Training Delivery Trends Every Leader Must Know

August 22nd, 2014

What’s hot in online education delivery methods, and why your organization can’t ignore any of them.

Learners keep raising the bar on what they expect in terms of education. It seems anything can drive the need to expand and elevate what you offer them. It might be availability (can they take the course in the evenings or after hours?), or hardware (does it work on the iPad?) or collaboration (is there a social element that lets learners network with each other?).

Many industries still rely heavily on in-person training or consider “online” to be a PowerPoint presentation. They especially need to work even harder to meet those expectations. Here are the trends you need to follow to navigate the ever-changing world of training.

Cloud-based Learning

The “cloud” refers to the Internet in this instance. Cloud-based learning on a hosted LMS (learning management system) is a convenient and relatively low-cost way of delivering curricula to learners who want the ultimate in flexibility. Because courses are hosted online, learners can access the content 24/7 no matter where they are. Training that’s delivered over the Internet and always available is an expectation among most learners, especially younger ones who have already experienced learning online as part of high school and/or college.

Gamification

Anyone who has spent too many hours playing Candy Crush, or seen someone else glued to an X-Box, understands how games can grab your attention like nothing else. Savvy educators have noticed this too, and they’ve applied video game design elements to motivate learners. The theory is if something is fun, learners are engaged, and they’ll learn better and retain those skills.

A course with game-based elements might include immediate feedback, rewards such as “badges,” or increasing challenges.

(Read more about how Millennials embrace gamification.)

Localized Curriculum

Depending on the subject, off-the-shelf curriculum can be perfect. How many ways are there to screen someone for breast cancer, for example? While you don’t need to reinvent the wheel for all topics, some localization is helpful. This might mean translating the course content into Spanish, or providing case studies that match demographics. This trend makes matching a course to your learners much easier.

Mobile Learning

More people are drifting away from their desktop computers in favor of their handhelds. This is driving the trend of more courses, or elements of the courses, to be available on mobile devices, and thus mobile learning, or m-learning. In practical terms, it means that the course should be visible when you’re looking at it on your smartphone. It might also have features such as forum updates, or compatibility with social applications.

MOOCs

MOOCs (massive open online courses) are about the biggest–and most controversial–thing in learning now. MOOCs are cloud-based courses on the web that are widely open to an unlimited number of participants. Many of these courses are free, at least for students, or priced low.

Social Learning

Just as social media revolutionized the way people communicate with each other, social learning is a trend that may change the way people learn with each other. Social learning employs many of the same tools and technologies of social media and applies them to the digital classroom. This might include Twitter, blogs, wikis, YouTube and Facebook.

Build a Better Online Training Team

August 19th, 2014

With the right team in place, your organization can establish and a successful e-learning program that meets the needs of your learners.

The only way to create an online learning program that works and complements your organization is to plug into the right brainpower. But your team of training employees will look a little different from your average training staff. The best programs have teams who are well trained in working with an online student base. Here are the essential members you’ll need for your team.

Executive Decision-Maker

This is an executive-level manager who is an advocate for the team and able to approve any necessary expenditures. The decision-maker is also the key approver on all decisions—especially ones that require a budget. This person may not attend meetings, but at least reviews executive summaries or meets with the project leader of the team for status. Having executive-level support is essential for a successful program.

An executive-level decision-maker must be internal.

Project Manager

The project manager oversees the full life cycle of the project. This manager also interfaces with the internal client and e-learning team, providing schedules and organizing deliverables so the project keeps on track. The project manager ensures the team has the information it needs to get the job done.

You can hire an outside project manager, but they should work very closely with an internal liaison.

Instructional Designer/Writer

Depending on the nature of your course, and if you’re creating it internally, you will need an instructional designer and/or a writer. The instructional designer takes the instructional material and arranges it in a way that’s informative, engaging and serves your pedagogic goals. In other words, they design the online course. Instructional designer Christy Tucker has a nice article on what she does for a living.

