scheduling a remote training program

Scheduling Tips to Plan Your Remote Training Program

An online training program has many phases, activities, and tasks. You probably learned this when you were building your e-learning course.

Ongoing online course projects need tending like a garden. As you move from the launch phase to the maintenance phase, you’ll still need to keep managing time. In practice, program managers, facilitators, and administrators need to plan and coordinate with each other, learners, and stakeholders to keep the course relevant and active. 

Managing remote training projects is a major part of any program. If you want your training investment to keep running without snags, here are some methods for scheduling that you can use with your team, learners, and more.

Cohort Scheduling for the Program

First up: cohort scheduling. 

Scheduling is at the core of any remote training program. When you’re ready to offer your course to your staff or other participants, think about their schedules too. A helpful strategy is to divide up the program year and your participants into rotating cohorts.

Some reasons for creating learning cohorts are:

  • Managing big groups of participants. This is helpful in case you have the capacity for handling 25 students at once, but 250 would be too many to manage.
  • Grouping people together to guide them through a learning path. This is common when learners begin with basic knowledge and advance to more intensive learning. 
  • Providing learning opportunities throughout the year. Your agency’s hiring schedule might change depending on funding, the season, and other factors that mean people will enter your program at differing times.

These are all factors that will affect how many cohorts you have and how often you schedule them. 

Another thing to consider: take into account holidays, conferences, vacations, and other competing events on the schedule that could impact participation.

Time-Management for Facilitators and Administrators

Facilitators and administrators can keep on track if they work out a schedule of what to do and exactly when. 

Developing a structure is important for yourself and for the learners in your elearning program. Setting a schedule is a good way to make sure everyone completes their work on time. It also will help you have enough time to address questions, check assignments, and make updates.

Here are some tips for setting a helpful schedule:

  • Before the course begins, add time to your calendar for administrative duties. For instance, every other day works well.
  • Set expectations upfront by telling learners when course assignments are due.
  • Send regular updates and reminders to keep participants on track.

Here’s an example of a facilitator timeline that we created for our clients at Susan G. Komen in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a first-time facilitator, this person was feeling overwhelmed, so we developed this simple chronogram to help keep them organized. You might want to import these tasks into your favorite task manager; in our case, we’ve started using Asana.

ModuleMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
Week 1:  WelcomePost first message in forums
Respond to email
Automated message: Course launch
 Review discussion forums
Respond to email
Follow up with people who haven’t logged in yetReview discussion forumsRespond to email 
Update Gradebook
Automated message: Time to finish up
Week 2: IntroductionPost first message in forums
Respond to email
Automated message: New module
 Review discussion forums
Respond to email
Follow up with people who haven’t logged in yet for the weekReview discussion forums
Respond to email Update Gradebook
Automated message: Time to finish up

Schedule Management for Learners

Learners should oversee their own schedules, but training managers can help them along. For instance, here are a few tips you can follow to keep your participants on track.

  • Make specific and clear syllabi and assignments with progressive calendar deadlines – seeing all the tasks laid out helps learners get organized. It also makes it easier to check them off the list.
  • Provide students specific performance feedback on a timely basis – respond asap on activities, as this helps keep the momentum of the course going.
  • Provide bonus time for assignment deadlines – most people are procrastinators. So they often look at deadlines as the time to begin an assignment. So build in a secret 3-day bonus into deadlines. Doing this, you’ll be surprised at how happy participants are to have extra time and the chance to finish work. 
  • Give heavy participation in discussion boards – go beyond a short response and request clarification, reinforce students’ ideas, correct misunderstandings, or ask for consensus within areas of disagreement.

Get Ready for Your Next Training Program

Contact Talance for help creating your next training program or to help with your current one.

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Time management tips for online learners

10 Time management tips for online learners

Time to clock in? Find the tried and true time management strategies that online learning experts use and recommend for staying on track of work and development.

It used to be that the response to “How are you?” was “Good! How about you?” and not “busy.” But times have changed. Especially as we move towards online and remote environments, it’s become harder to set boundaries around work, study, and personal life. Proper time management is more and more important as days seem to be shorter than they should and weeks fly by.

As an online learning platform, we’re no strangers to the challenges of self-paced and remote learning. While it’s a lot more flexible than traditional models, it’s not easier to adjust. Because online learners are in charge of their own training, they need to be careful with how they use their time.

With that, we’ve compiled the top 10 time management tips to teach your workforce remotely — although these would work for in-person activities as well.

Our top 10 time management strategies for online and remote learners

1. Plan your week

One of the biggest timesucks is sitting around figuring out what to do next. Instead, prep your week ahead and map out an action plan for everything you need to do. Friday or Sunday are good days to do this. 

Check the syllabus for important deadlines and account for the time each assignment should take. While you may not have an exact timeframe, try to be realistic or use past assignments for reference. Then block off actual time on your calendar (you are using a calendar, aren’t you?) to get the work done. Include deadlines and check-ins with instructors on your calendar too. 

It’s a smart idea to plan a daily check-in to keep work from piling up at the end of the week. Most online learning platforms encourage students to schedule 1.5 to 2 hours of dedicated study per day to get the best out of their courses.

