scrolling on a site that just isn’t working correctly on your phone? Do you take the time to send yourself the link and open it on a laptop? No way! That bug is going to cost the company your sale.
It’s the same with online training. Especially now that a large part of the workforce is remote, users are likely to open the training invitation or see a reminder on their phone. Without the ability to navigate the training via mobile, your training gets moved to the bottom of the to-do list.
Luckily, many eLearning platforms have mobile accessibility built-in. Instructional designers should always check the mobile preview before they finalize a course. If you’re designing online training specifically for mobile use, check out these ten tips.
If you (or your kids) have ever lost track of time playing a meaningless game on your phone, you already know about this strategy! Game developers have been using tactics to make sure you keep playing their game for years.
Gamification in online training takes these tactics and applies them to learning. A great example of fully gamified learning is the app Duolingo. Users hardly realize they’re learning when they’re focused on maintaining streaks and earning badges.
You don’t have to develop your own Candy Crush-style app for your training to leverage gamification. Adding in challenges, a progress bar, or starting a leaderboard for the training group are simple ways to make sure your training sticks with the learners. Check out this list of even more tactics for creating “sticky” learning with gamification.
I see a huge opportunity in this relatively new online training format. If you’re not familiar with microlearning, it’s basically a quick hit of training (aka just in time). It’s more casual and flexible, but the content builds strategically to maximize retention.
Microlearning is exciting because it doesn’t have to be a fancy eLearning module. Some professionals even compare microlearning content to social media posts: short but memorable! A microlearning ‘lesson’ might be text, video, or even a game.
Like other online training methods, microlearning’s flexibility and accessibility mean it’s a resource that learners can continue to revisit when they need the information. Sounds like a good investment to me!
You’ll need an LMS or another platform to support microlearning and user access on-demand if you want to leverage this format. If you’re interested in learning more about microlearning, check out this great resource.
Think Outside the Box
Especially during such a transitional time, it’s more important than ever to get creative with learning. We’ve seen teachers writing math problems on their students’ driveways with chalk. There are even celebrities reading children’s stories on Instagram live!
How can we take that energy and apply it to our work in instructional design? I have a few ideas!
One of the biggest benefits of online training is its flexibility. But because of that flexibility, not everyone is going to be advancing through the course at the same time. This can be really limiting when it comes to finding opportunities for your learners to collaborate.
A social learning community is a great solution. Encourage learners to contribute to the group at the end of each lesson or to go to the group with questions. You can leverage an existing LMS for its chat and message board features or use social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
If you are interested in learning more about these, my friend, Susan Gatti. works with corporations and entrepreneurs to establish social learning communities.
Communities for Instructional Designers
In our line of work, we contribute to a team effort but a huge part of the job is working alone. That can take a toll on anyone, especially during a time when you’re physically isolated from colleagues (and even friends or family!)
So as much as I like using social learning for online training, I also use it for myself! Being a part of an online community keeps me connected to other instructional designers and keeps me up to date on trends and best practices.
I love getting inspiration from other instructional designers in The Hangout. They also provide a place I can go to ask questions or get quick help solving an instructional design problem.
My best advice is to search for other instructional designers that share your values and follow them on social media. Check out the professionals whose work they repost to keep growing your network. While you’re searching, be sure you’re already following me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
I recently found a great podcast that I’ve been recommending to new instructional designers. I would never have discovered the podcast or the wonderful host if I hadn’t been following an instructional design hashtag on Twitter. You never know what gems you’ll find when you get active in the social learning community.
Not only is this a great way to leverage existing talent, but it can also give an instructional designer a bit of a break! This one’s for my corporate L&Ds who already have a ton of projects in the pipeline. There are so many online courses and webinars available. If you get a training request and you know there’s a great course already available online, why reinvent the wheel?
In order to make the most of outsourced training, you have to do your research. Look into the organization, the presenter, and the learning objectives before you commit. If you’re not sure if the course is a good fit, email the organization and schedule a meeting so you can ask more questions.
Of course, this is mostly important for courses you’re interested in investing in. Free courses webinars are a much lower risk. However, you can’t rely on that content being available for as long as you’ll need the training.
A Peaceful Transition
To online training, that is! Shifting your training to online-only doesn’t have to be a headache. I know the rapid development that needed to happen in March left many of us scrambling. Well, I’m here to tell you your online training will not always be this hectic.
Transitioning to online training has so many benefits when it’s done right. Plus, it opens you, your clients, and/or your companies up to a whole new world of engaging learning. I want you to drop down to the comments right now and share one idea you’re pumped to try in your current or upcoming online training project.
Remember, I’m always here to help make this a peaceful transition. Check out my Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program or schedule a one-on-one coaching session.