This may or may not be the same as a writer. We at Talance tend to work with an independent curriculum writer who specializes in editorial content. This person works closely with the instructional designer to create an interactive course that educates.

Both of these roles can be appointed to outside consultants.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

The instructional designer or curriculum writer works with subject matter experts to develop the content. An SME is not needed for every project. When the subject is new within the organization, the instructional designer may research the subject via books and journals or interview experts in the field.

A subject matter expert can be an internal staff member or an outside professional.

Editor

The editor improves writing and handles proofreading. It is widely believed by many that they can edit their own work (this is never true), or that anyone is qualified to edit (rarely true). Editing is where too many administrators skimp, and that’s a mistake. Hire a qualified editor and your final product will better engage your audience.

An editor can be an outside hire, and in rare circumstances, an internal appointee.

Graphic Designer

A graphic designer overlaps in some ways with an instructional designer, depending on the course. However the chief output of the graphic designer is images, iconography, animations, the look and feel of the course, and enhanced stock photos to fit project needs.

A graphic designer can be a qualified internal staff member, but make sure they are indeed qualified. Otherwise, use an outside designer.

Media Specialist

The media specialist produces and edits audio and video. This is almost certainly an outside consultant.

Technical Producer

The technical producer understands techspeak and can assemble all the elements into a running course. This person will create and apply custom CSS, mark up pages with HTML, add interactivity, and providing the technical coding necessary to ensure the course can interface with a learning management system (LMS) if required.

The technical producer is usually from a third party or vendor.

LMS Administrator

The LMS administrator is an expert at configuring the learning platform, from enrolling participants to creating online quizzes.

If you host your own platform, this could be an internal staff member, or it can be someone from the managed hosting company (such as Talance) you use.

Tester

Runs quality assurance (QA) checks by testing the course from a technical perspective and ensuring it matches the way the course was planned. Testers usually work off testing plans so they can make sure learners can use each part of the system.

A tester is usually from a third party or vendor, although it’s smart to perform internal testing as well.

Facilitators

Facilitators are trainers experienced in both in-person and online instruction who help learners create a cohesive learning community in which they share ideas, apply their knowledge, give feedback, and make reflections on their work.

You can use your existing training staff, but they should have a background in online learning or be trained to do so.

Free download: A step-by-step guide for training employees online

Learn more about what and who you need to set up an online training program with our free guide E-learning Strategy Essentials.

10 Ways To Increase Enrollment In Your New Online Learning Program

August 13th, 2014

Any training program needs extra effort to encourage enrollment, especially new ones. Here are 10 tips you can use to increase enrollment in your program.

Registration

  1. Form partnerships with other programs and organizations

    Team up with similar or complimentary programs or neighboring organizations, and ask them to co-promote the online course with you. You can often learn from them and share your strengths so learners get the best of both.

  2. Remind early and often

    The average person must be reminded of something 18 times before they act on it. This means you should notify participants of your new course sooner than you think and more often than you think. Look for ways to promote that include your staff’s e-mail signature and newsletters. Just keep putting the message out there.

  3. Make sign-up easy

    Broken enrollment forms, difficult enrollment forms, multi-step enrollment forms–they’re all bad news when it comes to encouraging registration. Make it brief and easy for people to sign up. It’s also a good idea to provide a phone number in case someone needs technical assistance when signing up.

  4. Introduce participants in person

    Mingling in person before the course begins is a great way to introduce learners and begin forming relationships. Once they’ve made a positive connection, they’re more likely to participate in an online course. This happens naturally in a blended learning environment, but you can offer an orientation (see below) or a meet-and-greet where people can shake hands.

  5. Hold an orientation

    If this is the first time you’ve offered an online course, some of your potential participants might feel unsure about the format or technology. Make it easier by introducing them slowly. Hold a no-obligation orientation, either online via a webinar or in person, depending on your audience. Once people see how easy it is to take a course online, they often feel more confident about enrolling.

