If you are a corporate training manager or facilitator, you might ask yourself: How do I keep my learners engaged when they are working and training in a remote workplace? What best practices do instructional designers use when developing blended or hybrid learning that engages both in-person and remote teams?
These are important questions given our current work environment — which has become increasingly hybrid — and there’s no one answer.
Cultivating strong, positive engagement is going to involve a few different approaches, some of which will require real-time (synchronous), collaborative participation between course instructors and learners. Others will require planned and established online resources that your learners to interact in an asynchronous training space.
Whether a course is delivered primarily online or is split between asynchronous and synchronous learning modalities, there are best practices you can follow to keep learners mindfully engaged. The following insights will help you build and facilitate training that engages learners in a blended environment.
Know Your Audience
There is a popular adage that states, “every gig is an acting gig.” When taking on the role of facilitator, this sentiment is highly applicable. Whether it is a training course on fast food preparation or on a life-saving medical procedure, it’s important to know who you are instructing before you begin training them. You are, after all, the one setting the stage. Think about the age of each person that’s involved in the training. Think about their degree of experience and how that relates to the materials that you’ll be presenting. Consider their comfort level and previous experience with the technologies you are using. Having a clear profile of your learners will get you started on the right footing.
Introduce a Plan for the Day
Speaking of footing: Have a set plan for each day of your training program. With synchronous learning, introduce the plan for the day as the lesson begins. Opening discourse with a clear structure demonstrates to your learners that you are prepared and will give them relevant context for their next learning steps. It also helps them to prepare because they know what to expect.
If you are preparing asynchronous materials for online training, be sure that there is detailed instruction posted. This can be a link to an online resource, a clear syllabus of what the day’s lesson is, or even an email sent out the night before listing the next day’s goals. Being clear and upfront about the training process will go over well with adult learners. Providing learners with a map to help them navigate their learning will leave them better engaged and productive throughout the course.
Stay Relevant and Focused
Provide information within the context of real-world application. Adult learners want to know that they aren’t wasting time away from the job. It’s important to clearly outline how they can apply key concepts and skills taught in their daily job roles. Otherwise, what they are learning may come across as unhelpful or misguided — which is very likely not the case.
Take what you know as a facilitator and keep it alive in the context of your learners’ experiences. Remain focused on the matter at hand. Have a plan ready ahead of time for getting back on track if anything goes off course. It’s natural for there to be “big personalities” in the room (or on video) — and the occasional off-topic conversation. Be sure you are ready to reel things back in, promptly, and with respect to everyone involved, in case conversations begin drifting off topic.
Give Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement isn’t just about Pavlovian training a group of adults into liking something they are not interested in. It’s about proactively investing in your learners’ professional development and achievements. Even a small sense of success and recognition will often drive the most jaded of learners forward. As often as it seems appropriate, provide measurable rewards for learner involvement and participation. This will help make your instruction upwardly engaging, motivating and fruitful for everyone involved.
Here is your chance to think outside of the box: Exploring information outside of the provided course materials is an excellent way to keep your learners engaged. It’s also a good opportunity to demonstrate the real-world applications of the course.
Adults almost always enjoy feeling a sense of autonomy when they are learning something new. After all, they are grown-ups and have their own sense of how the world works. Without losing sight of any end goals, give your learners the option to dig into something on their own — something that is applicable to the course you are facilitating. Provide your learners with high quality deliverables, like links to other valuable resources, and ask them if they have any relevant personal experiences to share. Diversifying the learning experience will give your learners new opportunities for growth, and you may even find new strategies for facilitating a successful course in the process.