How often do you feel, after attending an online learning session, that it’s a shame that it didn’t last longer?
Even as we’ve migrated to online meetings and learning, the vast majority of these online events continue to be mediocre. Certainly, technological issues continue to haunt the online experience, including poor mastery of the mute button, uncontrolled notifications and errant cats.
Notwithstanding those challenges, the engineering and delivery of online training remains subpar, because for most of us, our frame of reference is offline. Not only is online different in nature, but the context within which we’re attending the training is distinctly abnormal. For both these reasons, we need to up our game when it comes to creating online training.
With that goal in mind, here are four key ingredients that can dramatically improve your online training sessions:
1. Adapt Your Objectives
While you might want to deliver a “deck,” the online nature of the training means that you won’t transmit as much information as if you were doing it in presence. Without losing ambition, create realistic objectives for your training session. Doing so will to help you insert opportunities for meaningful exchange.
Of course, you have information that you want to transmit. However, you’ll need to favor engagement, converting your participants from passive to active learners. One key piece of advice is to think of your session specifically from an online perspective rather than simply adapting an offline session to the virtual format.
2. Be Digital
One of the delightful advantages of the digital format is that you can use certain tools to heighten engagement and learning in a way that would otherwise be more laborious in an offline format. Examples of such tools are breakout rooms, polls and chat. Rather than being distractions, when well-managed, these tools are great ways to provide insights into the attendees’ mindset and to share the combined wisdom of the group. With well-posed questions to the group, the collective chat can provide useful extra data.
Try out new platforms, and experiment with new interfaces. One thing to bear in mind, though, is that if the attendees aren’t familiar with the interface, there will always be teething problems before everyone is comfortably installed.
3. Create Experiences
It may be easier to put up an eLearning module that scales while we sleep, the non-interactive format of online training is significantly less powerful. It has its purpose, especially in providing technical information, when learners may need to stop and rewind. Yet, especially in these difficult times, human interaction is precious for pedagogical purposes and for the soul.
We all could do with more meaningful experiences, especially in the absence of any convening during the pandemic. Seek to create unique moments of exchange around incisive questions. One strategy I have used is to insert a musical performance, including one time, when the participants danced together from the comfort of their own desk. While many people might ask if there’s a replay, the incentive shifts to making time to be present during the event.
4. Draw out the Intelligence in Attendance
Make sure to ask the participants to share their experiences, ideally in smaller breakout groups. This activity will give everyone the opportunity to participate and feel heard. Not only does working the “room” to tease out ideas and suggestions mean creating more value for everyone, but it will also help you inspire the participants to believe in themselves and bring positivity into the session. Because of the disparate nature of remote learning, there is an even bigger need to provide proximity and communion by helping the collective intelligence shine.
Virtual training comes with many challenges, but it also offers some advantages that are not available to offline sessions. One such bonus is the ability to scale an event and draw employees from a wider geography than might otherwise be possible. Another is the ability to have the introverts participate as much as the extroverts. The remote or “social distance” learning is likely to continue. Take advantage of this period to experiment, exchange and engage!