  6. Identify champions

    Some staff members will feel more passionately about online learning than others, and these are the ones you want to enlist. Those who have experience with e-learning see the benefits and will help evangelize for you. They’ll help push your promotional efforts so you and your immediate staff aren’t the only ones.

  7. Invite groups

    Inviting groups is more efficient than inviting individuals. Emphasize your training is for groups of three or more, or push it to managers rather than learners. This technique also gives the groups a way to learn together and find ways to apply their knowledge to the workplace.

  8. Offer takeaways

    Dangling carrots are a great motivator. Offer a benefit of some kind that is only available upon successful completion. This might be a certificate of completion, compliance with a job, a workbook or forms, or even physical tools.

  9. Get them involved beforehand

    Find ways to get participants invested in the training before it even begins. You might invite people to submit questions to the instructor before enrollment. Another idea is to create polls or surveys whose results will feed into course content.

  10. Go beyond reminder emails

    Sending reminder emails is useful and relatively easy, but sometimes it’s not enough. Depending on the size of your group, you might try other ways to remind people to enroll, including phone calls, posted notices or postcards.

[Photo credit: "Registration" from Official GDC on Flickr.]

Is Your Organization Ready For E-learning?

August 5th, 2014

Answering a handful of key questions in this readiness quiz will let you assess how well your organization will adapt to a shift to online training, and tell you where you have the most work to do to prepare.

Online training is here and a regular way of life for learners from elementary school all the way through a professional career. As more organizations make the shift to e-learning, some will find the process easier than others. Those organizations that have planned carefully for online learning and have integrated a program into its entire training strategy will advance relatively quickly, have happier learners and ultimately more successful programs. The most ill-prepared organizations will be the ones that find it hardest.

Rate yourself on the questions below to give yourself an indication of how ready your organization is for computer-based training. These questions aren’t scientific, but they are based on our 13 years’ experience helping organizations bring e-learning to their staff.

Jot down your answer for each question, and then scroll to the end of the quiz for how to interpret your score.

Once you’ve determined how ready your organization is, then consider how ready your learners are before you start training them online.

E-learning Readiness Quiz

What is your organization’s experience with e-learning?

  1. None, we’re completely new to e-learning.
  2. A little. Some of us have taken the odd class.
  3. We have started delivering online learning in the last year.
  4. We have a robust program that we’ve been running for more than a year.

Why is your organization looking at e-learning?

  1. It seems like everyone else is offering it, so why not us?
  2. It could be a way to save money.
  3. My boss is asking for it.
  4. We want to increase the capacity of our training program.

How supportive is your leadership of e-learning?

  1. They don’t know about our e-learning program.
  2. They know about the program but don’t have time or interest to be involved in a significant way.
  3. They are asking for updates about the program.
  4. They’re driving development and making decisions.

How well-developed is your internal support system for e-learning?

  1. We’re not sure what would be involved in a support system.
  2. We’re planning on hiring a consultant to help run a course.
  3. We have identified a person on staff who will be responsible for running the program.
  4. We have a dedicated e-learning staff and run our own courses.

How ready is your technology to the task?

  1. We aren’t sure what technology is required of an e-learning program.
  2. We have made a decision about what kind of technology we’ll need for online learning, but we haven’t moved forward with anything yet.
  3. We have piloted a couple training sessions using different technologies.
  4. We run our own e-learning program on a learning management system or contract closely with a vendor to handle the technology and logistics for us.

How ready are your learners?

  1. Our learners have little or no computer skills and limited access to a computer connected to the Internet.
  2. Around half of our learners have taken an online course before.
  3. Our learners have access to computers connected to the Internet. They understand how online training can help them with skill-building, but need to learn on their own time.
  4. Our learners have access to computers both at home and at work, and we have assigned several hours per week for them to complete training.

How integrated is e-learning into your overall training strategy?

  1. Not at all, we’re unsure of what we need to do to integrate an e-learning initiative.
  2. Some, we know we need buy-in from the existing trainers, although they are resistant.
  3. We are training our staff to segue into more online learning.
  4. We run a fully integrated e-learning program through blended learning or uniquely online.

