This seems to be a boom time for elearning. With stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and the explosion of work-from-home, online training has experienced tremendous growth in popularity these last several weeks.
Online training, of course, isn’t new—it’s been around for over a decade. Examples include the one-hour self-paced, self-study course and the instructor-led, video-based, take-it-on-your-own-time courses from universities, LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, and numerous other providers.
Is the sudden popularity (by necessity) of online training something new, or more of the same? A little of both, perhaps. I’d suggest the explosion of quickly developed virtual training that we’re currently seeing is something along the lines of a virtual instructor-led class, borrowing elements from instructor-led, video-based online courses and events like webinars.
The virtual instructor-led class is what happens when universities close, training events are postponed, and conferences are canceled. Instructors move their formerly in-person classrooms to online events. The overall course goals, objectives, and content remain substantially the same. Assignments and activities that might have been written up and handed in are instead submitted through Google Forms or email. Feedback formerly given in-person on activities and assessments are delivered through email or one-on-one video sessions; even the odd phone call.
What does that tell us? Typologies are fun (in a nerdy, academically oriented way). But they can also offer some insights.
Training Effectiveness and the New Normal
If virtual in-person training is the new normal, at least for a while, then how do we make it effective? One answer is that the idea isn’t new, and that there’s been excellent work done on how to run effective virtual classroom sessions (one example is Ruth Colvin Clark and Ann Kwinn’s The New Virtual Classroom; another is Darlene Christopher’s The Successful Virtual Classroom).
But, really, who has time to read books when you have to put on (or help put on) a virtual class today? In that case, it might help to consider similar events and what made them successful (or what made them boring). What was the worst webinar you attended, and what could have made it better? What was the best webinar you attended, and why? How might you leverage the technologies of the video conferencing session you’re using (breakout rooms, chat, multiple co-hosts) to ensure that the event turns out well?
Online training has been around for over a decade. But what hasn’t been around is the need to suddenly introduce thousands of instructors and hundreds of thousands of learners to online training. Leaning on past experiences can offer guidance through a new world to ensure the best possible experience for everyone.
And who knows? Maybe after the current situation has ended, and things settle into a new normal, enough people will have encountered the benefits of online training that it will become an even larger part of the standard experience for everyone.
About the author
Dr. Kevin Gumienny is our senior learning architect and leads the instructional design team at Microassist. has a passion for sharing skills and techniques. He authors Microassist’s Learning Dispatch monthly newsletter and contributes to the Learning Dispatch blog.
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