2. Set priorities

The truth is time management is a lot about managing priorities and expectations. A lot of people get distracted by endless to-do lists and struggle to check anything off. As you plan your week, prioritize the tasks that need to be completed instead of the ones that would be nice to complete. Of course, play and rest matter as well, so be sure to include them in your schedule. 

There’s a famous strategy called the 1 3 5 rule that helps you break down your to-do list based on the size of the task you’ll be doing — so you schedule 1 big thing, 3 medium things, and 5 smaller things per day. 

To prevent stretching yourself thin, keep an eye for open tasks you can assign to someone else on your team. It might surprise you how many tasks you can outsource to someone else on your team.

3. Plan for interruptions

You’ll likely not be able to work uninterruptedly for more than a few hours. it’s just not realistic to expect to do so. To prevent spending more time than you should on unexpected interruptions, it’s best to account them into your schedule. Watching a three-hour seminar? Plan for a quick break halfway to get some water and move your body for a few minutes. 

Other temptations when studying online include social media, your smartphone, and even your inbox. Instead of “banning” them and then checking them mindlessly, set specific times to check without interrupting your workflow.

4. Schedule tasks around your most productive times

Whether you’re a night owl or an early riser, use the times when you feel best to get the most focused work done. 

One example of this may be scheduling all the tidying up and proofreading for Friday if you don’t think you’ll be able to write a paper then. After a while of online training, you’ll learn your rhythms and figure out a routine that feels good where you can produce your best work. Stick to it! 

A good rule of thumb for time management is planning your day in 45-50 minute increments. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to focus for much longer than that without a little break. Many fitness trackers even beep at the 50-minute mark to encourage you to move around for a minute or two.

5. Designate (and organize) your work area

A lot of people have a hard time with remote learning because they’re in the same space all day. One way to beat this is setting up a workstation to create a transition from personal to business. Much like you would during your commute.

It’s also important to keep your desk (or table) clean, stocked with work essentials, and free of distractions. A water bottle, some snack bars, and a pen and paper are all you need around when you’re studying.

6. Stop multitasking

If you’re doing a lot at the same time, you’re being productive. Right? Not true. Multitasking means transitioning from one thing to another in a short span rather than devoting undivided attention to one thing. So you may end up taking longer to complete a task than you realize. 

Studies show that it takes your brain a while to adjust when switching between tasks. So instead of juggling 2-3 things at once, you want to focus on one thing until you finish or for a fixed time. Try both approaches depending on what the task is. If you need a breather, find a good stopping point and take a break. You’ll be able to get back to another task for another block of time. 

A lot of remote workers use a time management technique known as batching, where you schedule everything that’s similar in one block of time. For example, outline all your assignments for a course at once, even if the deadlines are far apart. Another method you can use is time blocking, where you set 1-2 hour blocks of time to a specific task, breaking your day into multiple blocks to work through your list.

7. Set deadlines

Especially for self-paced courses, where no one is pushing you to deliver, it may be hard to complete your work on time. In this case, set deadlines for yourself even if your syllabus is lenient. This keeps your workload even and manageable throughout the duration of the course.

8. Devise an accountability plan

Another important element of in-person training is instructors holding you accountable. This may not be the case in online training. Thus, personal accountability is crucial for effective time management.

If you need some outside motivation, consider enlisting a friend or classmate to keep you accountable — and do the same for them. Regular check-ins make it easier to stick to your plan and do the work on time.

9. Break projects into milestones

A lot of us find ourselves looking at a big project and unsure of how to tackle it. If it’s happened to you, an easy way to beat the overwhelm is to break the project into milestones that feel manageable and take things one step at a time. 

A milestone can be anything from outlining a big paper to finishing the research for your presentation. As long as you can pinpoint a start and endpoint to it, it’s valid. Monday.com defines milestones as “checkpoints in a project that are used to identify significant events.

10. Set clear goals

If you can’t see a goal for the course or program, it will probably be harder to manage your time. In general, dropout rates in online learning are high, so it’s important that you feel compelled and motivated by your goal. 

Your goal should be something that matters to you. Whether you want a pay raise or a promotion, or your boss assigned this course, you want to have an end in sight in order to stick to your planning.

Related: How to make training investments really pay off.

Time management is less about time and more about priorities

It’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole of endless trackers and task lists that may feel productive in practice but in reality, are only filling your day with busy work that would lead to very little results.

In reality, all the calendars in the world will mean little if you’re focused on the wrong things or unclear about what you need to focus on. That’s why the time management tips included in this list start with prioritizing and blocking out time for everything you need to accomplish.

Once you’re clear about what you need to do and why, your days will flow much better and it’ll be easier to get to what really matters.

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How to staff your online training team

How to Build The Best Online Training Team

A successful online training program begins with your team. Bringing onboard the right brainpower is key in leading successful training for your participants.

Unlike traditional learning programs, your remote learning staff should be well trained in working with an online student base. Online training is an entirely different experience from in-person learning. As such, instructors and other staff members experienced in traditional learning settings may not be able to transfer these skills to remote training. 

