Some training presentations, team meetings, and event brainstorming sessions are ‘simple’ enough to move online for a virtual meetup. However, recreating a training experience that is both engaging and effective online typically requires more than uploading a PowerPoint deck to your video-conferencing platform, or building in time for participant questions.
Well before the reset to “work-from-home”, learning designers and HR professionals often struggled with how to take an existing, effective classroom training program and offer to learners online – or whether it made sense to do so at all. Would an online course be as effective? Do we have the ability to design an elearning course? Or the budget to hire designers to create on a timeline that works for our needs?
The journey from in-person training to virtual
Now many education and business leaders continue moving online to deliver needed training, on-boarding, and other talent development programs out of necessity. As the future of work, and where work gets done shifts – often times the questions asked most concern what is the least I need to know to get started converting in-person training to a virtual experience, and what mistakes do I need to avoid?
The reality is there are no shortcuts to converting in-person or classroom training to online training that is effective and engaging. There is no shortcut because it is a different journey altogether – requiring a starting point that focuses on designing for the learning experience – and considering how all learners engage in that content, including learners with disabilities. Based on our experience developing accessible elearning, here are eight lessons learned to help get you started converting in-person training to virtual training.
Start with the end in mind (goals & outcomes)
When your employees or learners have to access training online – it often becomes on-demand, so you can deploy on schedules that maintain your capacity to deliver to clients, maintain consistent operations. For example, if you have a 30-minute training course that 100 customer service agents traditionally had to take in a classroom session, you can now leverage an elearning platform to stagger delivering training.
An option to consider is using elearning through a microlearning lens. One of the basic ideas of microlearning is you are able to deliver the training to the person in their work environment – which includes work from home environments. Hence, learners can experience the training right in the middle of their workflow, basically on-demand access when they NEED it. (Read more on Microlearning from the Learning Dispatch Archives).
In this way online learning provides an opportunity for applying training very soon, and in many cases, as you learn it, rather than weeks later for an opportunity to apply knowledge gained from an in-class experience. From a business perspective, this can mean the investment you are making in training will go farther as your learners actually apply the training right away.
Effective learner design is engaging
When considering the learner experience for moving an existing classroom training to an online platform, don’t sacrifice engagement. It’s critical to make sure the learning experience is engaging and resists the temptation to ‘check the boxes’ or follow a “read-this-click-next” approach. That won’t be engaging (or much fun) and as a result, won’t be effective. Retaining engaging exercises from a classroom experience that allows your learners to apply the skills or content as they learn enables your learners to engage when they need it.
You can’t rewind a live person
Another aspect of the learner experience for online training is the ability to press pause and rewind, start a module over if they have trouble understanding a particular concept or step in a process – a feature that may not always present itself in a live-class, event during Q&A sessions.
Repeatability does not automatically equal scalability
Repeatability (being able to press rewind) is essential, because when you have depended on instructor-led live trainings, you can train your instructors from a universal manual curriculum, but every person attending a class with a different instructor is going to receive a different experience. In cases where you want to insure consistent message and approach, deploying an online experience can help ensure all your learners are working from the same playbook.
However, scalability is not an automatic given simply because the physical classroom is replaced by a virtual one. If the online course fails to consider learner engagement, accessibility of the content to all learners, and technology constraints on the learner’s end, organizations then must address these shortfalls with additional resources in the design and deployment phases.
Build a strong foundation
If you design a well-developed online training or elearning program, it really cuts down long-term costs because instructor-led costs are ongoing costs. They are not going to get shorter, they are not going to set smaller over time. By contrast, beginning from a well-developed elearning module, teams can start to see ROI benefits the longer you use it.
Accessible elearning is effective (for all learners)
As Dr. Kevin Gumienny shares in a recent Training Industry article, “accessible design is good design”, making the point that accessibility adaptations often lead to an improved learning experience for all users, in terms of color contrast ratios, easier to navigate modules and closed-captioning or screen reader compatibility offer flexibility for all learners.
Keep in mind, learners with a disability can include those with either a permanent or temporary disability. Coupled with an aging workforce, and less than 40% of workers with a disability choosing to disclose it to their teams or human resources, building accessibility into your online training program increases the ability of all to fully engage and develop the desired knowledge or skills at the core of the program.
Don’t forget about the documents
If your elearning content incorporates documents, either embed inside the course platform or stored online and linked to from within the course, be certain to consider if the online version of your documents are accessible and compatible with screen readers.
Adobe PDFs, Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and audio and video files can be unperceivable by individuals with disabilities because accessibility wasn’t considered when the content was created. Building in accessibility into online documents from the beginning is preferred, if that is not possible for existing elearning programs this guide includes process and product recommendations for accessibility remediation.
A note of caution here as well – do not assume that because your document “passes” an automated accessibility check that all items in the document are truly accessible. There are common errors that automated tools can miss that often require a human or manual review to catch.
Over communicate, and don’t go it alone
Often cited advice for those new to working with teams remotely is the importance to over-communicate. Ensure your communication and project collaboration channels remain open for your internal teams, as well as any external contractors or team members from stakeholder organizations.
Be honest and consistent in communicating expectations and timelines. Seek out opportunities to stay connected with peers for tools and resources and to share what is working (and the missteps to avoid).
Our team has put together a toolkit of resources and content on our website that might be helpful to training managers and instructional designers as they navigate the journey of converting in-person training to virtual training. We invite you to follow along as we continue to update.
Last updated: 3/26/2021
- Elearning & Online Accessibility Tools for Training & HR Leaders
- Make Online Training Accessible for All (Webinar Recording)
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- The Learning Dispatch Archives