How much planning have you done for a transition to e-learning?

  1. None, we’re just going to see what works.
  2. Some. We have looked at what we’ll need from a staff and budgetary perspective.
  3. We have assigned the HR department the task of organizing compliance trainings.
  4. We created and executed a full change management plan that includes reorganizing all departments to accommodate needs from learners and staff.

Scoring

Review your answers and total up your points according to this scale:

A = 1 point

B = 2 points

C = 3 points

D = 4 points

If you scored …

8-10: You’re at the very beginning of considering an e-learning program and have quite a bit to do before you’re ready for a smooth transition. Check out E-learning Strategy Essentials to find out what you need to do to create a smart plan.

11-20: You’ve started your research and sound ready to make a leap. Keep working to define your staff and learner needs so you can plan for an integrated e-learning initiative. Check out E-learning Strategy Essentials to find out what you need to do to create a smart plan.

21-24: You’re on your way to branching out into a solid e-learning program. Make sure you have full buy-in from leadership, trainers and staff.

25-32: Congratulations, it sounds like you’ve figured out what you need to offer an ongoing e-learning program. There’s always room for improvement, though, so be sure to include regular evaluations and revisions to offer your employees the best learning experience possible.

Questions to Ask Learners Before Starting a Course

August 1st, 2014

Make your participants’ online experience a success by identifying their strengths and weaknesses before they begin.

Students taking a computerized exam

After months of planning, designing and working, you’re ready to offer your first online course. It’s been a detailed process that involved buy-in from administrators and department heads, and training for your staff. You’ve got the technology set up and everything has been tested, re-tested and is as close to perfect as it’s going to be. Your team is without a doubt ready to make the leap to computer-based training.

But are your learners?

Organizations everywhere suffer from too much introspection. They are so internally focused that they forget to consider the people they’re serving. They neglect any kind of evaluation of how their audience will deal with whatever it is they’re serving up.

Online training is no different. Many of the same reasons that might have made it a challenge to get your own organization to adapt an online program hold true with your learners. They might fear technology. They might not have the right equipment. They might lack even the most rudimentary skills for working online. They might have a learning style that doesn’t mesh with what your course offers.

Online Learning Readiness Assessment

These are all hurdles that can be crossed, but you need to be aware of them before moving forward. A little preparation for both your staff and for the participants will make your course more successful. An online learning assessment will allow both learner and instructor to identify strengths and weaknesses.

Sample Questions

We use an orientation quiz with all the courses we build that asks participants to rate themselves in such areas as:

  • Comfort taking an online course
  • Uploading and downloading files
  • Researching information online
  • Sending and receiving e-mails
  • Participating in discussion forums

Think about what kinds of skills your learners will need to have to successfully complete the course, and put assessment questions related to these it into a “readiness quiz” to be completed before class begins. The results will tell students what to expect, and help you understand in what areas you’ll need to offer extra assistance.

Here are some examples from elsewhere that can help you figure out how to structure your assessment quiz:

Online Learning Assessment, Online Colleges

Readiness for Online Learning, Pennsylvania State University

Online Readiness Self-Assessment , Southern Arkansas University

Free Download: How Washington’s Office of Healthy Communities Uses E-learning to Train up to 500 Employees a Year

Download Talance’s free case study to learn how this state department created a successful program to train community health workers.

Photo credit: by Extra Ketchup, on Flickr

Clearer Courses

July 22nd, 2014

The key to making better online courses is to test, revise, and test again.

My love for The New Yankee Workshop has nothing to do with cabinetmaking skills. It has more to do with the process summed up by Norm Abram’s maxim: “Measure twice, cut once.”

That phrase embodies how careful he is and how much attention he gives his projects. His carpentry skills aren’t slap-dash, second-nature. They’re methodical. He demonstrates on every show that a perfect product comes from careful planning, measuring and testing (and really good tools).