If you’re ready to launch a successful online training program, here are the essential members you’ll need for your team.

11 roles every online training team should include

Executive Decision-Maker

An executive decision-maker is an advocate for the team and can 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 updates. 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. The manager in an online training team interfaces with the internal client and e-learning team. They provide schedules and organize deliverables so the project stays on track. In short, the project manager ensures everyone on the team has the information they need 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. 

For a closer look at what they do, you can read instructional designer Christy Tucker’s firsthand experience and what she does for a living.

Your instructional designer may or may not be the same as a writer. For instance, at Talance, we 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)

A subject matter expert is an authority in the topic your online training program will cover. This team member works with the instructional designer or curriculum writer to develop the content. 

Not every project needs a subject matter expert. 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. Moreover, the project sponsor or client is often the subject matter expert and needs an online training team to assist in developing the training program.

Editor

The editor in your online training team improves writing and handles proofreading. They work with the writer or instructional designer to polish off the end result.

While it’s widely believed by many that they can edit their own work, or that anyone is qualified to edit, this is rarely true. However, administrators often skimp on editing, and that’s a mistake. A qualified editor has the ability to elevate your final product and better engage your audience.

Your 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 or feel of the course, and enhanced photography to fit project needs.

The graphic designer can be an internal hire or a subcontractor.

Media Specialist

The media specialist produces and edits audio and video. For your online training team, a media specialist is key because they guarantee that you’re delivering high-quality training, especially when the sessions are available on-demand rather than live through video call apps. 

The media specialist in your team 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 provide the technical coding necessary to ensure the course can interface with a learning management system (LMS) if required. Therefore, they’re a key partner in hosting online training.

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. If you choose to hire a managed hosting company (such as Talance), they will have this person for your team. 

Tester

Your tester is in charge of running quality assurance (QA) checks by testing the course from a technical perspective and ensuring it matches the way you planned the course. 

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. They help learners create a cohesive learning community in which they share ideas, apply their knowledge, give feedback, and make reflections on their work. 

For your online learning team, you can choose your existing training staff. But they should have a background in online learning or train to do so.

Your online training team is key in launching and hosting a successful remote learning program

Giving your participants the best chance at succeeding starts with assembling a dream team. From planning to facilitating, your online training team leads the learning experience. Above all, hiring a staff experienced in remote environments will bring you one step closer to a happy, engaged cohort that’s excited to learn.

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How to host courses in Spanish

How To Offer Virtual Courses in Spanish and Other Languages

Training is communicating, at its most basic. So, if you’re not delivering your agency’s educational material in a language that makes sense, your learners will have trouble understanding. You need to offer multilingual training if you want to address cultural competency, safety, productivity, and compliance. Many public health programs have employees who don’t speak English as a native language, are from another country, or who have goals to reach people who speak another language. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), language barriers are a contributing factor in 25% of job-related accidents. The first step to avoiding miscommunication is by offering your courses in English—and another language like Spanish.

How Multilingual Online Training Works

Offering courses in Spanish or another language can be easier than you think. It’s helpful to understand the parts of training learners in their own language so when you decide to start a translation project, you know what to expect.

Menus, Buttons, Links on the Training Platform

The training platform, such as the LMS, that people use to access the course should display the same language as the course. Language packs provide options for learners who are accessing curriculum in another language. This language pack makes it so that all the menus, buttons, links, and other options are available in other languages on the fly for your students.

Setting up courses in Spanish

You can also create language-specific versions of other pages that don’t relate to the training content. These might be the kinds of pages you’d access in the footer, header, privacy policies, etc.

Curriculum and Course Content

Then there’s the curriculum. Your course curriculum needs to be created in your target language, such as in Spanish. Translating with tools like Google Translate is not enough to host courses in Spanish. Thankfully, you can hire a training company like Talance to translate your course content to your target language.

A full translation by a professional will cover tricky and variable areas, such as technical health terms, acronyms, and also cultural translations.

Sample of a course video translated to Spanish

For example, the term “single-parent child” might not make sense for Arab or Islamic speakers. The closest translation is “a child who has lost a parent” like an orphan, but that’s not the same. A full explanation would talk about how in Western culture it’s possible for someone to have a child without participation from a second parent.

Multilingual Instructors and Facilitators

A multilingual course also needs support staff who can speak Spanish, including a facilitator or instructor, and someone who can offer technical support. This might be the same person, depending on your setup, but these are often handled by different departments or people.

Another important element when choosing multilingual instructors is cultural competency. If you have the opportunity, choosing someone with the same cultural background as your students will likely improve the learning outcome for courses in Spanish and other foreign languages.

Participants and Classroom Structure

When all those elements are in place, you’ll heed to structure your classrooms and cohorts so they make sense.

Mixing a class of English speakers and Spanish speakers will be confusing to the learners. They won’t know what each other is talking about. Keep your cohorts separate if you’re hosting your courses in multiple languages such as English and Spanish. Also, if you use forums, chat rooms, or other discussion elements, the learners should each use the same language.

