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.
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.