It’s not so different from creating finely crafted computer-based courses. A resonant course that keeps employees excited and helps them learn skills they’ll remember isn’t thrown together. It’s built carefully, methodically and tested.

Pilot Testing

In education terms, this means setting up pilot testing. It’s a process that’s known to software designers and product designers. Before releasing a new product to the masses, it’s first tested it with a controlled group. A small-scale trial helps to weed out problems, identify errors and solicit recommendations that make for a better wide release.

It’s exactly what you should do before creating a new course, but is a step curiously left out of many curriculum development projects. I think it’s because many courses are developed by subject matter experts who know the material inside and out. But what they don’t know is how the course will be received in a real world situation.

As soon as we plan development of a new course, we factor in pilot testing, evaluation and revisions. When possible, we re-test the new version so we can make more updates. Only through a field test can we really know if the course is going to accomplish what we intend.

Who To Include

Whether you’re creating a curriculum from scratch or using one that’s ready-made, plan for a pilot. You never know how even a tested course will perform with your learners.

Recruit carefully. Invite a mixture of subject pros and a representation of the intended audience. You want to make sure you’re testing the material with the people who would actually be taking it.

Gathering Data

Spy, if possible. Sit somewhere near the pilot participants and taking notes is invaluable. You’ll be able to pick up on frowns and smiles, frustrated noises or confused computer movements if you’re watching. Just make sure you’re not interfering with the test.

In any event, create a questionnaire that will be sent to all participants, and keep reminding them to complete it. The questionnaire should be focused on gaps, problem areas and nice-to-have features.

If it’s the first time you’ve run a pilot, you’ll quickly see the value of a test. The quality of information and level of insight will without a doubt be beyond what you could guess. Me methodical, revise when necessary, and your learners will benefit.

GET MORE E-LEARNING ADVICE FROM TALANCE

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Excellent Video That Explains Patient Navigators

July 18th, 2014

It can be difficult to explain what patient navigators do. It’s one of those times that showing is better than telling.

The video Changing Outcomes from the Massachusetts Department of Public Heath’s Patient Navigation Training program has a new video that shows what navigators do beautifully. It’s an excellent health education tool.

View, and share, whenever you need some assistance describing how public health workers operate.

Changing Outcomes from micah on Vimeo.

Ways to Increase E-learning Participation

July 3rd, 2014
Elearning participation

Boost employee participation

Beginning any new training program can be an exercise in anxiety. Testing, piloting and review are essential steps that lead to a more successful program, but the true test of the effectiveness of a program is when your participants succeed.

Engagement varies widely, depending on the course and who’s taking it. And there’s no one way to make sure that your participants are actively involved. However, there are a few guidelines you can follow that will help make your training stick.

Ask early and often what participants think.

A survey at the end of the course is good. Asking them throughout the course how the material relates to their work is even better. Learners will often forget details by the end of a course.

How: Check in with polls that ask how relevant they think information is or how long it took them to complete a module. Also create a forum designed for general thoughts, and ask your instructor to get in the habit of asking for feedback.

Get buy-in from supervisors.

Participants’ supervisors need to be included from the beginning. A supervisor can make sure employees participate and also help answer any questions that arise in the course and can also make time in the schedule for learning.

How: Consider enlisting superiors as coaches for the best results. Create a related companion course that supervisors are also required to follow.

Set benchmarks.

If your course is skills-based, first take measurements of where staff skills are. Tell your employees why their skills are being measured. Then upon completion, measure progress against your benchmark.

How: One idea is to assess ability with one task during performance appraisals. Employees will also equate the course with an overall job requirement.

Offer rewards.

There’s a reason so many coffee shops offer punch cards: rewards work. Think about what reward will motivate your participants to keep engaged. Make sure to focus on rewards rather than penalties. Here are some other ideas for motivating the biggest slackers.

How: Successful rewards we’ve seen are completion certificates, new equipment for use on the job, and additional training opportunities. End-of-course lunches for successful participants also work.