If you’ve avoided translations in the past, now is the time to start paying attention. Tension among the public and employees is high, and many people are working remotely. Starting with multilingual support can help you avoid potential communication problems and boost collaboration.

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How to use a pilot group before your next program launch

How to Choose the Right Pilot Group for Training

If you need one helicopter, order two.

That’s a lesson we learned at Talance when creating an online course on Incident Command System. ICS is a language that all emergency responders know, including the police, firefighters, and Coast Guard. That way when there’s a disaster, everyone knows what to do, no matter who they work for.

The lesson is to be prepared—really prepared—for when it counts. What if something goes wrong with the first helicopter? You have another at the ready.

We always order a second helicopter by putting extra energy into planning, testing, and building in redundancies. We want the courses we write and the learning management system we use to have the best chance of success.

When we begin planning for a new project with a client, we always stress the importance of testing the course with a pilot group before officially launching it. This is a process that many e-learning projects skip, or don’t follow completely. The risk with creating online training is that the people writing the courses are rarely the same people taking the course. That means the course can be irrelevant or miss critical information that learners need.

Planning to launch a virtual training program? Consider Virtual Training: Top 10 Questions From Program Managers and Directors

Save costs and time by conducting a course pilot.

If you do this early in the process, you can save development costs by avoiding learning gaps and fixing issues early in the process. Programs that subscribe to our courses also pilot their choices. That way, they know if they’re making the right selection for the right audience.

There’s no substitute for gathering together a pilot group and gathering feedback. We show examples from our past work of how piloting has helped create better courses in ways no one could have guessed.

Here are some best practices we follow with our partners and clients so they can pick the right pilot group and maximize its value.

Who to invite to your pilot group.

The first step is often the hardest. Choosing who to involve in the pilot planning process can be complex, and it’s tempting to involve as many stakeholders as possible. This is a mistake. When programs invite dozens of people, especially decision-makers, subject-matter experts, coworkers and community partners, they’ll likely receive a different opinion from each person.

That’s too many people, and they probably don’t necessarily have the right opinions. If you’re a program manager in this position, ask yourself: “Will my boss be taking this course when it’s done?” If the answer is “no,” then they’re not the most important person to involve in a pilot phase.

We advise recruiting a selection of people from three groups:

  1. learners who are similarly motivated as the intended audience but have no experience with the material or with online training;
  2. learners who have some experience with the program’s previous training modules;
  3. one or two subject-matter experts.

This mix gives programs the best chance to understand what learners need to know and identifying gaps in the training material. It’s helpful to invite some people who have absolutely no experience with online training. They can help identify issues that everyone else ignores. Common problems include defective menus, missing instructions that would make completing the training easier, or usability issues.

Beware inviting coworkers and friends to a pilot program.

Sometimes Talance’s clients suggest this as a way to involve stakeholders in the course development process. This is a problem because …

  • they’re not the intended audience, so they can’t give the correct feedback;
  • if they’re a stakeholder who should have been guiding the project, they should be involved at the beginning, not at the end. This can lead to missed deadlines and an extra expense of rewrites when the writing phase is over.

Assembling the wrong pilot group can give you false information.

One of our clients had such an experience prior to working with us. The program managers did organize a pilot (bonus points!), but they made two other mistakes.

  1. Their pilot group was too small–only about five people.
  2. Although the training program was meant for people new to the material, they invited people who were veterans in their role with up to 25 years’ experience.

When they reviewed feedback from the participants, they all complained that the information was too basic. This feedback dominated the evaluation forms because they only had a handful of participants.

What’s the perfect pilot group size?

A too-small group is as much of a problem as a too-big group. It makes sense to look for a group that’s similar to the audience you intend to be taking the course when it’s complete. You can also include a mix of experts.

We aim for a group of around 20-30, because that tends to be the final class size for most of the training courses we develop.

Choosing the ideal pilot group participants.

It’s best to begin any pilot by clarifying who the intended audience is. It can be helpful to create one or two personas for recruiting. Every person who participates in the pilot program should match the persona.

The learner persona can include how much experience they have and how much time they need to dedicate to testing. It’s also helpful to include what their motivations are for completing the training. The subject-matter expert persona can include familiarity with online vs. traditional learning and particular areas of expertise.

Once you define who your ideal learner is and set your group size, you’ll be in a great position to find out if your training program is working as intended. From this step, making tweaks is much easier and less costly. A little preparation, careful planning—and even an extra helicopter–means better projects that accomplish your program training goals the way they were intended.

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How to hire e-learning program facilitators

How To Hire a Remote Training Admin To Manage E-learning Programs

Your agency might be one of the thousands that jumped feet first into e-learning this year. And you might have discovered that deciding to offer remote training is one thing, while running a course is another.

Training remote employees can be a challenge. That’s why it’s important to think about who will be administering your online courses so that experience goes as smoothly for everyone as possible.

Depending on what kind of training you’re offering, you might need to designate someone as an administrator or you might need someone as a facilitator.

