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Moving Your Modules: Should You Use SCORM, xAPI, or AICC for Your Courses?

Portability should be one of your biggest concerns when you’re building a custom course. Being able to move your course from one learning platform to another is just as important as it is for your phone number when you switch from one carrier to another. You’re probably one of the agencies that has shifted at least some part of your in-person training or meeting to online. So even though this seems like a topic meant for the IT department, it’s something you should understand at least in its basic form.

There are a few technologies that make this possible in varying degrees of availability and ease. Here’s a quick breakdown of these acronyms so you can be informed when you make a decision about how your next custom course is built. You’ll probably be using these terms when you’re evaluating your existing or new platform during a needs assessment.

Important Distance Learning Acronyms

  • LMS
  • SCORM
  • AICC
  • xAPI

What is an LMS?

The first acronym to decode before diving in is LMS, or learning management system. An LMS is the software platform that lets you run a course, lets your learners take courses, and provides tracking, reporting, registering, and other functions.

LMSs are important for online training the way that cars are important for driving. They let you do all the managing–or learning—right from your computer. Without them, you’re just sending file attachments.

Think of the LMS as the container for one or more online courses. This way you’ll have some context for thinking about how courses work on these platforms. Some of the most common standards for creating online courses for delivery on an LMS follow.

SCORM

Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a technical standard for building online learning objects. These objects are usually online courses, but they don’t have to be.

If a course is built to be SCORM-compliant, it means that it should work smoothly with any LMS that supports that standard. Any SCORM-compliant course can be plugged into any SCORM-compliant LMS. So you can have one custom course that was built to be SCORM compliant, zip it up, and then unzip it on any other SCORM-compliant platform.

SCORM is for programmers—not for curriculum developers. It’s purely technical.

SCORM is the industry standard and is widely used. It’s a useful acronym to learn, because it tells you that your course can be moved around with the most ease.

AICC

Aviation Industry CBT Committee (AICC) is a different standard for developing computer-based courses.

AICC is much older than SCORM and was widely used. It was more often used for other forms of computer-based training, such as CD-ROMs. It wasn’t developed for online courses and doesn’t have all the tracking capabilities that SCORM has. AICC isn’t used as often because of its age and limitations, and it’s starting to age out.

xAPI

XAPI is the third of the most commonly used standards for developing courses. It’s not as broadly used as SCORM.

One reason is that xAPI is new. It was developed in 2013 and is still moving around the market. It’s promising, because it supports tracking outside the LMS, such as offline learning. This feeds into better participation and communication. Eventually, it will be a useful way to make courses.

Which standard should you choose?

Choose SCORM if you’re looking for a new course to be developed. The industry is still mostly using SCORM, which makes it the most flexible and reliable option. Things will change in the future, but for now, this is the safest bet for new courses or conversions.

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7 Ways to Build Participation in Remote Training

Everyone is better at delivering training online than a year ago. But given the amount of instructor-led training (ILT) that’s moved to virtual training, many learners aren’t as engaged as they should be. Add to that disruptions while working from home, and it can be a good time investment to think about ways to keep participants engaged in remote learning.

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 and communication strategies you can follow that will help make your training stick.

1. Ask early and often for feedback in multiple ways.

Asking for feedback is a proven strategy for increasing engagement. The best part is that you can ask for feedback no matter what format your training is in: if you have virtual instructor-led training (VILT) with a facilitator or if you have purely self-paced lessons. It’s simply a matter of checking in.

You can use many different methods—simple or complex–to get 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
what did you like best about this course

2. Make sure supervisors participate too.

Participants’ supervisors are critically important to the success of any learner’s training. Supervisors need to be included from the beginning. At the very least, supervisors set expectations for training, answer questions and make sure employees participate. This goes for stakeholders too, who want to make sure their training investment pays off.

They can also take a more hands-on approach to training by answering specific questions that arise in the course. They can make time in the employee’s schedule for learning. With many healthcare professions, supervisors also need to demonstrate procedures or supplement training with information about internal policies.

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

3. Enlist peers for training.

Peer training is one of the best ways to drive home skill building. Top-down instruction is fine, but sometimes employees listen to their coworkers more closely.