Make it relevant.

Participation will drop like a stone if a course doesn’t make sense to the people taking it. Unfortunately, many courses are too general or not addressed to the right group.

How: Develop courses from scratch and after carefully surveying your audience. Off-the-shelf courses can also be customized on screen, or they can also be complimented by instruction in the field.

Give help.

Technology scares some people. Be prepared to make it easy to succeed in an online course. Read some more tips about making your course accessible for people who have visual or physical limitations.

How: Set up a demonstration before the course begins. Appoint coaches in the workplace who can offer assistance. Give a computer-literacy assessment before the course begins so you have a better idea of who will need additional help.

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Why Should You Choose E-Learning?

July 1st, 2014

When I reflect on our most successful online training projects, I see patterns. The same reasons for shifting from live training to e-learning appear again and again. I’ve never formally made a list, but it turns out someone else has.

In the 2013-14 Towards Maturity Benchmark report based on their annual benchmarking survey, the “key business drivers for implementation of learning technologies” line up almost exactly with the reasons for setting up an online training project.

If you need a good reason for investing in computer-based training to share with your employees or fellow administrators, here are 10 of them.

  1. Increase access and flexibility in providing staff training
  2. Increase the ongoing sharing of good practice
  3. Improve staff satisfaction to aid retention and motivation
  4. Speed up and improve the application of learning back in workplace
  5. Reduce time to competency
  6. Provide a faster response to changing business conditions
  7. Increase productivity
  8. Improve induction process
  9. Improved talent management
  10. Increase ability to adapt program to individual need/context

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10 Ways To Stretch Your Training Budget

June 24th, 2014
Budget help for training

Make training easier on the wallet

1. Look seriously at your existing training.

Complacency could be costing you money. Look at the way you’re already handling training, and decide if it’s really the best way to continue. You may be struggling with outdated materials or expensive trainers. A total overhaul of your training methods could paradoxically be the way to save money.

2. Do more with less.

Bloat can easily work its way into a training program. Do you really need as much as you have? You might be offering giveaways to participants that they aren’t using. You might have a co-trainer when a lead trainer is enough. Look critically, and you’ll find ways to operate your training more efficiently.

3. Cut all travel related to training and move online.

Travel is the number one budget-eater when it comes to training. Airfare, hotels, meals, time away from the office…it can amount to thousands for each employee. End it. Just stop paying for any travel and offer training, such as e-learning, that doesn’t require anyone to go anywhere.

4. Keep it simple.

Simulations and 3-D animations are excellent learning aids, but not always necessary. An educational program that is relevant for your employees and has engaging material that appeals to different learning styles is far more important than something that more closely resembles a video game. Text with pictures is fine.

5. Partner up with other programs and departments.

They could have very similar training needs to yours. Start networking and find a way to share the expense of learning. Your employees can benefit from more cross-departmental networking anyway.

6. Partner up with vendors.

We at Talance have excellent relationships with our clients and have worked together to develop in-depth trainings that save considerable money and time. Look outside your organization for opportunities.

7. Use the web.

There are many tools and resources freely available online that can significantly augment your training. Look for video lectures, slide presentations and podcasts in your subject area.

8. Ask for donations.

Especially helpful when building a physical library, donations can make a huge difference to your training budget. You can quickly acquire books, CDs, DVDs and other materials with absolutely no cost simply by asking.

9. Address a gap with the first course you develop.

Creating a course from scratch is a big job, so it’s natural that some organizations look to create the easiest first. Easy might not be what you need, however. You could wind up with fluff, rather than something truly useful that will improve performance.

10. Plan and follow through.

So many noble projects fail because they weren’t properly managed. Be sure you have a dedicated person to manage your training project, and make sure their position is funded through the future. Elearning and live training both need stewardship, and without it, they will turn to dust.

Want to talk more about budgets?

Schedule a free consultation with one of our training experts to talk about stretching your budget.