Organizations that are moving their online training program into an online space are faced with a difficult decision that will endure for the life of the program. Does it make sense to hire a new facilitator who is skilled in online work, or train an existing employee to do the work?

When you need a facilitator vs. an administrator

First, think about who you actually need to run your program. Here are some common scenarios:

An HR person for hands-off course management.

If you buy off-the-shelf training for compliance or skill building, such as HIPAA compliance or basic organizational skills, then you might not need anyone.

Many e-learning vendors offer a product that requires nothing more than someone in your agency sending in a registration list.

An administrator for ongoing e-learning program management.

If you have a next-level program where you’re training regular cohorts, you probably need a dedicated administrator.

An admin will promote the program, come up with scheduling, enroll and disenroll participants, answer questions, and generally keep things moving.

An e-learning facilitator for leading groups of learners.

If you’re actually teaching courses to people, then you probably need an e-learning facilitator.

An e-learning facilitator is a training specialist who is involved in a dedicated training program. They often work with e-learning developers or agencies, collaborate with a coordinator, and have an understanding of the course curriculum.

A facilitator may do some of the same work as an admin, such as enrolling and disenrolling, but they’ll also provide more hands-on jobs like moderating forums and grading tests.

When it comes to staffing this position, then your next big decision is who will fill that role. You could assign course duties to someone who already works for you, or you can hire for the job.

Both choices have pros and cons. Ultimately you’ll have to make a decision based on your individual needs. However, there are some clear benefits and drawbacks.

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Hiring training administrators from your team

One benefit of recruiting internally for this job is that you know your employees and what they do. You have a history with them that indicates how adept they are at change or if they have untapped skills that can be used. It can make the transition much smoother.

Internal employees also know you and what you do. It takes less time for these kinds of hires to understand the details of your organization and your mission. An existing trainer also has in-depth knowledge of your material and audience.

Cost-saving might also be a factor in your decision. Hiring from within reduces hard hiring costs, such as interview time, office space, or even relocation fees.

Promoting a staff member into a new training position has some disadvantages. If multiple employees are vying for one job, it could create animosity among the whole team. This could leak into management, especially if there are individuals that are resistant to strategic change–common in organizations considering a shift to online learning.

A bigger problem with hiring for e-learning programs is that you probably don’t know what you don’t know. How do you develop talent if you’re not sure what to do? Similarly, not all organizations are structurally set up to develop internal talent. You also have to account for the hidden challenges of training remote learners.

These issues combined lead to time, which you might not have to dedicate to transforming your in-person trainers into online pros.

Hiring professional e-learning facilitators

Those are all compelling reasons for tapping your internal talent pool, but hiring an external trainer who has detailed knowledge about online facilitation can be a great investment for your entire organization.

While an external trainer won’t know as much about your organization as an existing team member does, they will have critical skills in the online environment. Teaching online is different from teaching in a live classroom, and an expert will already know how to overcome obstacles.

The new skills an outside hire will bring will also move into the rest of your organization. The energy and fresh ideas a new person brings can revitalize your workforce and feed ideas to the rest of the staff. This is especially true if your new hire has experience at a competitor organization. The boost to your overall intellectual capital may bring benefits that are hard to quantify from the onset.

Plan for an outside professional in your budget. Accordingto ZipRecruiter, the national average for a learning facilitator is $53,690 per year or $26 per hour.

They’re also more likely to leave. That’s difficult for an organization to handle when they’ve paid more and have less stability.

How to decide who runs your e-learning program

Your organization must decide if it’s better to hire from within than outside, so there’s no correct decision. If you do decide to appoint someone to run your training program internally, make sure that person understands technology and is thoroughly trained.

For most entities, a new online-based program represents a strategic change, and strategic changes are difficult to spark from within. Most also lack staff who have computer skills and skills related to communicating online. Fear of technology is a powerful inhibitor, so it helps to have someone who feels free moving in an online classroom.

Organizations that for some reason can’t hire a new staff member should at the very least hire an online education advisor or a learning consultant. This person can coach your team through the experience of online training and help develop a structure you can use for the life of your program.


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In-person, online, or blended learning methods

3 Ways to Train Your Staff: Remote, In-Person, and Blended Learning

Training is a big-budget item every year. Making decisions about what your team needs to learn and where they should learn are important decisions. Those decisions can impact how much time they spend away from their day-to-day duties and how much time they can dedicate to upskilling. New training technologies, techniques, and learning systems can help you train your employees more efficiently and cost-effectively. It pays to think about the best ways you can reach your training goals, whether that’s through remote online training, in-person workshops, or a blended learning approach.

Computer-based training makes it easy to offer unified training across vast geographic distances. However, some topics are better delivered in a live setting. But using a blended learning approach means you don’t have to choose between the two training methods.

Remote Online Training

For many agencies, remote, or virtual training, is the clear answer. It’s a useful, cost-effective way to give your staff new skills or refresh ones they already have. Plus, it’s safer than sitting in a conference room with dozens of other people during a pandemic.

An online course is one where most or all of the curriculum is presented online. It’s very fast, and it’s often less expensive than other options. It can be, well, remote. The best online courses should be created to be engaging and relevant.