This is partly because coworkers can relate to each other in a unique way. They have a good idea of how their job works within the organization, what their clients or patients might need, and other critical knowledge that might not be included in the core content. And peers can be less intimidating than bosses.

Peer-to-peer training is especially helpful in new hire situations or when you’re trying to build rapport among team members.

4. Set training and development 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.

One idea is to assess ability with one task during performance appraisals. Employees will also equate the course with an overall job requirement. These benchmarks can be coupled with performance reviews and job goals. They may also be part of larger initiatives, such as quality improvement projects.

5. Offer rewards.

There’s a reason so many coffee shops offer punch cards: rewards work. Think about what incentives for completing training will motivate your participants to finish. Make sure to focus on rewards rather than penalties.

Successful rewards we’ve seen are completion certificates or industry certification. Even simple public commendations for completion, such as on the company Slack channel, are surprisingly motivating.

Some other ideas are:

  • Friendly competition, including badges and leaderboards
  • Promising new equipment for use on the job
  • Additional training opportunities
  • End-of-course lunches for successful participants
offer rewards

6. 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. Make sure training initiatives are aligned with organizational goals and mission first of all.

If you can, develop courses from scratch and after carefully surveying your audience. This will give you the best chance of creating something that is truly tied to your agency’s needs. Staff members also usually appreciate being asked for their feedback and seeing the results being spread to the company. Off-the-shelf courses can also be customized on screen, or they can also be complimented by instruction in the field.

7. Give help and support to those who need it.

Technology scares some people. Be prepared to make it easy to succeed in an online course.

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.

Originally published October 16, 2014, updated March 15, 2021.

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How To Make Your Online Training Less Intimidating

 
 

New training technology can be exciting and engaging for health agency employees—really!

If you’re changing the way you do training to a new method that’s different for your team—probably in a conference room with a speaker at the front—your staff might feel intimidated. Change can be scary for some people, but it doesn’t have to be.

Adopting new training technology, such as online courses, means a different mindset for your agency staff. By doing some planning and strategy, you can roll out your new online learning project smoothly and get people trained as quickly as possible.

Here are 9 steps you can follow for the successful implementation of your new elearning program.

1. Cultivate a positive attitude.

Start off by setting the tone for your training program. Convey some excitement and build some anticipation. The right frame of mind helps people adopt new technology and other job changes. Nix any negative attitudes right away. Remind your team that they are capable of learning new things and can succeed.

Think of your new course launch like the premiere of a Hollywood movie, so your employees are enthusiastic to begin.

2. Remind new learners of their existing experience.

Taking a class online is much less challenging than most people realize. Most people take for granted the kind of work they do on a computer, including checking their e-mail, posting to their social media accounts, or typing a document on a computer. With that kind of ability, they won’t have any trouble with an online course. Remind them of that.

Next, address their fear of the unknown by letting them try out the tools and see they’re not so tricky. You could:

  • Use some screen recording software or a tutorial from your vendor to show how to get started.
  • Arrange a presentation to introduce them to the learning system.
  • Let them try it for themselves with a few simple tasks, such as logging in or changing their password.

Once they see the tasks aren’t very different from what they normally do on a computer, their fear factor will reduce considerably.

It’s still a good idea to ask an administrator to be available to new technology users to answer simple questions. You can also offer a computer-readiness quiz at the beginning of class to help pinpoint those who need extra help.

3. Show how the training relates to their job.

Some online trainings are vague and not well targeted. If your staff has had experience with these courses in the past, they might legitimately worry that they’ll have to sit through a course that doesn’t have anything to do with their job duties.

Solve this by relating any new training initiative with clear learning goals that are based on professional development. Then, when you do introduce a new program, it will immediately be relevant.

Be clear when you notify staff about the course that it will help them with X skill–provide real-life examples when possible. For example, tell them, “This new course on health literacy includes worksheets you can download and use to assess clients’ literacy levels.”

4. Put a friendly face to the training.

For some people, the idea of not being able to sit in the same room with an instructor is a big turn-off. The reality is that time away from work in a training room is difficult and expensive, and “remote” learning doesn’t have to feel far away.

