Asynchronous training is a simple concept: a student accesses training content at a different time than when it was originally delivered by the instructor. But when that real-time student-instructor relationship isn’t available, it’s critical to create an environment that fosters skills development.
Training, especially technical training, has traditionally been in a classroom environment; however, training has evolved. Budgets are getting slashed. IT staff are getting busier. Technology is getting more complex. Learners now require a training solution that is able to be viewed when and where they want. Asynchronous, otherwise known as on-demand, training is that solution.
The expectations of asynchronous training are the same as traditional classroom training. Students and managers still expect high-quality training, instructor feedback, practical labs and group interaction all while keeping costs low, productivity high and course information accurate and relevant.
At the end of the day, if the student doesn’t develop the skills from the training, three stakeholders lose: the student, the organization who needs its people to have the skills and the training company.
This article outlines the benefits of asynchronous training, how to avoid common pitfalls and four crucial components to research when looking for training.
BENEFITS OF ASYNCHRONOUS TRAINING
A learning experience that fits your busy schedule
One of the primary goals of on-demand training is to make learning more convenient. Learners are forced to juggle their regular work-life balance along with training, so giving them a self-paced, web-based experience is integral for a successful delivery method.
Self-paced training allows a learner to focus on their daily responsibilities at work and at home and complete training as their schedule allows. When a course is created, the content is aimed at the lowest experience level of the desired audience. Those learners that have more experience can pick and choose which topics to study and which to skip at their own discretion.
Consumable content that can be easily updated
To support the learner’s self-paced progress, the course should be divided up into small, digestible topics, allowing them to watch as much or as little as they would like. While this is of great benefit to the learner, it also provides strategic update options for the course. Technology changes rapidly. Some topics and the related labs, slides and videos will need to be updated with new information while other topics will remain the same. Micro-segmentation of the course allows for modular updates to certain videos without touching others. In order to do this, the video lengths should be less than 15 minutes whenever possible.
Save money on travel expenses
Having the training web-based allows the learner to access their training where it is most convenient. With the widespread use of cloud services, learners can access courses on any browser, on any computer, and on any network. The user experience may even be configured for mobile access. This translates to more than just convenience, too. Managers are forced to watch their budgets carefully so it is more challenging to arrange for out-of-town travel to attend a training class. Not only is the learner spending thousands of dollars on training, they must add potentially hundreds, maybe thousands, more dollars on travel; and they are not in the office working. Web-based training eliminates much of this expense allowing managers to train their employees based on need rather than money.
TIPS TO AVOID ASYNCHRONOUS TRAINING PITFALLS
What works in the classroom may not translate to on-camera
Choose your on-camera talent carefully because not all instructors work well in front of a camera.
Here are three traits to look for when casting:
- Extremely articulate,
- Is able to compose full sentences extemporaneously, and
- Has the proper poise for on-camera work.
While it is ideal to have an SME teach to the camera like they would teach to a live class, a less skilled instructor could read a script on a teleprompter. This individual just needs to be sure they can read conversationally.
Limited resources available to clarify topics
If a learner does not understand the explanation in a video, there are limited resources for that learner to get an alternative explanation. The on-camera instructor should strive to explain things in a way where the most people can understand it. The learner support functions should provide opportunities for those who need further explanation.
Self-discipline and motivation
There is always the challenge of learner self-discipline and self-motivation. If the learner is weak in either of these traits, they may not learn well in an asynchronous environment.
Demonstrations can fill-in for hands-on practice
Another challenge that can be difficult to overcome is the natural limitations to technology. Some concepts, such as those that require hands-on practice, do not translate well to an asynchronous environment. A suitable substitute to hands-on practice may be a demonstration by the instructor on video. Technology also can limit the delivery of on-demand training by way of critical infrastructure failures. Asynchronous training relies on other infrastructure like network providers, regional power grids and learner computer equipment, which are all out of the trainer’s control.
FOUR MUST-HAVES FOR SUPERIOR ASYNCHRONOUS TRAINING EXPERIENCES
To ensure you’re receiving the best asynchronous training experience, look for the following four components and make sure they have been properly implemented by your training provider.
- Intuitive web interface
The front-end user experience should be easy to learn and allow the user to focus on the course topics, not learning a complex interface. The back-end should have some kind of advanced learning management system (LMS) to manage all of the course content. The LMS is responsible for publishing videos and text, providing access to labs, accepting questions and feedback from learners and tracking learner progress.
- Quality video
A majority of asynchronous learning is through watching prerecorded video. It is not enough to set up a camcorder on a tripod in a classroom and just press “record.” The instructor should be in a studio with high-quality recording equipment, a professional set or green screen and quality audio. Make sure videos recreate the engaging classroom experience and communicate the requisite knowledge.
- Virtual labs
Technical training is incomplete without a way for learners to practice what has been taught. Virtual labs are not new. Training organizations have been developing various methods of producing quality lab environments for years using virtualization. By setting up virtual machines (VMs), labs can be more easily maintained and students can reset a lab environment by simply reloading a snapshot.
- Learner support
Since there is no live instructor, there is no SME to answer your direct question. Make sure there is an “ask your instructor” method or some other type of interface where questions can be submitted via email. Various instructors (perhaps on a rotation) will review the question and provide any necessary answer or feedback. Another option is to set up a sort of forum where learners can post their feedback, comment or question to the larger community of customers, which can be monitored by SMEs to answer questions that are more complex.
ASYCHRONOUS TRAINING IS THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE
While it will not eliminate the need for live instructor-led instruction, asynchronous training is a vital part of any training provider’s product portfolio. To keep up with the demands of customers, be sure any on-demand training you are looking for has a user-friendly, web-based interface, is supported by a strong LMS, contains quality video and audio, includes asynchronous virtual labs and supports the learner. The training should be self-paced and modular and taught by an instructor skilled in on-camera work. With all of these components, you will be able to enjoy high-quality, instructor-led training where and when it is most convenient, saving your organization money in the process.