In-Person Training

On-site training requires that everyone be in the same place at the same time to learn. Most organizations do this through workshops, seminars, on-the-job peer training, or other face-to-face methods.

In-person training can be effective and it’s often required for some jobs. Expect to pay more for this kind of staff learning, however. You may have to pay for trainers to come to your location or pay for your staff to go to another location.

Blended Learning

Blended learning, sometimes called hybrid learning, merges traditional face-to-face methods with online learning. This is a common method of training that addresses many of the shortcomings of a purely online or a purely in-person strategy.

In a blended learning program, workers would complete online courses or parts of online courses. Then, they would meet up in person for demonstrations or workshops that work best in a live format.

Take the example of the Office of Healthy Communities (OHC) at the Washington Department of Health. The Office of Healthy Communities combined the best elements of in-person and online training to implement a blended learning model for their statewide community health worker training program (read more in the case study). OHC allows its network of facilitators around Washington to supplement a brief live session with an in-depth online course that contains assessments, assignment tools, and collaboration.

The training model is efficient, lean, and scalable. This allows it to meet funding variables and limitations. It also makes training fast and easy, which can be difficult in Washington. It’s a large state with rural pockets not easily accessible for traditional in-person learning programs.

“E-learning allows us to reach remote areas of the state to teach community health workers. Staff only need to stay one day in each location so it lowers costs of delivering the training significantly,” says Debbie Spink, instructor and community health worker training system coordinator. “We need the support of the online curriculum. It would be cost-prohibitive to offer this training only in-person.”

Blended Learning: How To Use It at Your Agency

Is a blended learning approach right for your organization? Here are five secrets of what it takes to build a winning program.

  1. Set educational goals

    Saving money and expanding training capacity might be the overall goals of moving to a blended model. But you should set educational goals that fit the new strategy.

    Setting and reaching goals is also important to your staff. They need to see how their work fits in with the larger objectives of your agency. Taking the time to work with them to set targets helps them understand how they’re part of the organization and positively affects their performance.

    Find ways to set small reasonable goals from the beginning, such as offering short courses for skill enhancement or in languages for a small set of your learner audience. Start small, document successes, and then plan to expand.

  2. Include Trainers from the Start

    A new training strategy does not mean your training staff will be out of a job, but they might not realize that. Remember to include your training staff from the beginning and remind them that the technology is a complement to their work in a face-to-face setting. Work with them to identify ways to use technology as a tool rather than a job replacement.

  3. Support Learner Needs

    Not all learners learn the same way: Some are better visual learners, some do fine with self-paced study, and others may have different language skills.

    When you start planning for a blended training program, minimally start by looking at what your workers and your organization need. Likely, your organization will have more factors you’ll need to assess.

    Doing a needs assessment will allow you to match your findings with a learning technology or other solution, that matches your learner population.

  4. Get Your Employees Excited About Learning

    Change is a frightening word in some organizations, and not always welcome. But if you want your training investment to pay off and help your staff retain knowledge and new skills, you’ll need to do some cheerleading.

    Head off any pushback from trainers, participants, and administrative staff by focusing on excitement and motivation from the very beginning.

    In general terms, this means ensuring your staff knows why they’re taking training and that the value is clear. It also means giving them educational materials that are designed for adult learners. Grown-ups need to juggle competing demands, preferred learning styles, and their own familiarity with the delivery method.

    Be ready with a list of benefits and get buy-in early. Listening and being open is often the best way to address concerns. Here are some more tips on motivating distance learners.

  5. Adapt and Evaluate

    A blended learning model is new for many organizations, and new systems can be a challenge to implement.

    Many administrators view evaluation as time-consuming and costly, but they shouldn’t. In fact, by ignoring how well (or poorly) your training program is engaging participants and making a difference in their work, you could be wasting time and money.

    As you roll out your blended learning program, frequently evaluate it so you can quickly identify problems and address them.

The Best Training Is the Right Training

The most important takeaway when choosing a method for training your team is to find the right one that works for them. The best training—the kind that people remember and can use on the job right away—is the kind they relate to. It should be engaging, not intimidating, and empowering so when they have their new skills, they’re ready to go.

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9 Ways you can manage a virtual classroom with remote learners

Being a strong leader is a central part of managing a virtual classroom. You need to guide discussions, resolve conflicts, and set boundaries for virtual class behavior for the training session to be successful.

Here are some techniques and strategies that will help you manage your online classroom like a seasoned professional. Follow these practices, and you’ll find that participants are better engaged and walk away with new skills they can use on the job right away.

9 Tips for managing your virtual classroom

1. Set a schedule for yourself and participants

Developing a structure is important for yourself and for the learners. Setting a schedule is a good way to make sure everyone completes their work on time. It also will help you have enough time to address questions, check assignments, and make updates.

Here are some tips for setting a helpful schedule:

  • Before the course begins, add time into your calendar for administrative duties. Every other day works well.
  • Set expectations upfront by telling learners when course assignments are due.
  • Send regular updates and reminders to keep participants on track.

