Less effective instruction. Lower sense of connection. Lack of non-verbal cues.
We hear many criticisms when it comes to online training. Compared to face-to-face training, the learning experience is considered less rewarding when it occurs within a constrained screen. However, in response to the COVID-19, companies and training organizations started moving their classrooms online last year. To help with such a shift, here are some powerful tools that provide an edge to online learning:
Tools That Improve Comprehension
Content comprehension requires focused attention and a manageable cognitive load. However, learners in long training sessions may find that their attention tends to wander. Their cognitive capacity also decreases when they need to make notes while processing new concepts and theories. For learners whose first language is different from the instructional language, this language barrier adds another layer of challenge.
The following three tools can improve comprehension significantly:
Caption in Video
Studies show that captions in videos improve people’s attention and comprehension, especially for non-native speakers and people who are deaf or hard of hearing. With advancements in speech recognition technology, live caption is commonly available, meaning learners can see the transcript of what they are hearing — live.
In most video conferencing tools, organizations can record an entire training session with a single click. This feature enables learners to focus on the training content instead of taking notes, because after the session is over, they will be able to review the content on demand as many times as they need to.
Another useful tool is the script generated automatically from a recording. Learners can search the script to quickly locate the information they need to review after training or on the job. In addition, word cloud tools identify high-frequency words or themes in the script so learners can easily identify the essential knowledge points from the training session.
Tools That Facilitate Discussion
The sense of connection is hard to achieve when instructors and learners do not share the same physical space. To promote collaboration and foster social interaction, instructors should include group discussion in their training activities. A variety of tools are available to facilitate discussion both inside and outside the virtual classroom.
While it takes time to organize group discussion in a face-to-face classroom, forming groups in an online setting takes no more than a few clicks. On most platforms, it is also easy for the instructor to switch among virtual breakout rooms after the discussion starts.
For asynchronous conversations, online discussion forums provide an effective platform. Tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as chatbots, can offer in-time support and personalized feedback to ensure that the discussion stays engaging and constructive.
Tools That Generate Insights
Unlike learning activities that happen in face-to-face training, which are difficult to record or impossible to track, online training activities take place mostly in learning management systems (LMSs) and videoconferencing platforms and are, therefore, stored in digital format. Organizations can use this centralized data in lieu of the non-verbal feedback that’s missing in most online training sessions. Aided by machine learning and techniques from the learning analytics field, training professionals can transfer the data into insights about learners’ performance and progress.
For example, by examining learners’ interactions with the instructor and classmates, training professionals can determine whether the training is mostly instructor-centered or dominated by certain learners and alter its design accordingly. Alternatively, by reviewing an individual’s learning behaviors, such as repeated attempts to complete a course or low participation in a certain type of learning activity, instructors can provide support at an early stage.
Notably, while comprehension and discussion tools are low-hanging fruit, instructors and training managers must develop technology acumen and data skills to reap the benefits of big data and machine learning.
There is no doubt online training is challenging — but the tools discussed in this article will help both learners and training professionals overcome those challenges and create an engaging, collaborative and insightful learning experience.