If you have a course facilitator, encourage them to introduce themself to your staff and ask them to share information with one another. If it’s an administrator, have them post their picture next to a quick introduction. If there’s no one facilitating, include a picture of a person learning and enjoying it.

This will help build a personal rapport. It can also be helpful to build periodic conference calls into a course, or create virtual office hours, so participants can interact with the instructor. A mentoring structure can help too, if you can pair learners with experienced health workers.

The Office of Healthy Communities at the Washington State Department of Health solves this by presenting their community health workers with a blended learning model: an in-person session followed by an online program. Read more about how their program works.

5. Give your team time to train.

Some learners are happy about the prospect of learning new skills. Others look at training as one more thing they have to add to their to-do list.

You can ease this anxiety by setting aside time for your team to work on their courses.

Also remind them that an online course is far more flexible than an in-person training. Participants can do a bit of work when they have the time, break away to work with a client, and then come back to finish up. If 10 p.m. is a better time to work, they can work at 10 p.m. There’s no travel time.

6. Provide the right equipment.

Health staff are not technology staff, so they naturally don’t have access to the whole range of equipment someone who works in an office all day would. However, the list of equipment most people need for taking an online course is pretty short, and most people either possess or can find access to what they’ll need. The list includes:

  • A computer or smartphone
  • Speakers or headphones
  • A printer if they want to print anything out

Most people can go into an office to access a computer, if necessary, or they can visit their local library. You can make sure participants have their supplies by providing a “things you’ll need to begin” list and then telling them where they can find public access, if necessary.

7. Provide language options.

Many people who don’t speak English as a first language or fluently worry they won’t be able to keep up with a course. In feedback from our courses, we’ve found just the opposite. Because learners can reread text many times, listen to audio or experience the material in different ways, it makes it easier to spend the time necessary to process and understand the course.

If you have a critical mass of workers who need access in one language, you might consider having the course translated or offered in another language.

8. Set some goals.

Setting and reaching goals is important to your staff, who needs to see how their work fits in with the larger objectives of your agency. This is part of the research you should have uncovered in your training needs assessment.

Once you set them, then look at what might make them more difficult to reach. In many cases, there could be a training gap. The gap might be:

  1. Individual. If one person lacks the skills to complete a task, they have an individual training gap. For example your new hire needs to do community outreach for your agency, but they don’t have any outreach skills.
  2. Team. Your whole team might lack skills to carry out an initiative, so they have a team learning gap. An example almost everyone can relate to is setting up new protocols for Covid-19.
  3. Organizational. Entire agencies sometimes have a gap in an area and have an organizational learning gap. Many organizations recognize they have gaps in cultural competency and have needed to supplement training in that area.

Learning goals might even reach into the future, and they can dovetail nicely with personal goals of your team. You can ask your employees what they’d like to learn in the next month, quarter, or year, and then provide them with training opportunities to get there.

9. Support peer learning.

Some employees are afraid they’ll feel isolated by working on a computer and won’t be able to meet the other people in the course. In feedback we’ve received in our courses, we’ve found just the opposite.

One woman, for instance, said she met many more people than she does when she’s in a live training. In a conference room, she talks only to the people sitting on either side of her, but online, she had lengthy and meaningful discourse with everyone in the course.

Online courses are also easily adapted, so you can offer support materials that do relate well to the community. You can ask participants to share personal stories with the group and provide lists of local resources and agencies that they will find useful. The best courses are the ones that reflect the people taking them.

The path to learner engagement.

The best way to address any fear is to acknowledge it, so your staff knows you’re taking them seriously, and then provide examples and evidence to make them feel more at ease. After the first week, most participants will wonder why they were ever worried in the first place.

Originally published June 6, 2014, updated March 08, 2021.

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The 10 Training Metrics That Help with Grant Reports

If you need to provide reports as a condition of a grant reward, online learning management systems (LMSs) provide a giant benefit.

They provide metrics, gathered automatically, all the time.

If you have received a grant award, you are probably required to submit various reports so the funder can monitor your progress and performance. If that grant is for some type of capacity-building or training, you have a handy data source that makes your job easier.