2. Build anticipation for the course

Treat your training launch with some showmanship. Deliver some teasers ahead of schedule that let participants know something exciting is coming up. Here are some examples you can borrow:

  • Post notices on your internal messaging board well in advance.
  • Give a sneak peek by showing some highlights for the course or releasing the first introduction assignment early.
  • Ask your internal influencers for help by asking supervisors, leadership, or other respected individuals to send reminders.

3. Set virtual class rules

When an online cohort comes together, set ground rules. If you’re doing a live web session, do this at the same time you tell people to go on mute if they’re not speaking. It sets the tone and gives everyone a shared framework for group learning.

Setting ground rules can clarify what is acceptable or not acceptable at your online training session. Some cultures might feel comfortable taking calls or asking questions any time—others don’t. Some people find online training intimidating, so this can help them understand what you expect.

4. Encourage a team effort.

The physical distance in online learning groups can makes it hard for spur-of-the-moment collaboration to happen. Not everything needs to be a group project, but you can increase collaboration with encouraging exchanges, questions, and even brainstorming sessions. This helps your team work together.

5. Get learners participating right away.

It’s easy to disappear in a virtual classroom because no one is watching your chair. Prevent this from happening by setting the tone for participation. Ask remote learners to log in early, tell them to introduce themselves to others, and encourage questions frequently to keep the course lively.

Here are some ways to ask for feedback from participants, including:

  • A forum designed for general thoughts
  • A survey at the end of the course
  • Polls throughout the training. For example, ask how relevant they think information is or how long it took them to complete a module.
  • Asking for thumbs-up or thumbs-down emojis on your team chat channel
  • Direct questions about how the material relates to their work

Read more about ways to build participation in remote training here.

6. Use a conversational tone.

Tone matters. The way your words come across to the person reading them will make a difference to the way people believe and trust you as a course administrator.

Finding the right balance between personable and professional can make the difference between a lively class and a disengaged one. A conversational tone is best, but make sure to respect the adult learners who are in your course. Sometimes instructional text can come across as condescending.

7. Address conflict immediately.

When you work with a virtual classroom made up of people who have their own sources of stress, insecurities,  and sensibilities, conflict will occasionally happen. Upholding control in your virtual classroom is vital to successful facilitation. 

Here are some common ways that conflicts happen and some communication tips you can do to ease negative tension before it disrupts the classroom too much.

Conflict between two participants: If students engage in disrespectful or combative conversation, first acknowledge the confrontation:

“Louisa and Devon, I can see that you have differing views on this topic. Thank you for beginning a lively discussion.”

Then, ask the students to discuss the matter with you offline:

“I’m happy to discuss this matter with you offline via phone or email so we may resolve the situation outside of the public forum.”

This type of response lets you re-establish control over the situation and help to diffuse the building tension.

8. Remember cultural competency in the classroom.

If any cross-cultural communication issues crop up, be gentle when you address them. Rather than correcting people publicly or addressing them from the position of authority, turn communication gaffes into learning experiences.

Ask participants questions that allow everyone to explore their preconceived notions about a topic or individual. Use the discussion to explore deeper issues within the course and its contents, especially among students who disagree or argue about a particular topic. You might ask people to share what the cultural norm is for them in a training session, and use that as a starting point in your virtual classroom.

9. Chunk material for easy learning.

The average person can stay focused and engaged for 45 to 60 minutes before they need a break. Think about the meetings you’ve attended, and how long you’ve been able to sit in your seat without your mind wandering or needing to stretch your legs. The same applies to virtual classroom settings.

The most effective online lessons are broken into chunks to make it easy to work through them. Building modules of 30 minutes to 45 minutes are a good guideline to keep people motivated.

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Take your traditional learning program online

Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Making Your Traditional Learning Program Virtual

Remote learning is here to stay. Virtual training will surely continue, even when in-person options become available after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic lessens. The reasons are clear. A remote learning program is a useful, cost-effective way of giving your staff new skills or refreshing ones they already have. Plus, it’s safer than sitting in a conference room with dozens of other people.

RAND Corporation recently announced the same findings in a report about students returning (or not returning) to the classroom.

It’s a trend that’s been happening anyway. Market researchers have said that online education will climb to $350 billion by 2025.

Online learning has a lower cost.

This should make your decision to invest in online professional development easier–even for the skeptics in your agency. Online learning is much more affordable than traditional in-person courses.

Even after investing in developing new courses, organizations like yours still can avoid paying for travel and accommodations. You might not see savings in year one, but years two, three, and onward will be much less.

How to start an online learning program.

The difficult part is in the execution. Most training programs for healthcare teams offer live instruction, and converting those training materials into an online format is about as easy is it is to move from a house you’ve lived in for decades.

Begin with blended learning.

An easy way to begin adopting an e-learning model is not to convert everything online at once. Keep a portion of your in-person training exactly how it is, and adopt a blended-learning strategy.
Blended learning mixes the best of training delivery methods to suit different people’s learning needs and different subject matter. In other words, you can pick and choose what you train for in-person and what you train for online.

