Some presentations, team meetings and event brainstorming session 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.
Before the pandemic response and reset to ‘work-from-home’ by organizations of all sizes and models, 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?
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 future workers will get their work done shifts – often times the questions asked most concern what is the least I need to know to get started and what mistakes do I need to avoid?
The reality is there are not true shortcuts to converting 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 in developing accessible elearning, here are eight lessons learned to help get you started.
Start with the end in mind (goals & outcomes)
When your employees or learners have to access training online – it 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 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 and read-this-click-next approach. That won’t be engaging (or much fun) and as a result won’t be effective. Retaining engaging exercises that allow 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 (Necessarily) 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 because you have taken a course that was delivered through live classroom events to an online platform – especially if the online course does not take into consideration learner engagement, accessibility of the content to all learners, and that the availability of the course is not
Build a Strong Foundation
If you design a well-developed elearning program, it really cuts down long-term because instructor-led costs are ongoing costs, They are not going to get shorter, they are not going to set smaller over time, but a well-developed elearning module at the beginning , you will start to see ROI the longer you use it.
Accessible Elearning is Effective Elearning
As our Senior Learning Architect 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.
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 our customers across education, government and business – we invite you to follow along as we continue to update.
- Elearning & Online Accessibility Tools for Training & HR Leaders
- The Learning Dispatch Archives
- Digital Accessibility Digest
- Subscribe to Accessibility in the News Weekly Newsletter