Agencies that leverage insights on how program participants behave and perform can spend less time hunting and more time focused on their main goals.

The trick is to be systematic about it and know how to interpret the types of data that your learning system provides. Make sure that monitoring progress and behavior is part of your performance and progress reports.

This article walks through 10 reports that are essential for your requirements and also for knowing how well your online training program is going on a day-to-day basis.

10 Top LMS Reports

  1. Enrollment rates
  2. Logged in vs. completions
  3. Last login
  4. Learner progress
  5. Learner participation and engagement
  6. Total time spent in lessons
  7. Online assessments
  8. Knowledge-gain
  9. Certificates Earned
  10. Satisfaction

Enrollment rates

enrollment rates

Your program may be tightly controlled, and you know exactly who is participating and when. Open-enrollment programs allow for less control, so a report that shows how many people enrolled will help you understand interest. 

In the above example, you can see at a glance the vast difference between enrollment from month to month. May had very few compared to October.

That may be expected to you, for example if you do did a big promotional push in October. But if you didn’t, this report can help you look elsewhere for external influences that are affecting your registration.

Logged in vs. completions

logged vs completions

It’s easy to focus on the successful completions in a course (see below section on certificates). If you compare that information to the number of logins, you’ll find some interesting trends. 

If the numbers are even—good job! You’ve got great engagement from the beginning to end. If not, you can start to see deeper.

In this example above of the diversity training course, seven times the number of people logged in vs. completed. This tells you that many people started the course but dropped out before finishing. It’s a good idea to measure this so you can identify any barriers to completion. Sometimes this is poor alignment with participants (i.e., the wrong people are signing up for the course).

Last login

last login

Looking at the last login date on a course will help you zero in on people who have disappeared. This is crucial for follow-up. A good practice is to check this at least once per week for ongoing courses.

Learner progress

learner progress

Checking learner progress will reveal how far along completion they are. You can see which modules they’ve completed and if they’re moving at a rate you’re expecting. Looking at student specific usage lets you monitor each person’s performance so you can step in if you see anything unusual. This sort of report, when compared against others, can help you identify high performers vs. low performers.

Learner participation and engagement

daily traffic

Checking daily statistics to see who’s logged into the course can be helpful to show the busiest and slowest days. The above chart shows that in September, traffic spiked. It also reveals that Mondays, Fridays and Sundays are some of the highest trafficked. When those bars are low and are consistently dropping off, you might need to do some outreach.

COVID-19 & Women's Health: What You Need To Know

Total time spent in lessons

total time spent in lessons

Participants in your course need to be spending enough time in the lessons to benefit. If you look at the total time they’ve spent in lessons, you can get a great overview. The example above shows how long people are spending in each page and how many times each page has been accessed. The result is that you can assess how invested they are in the online course or if interest is lagging.

Online assessments

online assessments

Online assessments are one of the best gauges of how much progress your participants are making and how well they’re performing. It’s best if you can issue a pre-course assessment and a post-course assessment so you can see the each person’s improvement (see Knowledge-gain below).

Assessments individually or collectively can also tell you if the information you’re delivering is being received the way you want it to.

Knowledge-gain

Some of the best indicators for knowledge gain are pre-course assessments, post-course assessments and self-assessments, which should all align with the learning objectives you developed in advance. Ask participants the same questions before the training as after, and you’ll be able to see an increase or plateau of knowledge. If increase isn’t significant enough, it’s time to change something.

Knowledge-gain is an improvement percentage that is the ratio of positive change. How to Calculate Improvement Percentage from Sciencing has a helpful how-to.

Certificates earned

Certificates are a powerful motivator for many employees, and they’re required for many healthcare training courses. Checking your LMS reports for how many certificates were earned—and by whom—can help you make sure you’re reaching your objectives.

Satisfaction

satisfaction

With the work it takes to implement a training program, it can be difficult to find time and resources to evaluate the effectiveness of it. 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.

A learner satisfaction survey, even a simple one, can help you gather data on how much your participants value the training. Higher satisfaction equals higher engagement and success overall.