One benefit is that a live session allows for participants to meet each other and make connections with instructors and classmates that result in better retention. It can also be helpful for delivering material that’s better suited to in-person instruction.

For example, you might provide online diversity training to your team. Then, on completion, you can build on what was in the remote course with material that meets your agency’s goals, demographics, departments, or other factors.

Another example is from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Patient Navigation Online Course. It includes a 10-week online element that begins and ends with face-to-face teaching. The instructors cover such topics as communication techniques in the group, which gives participants a chance to try out newfound skills in a live setting. Other topics, such as documentation skills, convert easily to an online format.

Keep your online training program focused.

Many health-based organizations new to online learning fall into the trap of thinking they have to give learners everything that they previously included with in-person training. Not everything in the trainer’s toolkit needs to be delivered online.

Too many reading assignments and activities can take up a lot of time. Learners spend more time in the online course than applying their new job skills. Information overload can also be overwhelming, and some learners will lose focus and simply give up, even if the training is part of their job requirement.

Program administrators should remember to have faith that employees will learn on the job. The reason you present them with theories and tools is so they can apply them in a work setting.

Set up a system where supervisors or coaches can guide recent participants through using those foundational skills on the job. Make sure they’re acquainted with all the training materials so they know what to evaluate for knowledge-gain.

Questions to answer before starting an online professional development project.

When you’re getting ready to make the decision to launch an e-learning program, run through these questions as part of your needs assessment.

  • What are your agency’s or program’s goals?
  • What are your learners’ schedules like?
  • What’s your budget for the next five years?
  • Is the topic foundational or does it require practice in the field?
  • Do your employees have past experience with remote training?
  • Is your workforce all in one place or spread out geographically?

Follow these tips, and you’ll find that switch to e-learning will result in a group of people curious and excited about a new learning format. If you think a blended approach works for you, read more about what it takes to start a blended learning program.

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Try These 3 Simple Ways to Boost Cultural Competency in Online Learning

Healthcare agencies understand why cultural competency is important among their patients and clients. But too few prioritize cultural competency with their professional development and training.

Remote training is the new standard for bringing skills to staff. In a time when sitting in a conference room is limited or not possible with physical distancing, distance learning has enabled employers to train new staff and upskill others.

But a rising population of online learners doesn’t necessarily mean that all training can meet the needs of culturally diverse learners. Sometimes training programs or courses are simply a document passed around, or a recorded Zoom session. A trainer might take the time to research the group and their cultural needs if they’re doing an on-site session, yet they skip right over possible differences when they’re delivering something online.

For any online learning environment, here are three ways to boost cultural competency and success rate in your online learning—no matter where you are.

1. Find out who the learners are, including cultural background.

Understanding the differences among staff members will make the experience of online learning more enriching for all. Cross-cultural communication is not only about considering demographic information about each participant. It also means being conscious of how their role within their organization or society at large will impact what they say and how they say it.

Understanding who is completing the training is the first step in knowing how to respect cultural differences. It happens that this is also a good strategy for making sure that your online courses are effective.

Once you know who the learners are, you can choose or develop courses that meet their unique needs. Do they need multilingual support? Should they be able to take courses between client visits? Do they need literacy support before taking a course? Make those changes.

Then, when training starts, ask managers and trainers to put themselves in the shoes of each other before completing training. What kinds of challenges could culturally or ethnically diverse learners face in taking a course? This small request can build up valuable empathy among your team. That boosts relationships that will show in the working day.

2. Set virtual meeting rules.

When the group comes together, set ground rules. Do this at the same time you tell people to go on mute if they’re not speaking. It sets the tone and gives everyone a shared framework for group learning.

Setting ground rules can clarify what is acceptable or not acceptable at your online training session. Some cultures might feel comfortable taking calls or asking questions any time—others don’t. Some people find online training intimidating, so this can help them understand what you expect.

If any cross-cultural communication issues crop up, be gentle when you address them. Rather than correcting people publicly or addressing them from the position of authority, turn communication gaffes into learning experiences.

Ask participants questions that allow everyone to explore their preconceived notions about a topic or individual. Use the discussion to explore deeper issues within the course and its contents, especially among students who disagree or argue about a particular topic. You might ask people to share what the cultural norm is for them in a training session, and use that as a starting point.

3. Create ways for learners to share personal stories.

Virtual training can feel isolating. Without making an attempt to engage learners, elearning can make it too easy for administrators to assume everyone feels the same way.

Find some ways to encourage learners to tell their own stories with each other. Sharing cultural diversity is easier when everyone can describe specifically their own norms. This also pushes collaborative learning, which is a great way to push learning performance and better retention.

Sparking these conversations can happen in many formats. Most discussions in the course occur in the forums, in breakout rooms, or in team chat platforms. Other tools in learning systems let administrators reach out to participants privately, especially in a case when a student seems to struggle with a concept or deadline. Use Private Journals, personal email, and in extreme cases telephone or personal meeting. Here are some more ideas for improving communication in training.

Although the course itself is online, the people in it are real. Taking the time to make a personal connection can make all the difference in the ultimate resolution.