Some basic satisfaction questions you can add into your evaluations are:

  • The facilitator answered all my questions.
  • How would you rate your experience in this course?
  • Which parts of the training are most useful in your job?

Make sure these LMS reports are included in your regular monitoring, bonus if you can schedule them to be delivered the week before you’re due to submit your grant report. Even if you don’t have a grant reporting requirement, still fold in these best practices so you know how your training is performing and make timely adjustments as needed.

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5 Ways to Improve Communication in Training

Best practices for communicating better with learners and staff in online courses.

Imagine being a patient and meeting with a healthcare provider for the first time. Your consultation might be rushed, you’re unfamiliar and by the environment, and the language new and confusing.

If that provider doesn’t have the best communication skills, it can add up to an unrewarding experience.

Recommended Reading: How To Make Your Online Training Less Intimidating

That confusion is what many people feel when they take an online course. Online learners, just like patients in a doctor’s office, need good communication for a positive experience.

If you’re an administrator or facilitator for an online training program, think about how to communicate with your readers in a way that connects, informs, and extends the learning experience.

Communicating with online learners—through such channels as announcements, emails, texts or forums—is especially important because you can’t use the power of nonverbal communication. Normally, you can use the tone of your voice or facial expressions to reinforce your meaning. But when the only way you have to connect is with words, you’ll have to give extra thought to how to connect.

Sometimes, the people in charge of enrolling and disenrolling people into a course, for example HR representatives or program managers, might not think communication is part of the job. They’re wrong!

Clear communication should be part of your overall training strategy, even if you didn’t create the curriculum yourself. Any exchange you have with your learners should support what they’re learning and make it easier for them to understand content.

Here are five ways you can improve your communication skills to connect better in online courses.

5 Ways To Communicate Better in Online Courses

1. Use Announcements Effectively

The Announcements feature of an online learning management system (LMS) is a central part of any online course. Announcements are the primary way you can establish your presence.

They provide the clear communication students need when they go into a classroom. They let you connect with participants, lead the group, and set the tone for what they’re about to learn.

Announcements lets you post messages to learners and staff who are enrolled in your course. Depending on how you use them, you can also set announcements to be delivered directly to learners through email or RSS.

An announcement is often the first thing someone sees when they log into a classroom. Because they’re the first thing that anyone sees, announcements should be useful.

Here’s a simple example of a reminder to complete course evaluations:

You can also use announcements to build rapport and increase course engagement. This example shows the instructor’s personality and also creates a connection with each learner and the group.

2. Avoid Acronyms and Jargon

Any training curriculum can be full of specific jargon and acronyms—especially healthcare. The glossary is the place for those—not in general communication. Assume your students are there to learn, so make sure you spell out phrases and skip buzzwords.

3. Communicate Often—but Not Too Much

While some course managers neglect communication tools, others over-communicate. Checking in too often or leaving too much text can have the counterintuitive effect of making learners check out. They’ll learn to ignore overly frequent messages or glaze over when looking at a wall of text.

Consider if the medium for the message. Is the Announcements feature the best place for it? Should you be writing an email to an individual or a team? Should you post something in the forum to increase peer learning and interaction?

4. Use Meaningful Imagery

Written communication is essential, but an image can get your idea across in an instant. It’s human nature to notice a graphic, especially among a string of text (we’re betting you saw the picture above).

Knowing that and using imagery strategically can help you increase communication and understanding in an online course.

Before you start adding images in your announcements or emails, ask yourself if they’re really adding to the communication. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before you add something to your course:

  1. Does the image help communicate something important in the curriculum or content?
  2. Are there too many images?
  3. Does the image make sense in the context?

5. Plan Your Communication

It’s a good idea to plan out your communication in a course just as carefully as an editor plans articles in a newspaper. It will help you stay on schedule, think clearly about what you’re communicating, and do the work up front.

For example, you could always post a wrap-up message on Thursday afternoons. You might always send an email with a link to the gradebook on Monday mornings.

If your LMS has a date release tool, such as Talance’s Schedule Course Mail, you can write all your announcements or emails up front, set the dates when they’re to be delivered, and then let them go automatically in time with the training session.

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