Flexing Your Tools to Create Maximum-Impact Online Training

Tool-ContentWhen designing and delivering online training programs, we often focus on the tools and the content independently. The management and administration tool of choice is often a Learning Management System (LMS). LMS’s provide us with enhanced capabilities and ease-of-use in creating course catalogs, launching courses, inviting and registering students, tracking progress, and assessments, among other features. Content design is often tackled separately from administration and program management.

Preventing your LMS’s capabilities from influencing your content design decisions could result in missed opportunities. Take your LMS’s functionality into full consideration to make maximum organizational impact via your learning solutions.

Teaching Formally vs. Informally

People tend to have a preference for formal learning (instructor-directed) or informal learning (experiential, self-directed, impromptu learning). Whatever your preference, flexible learning strategies include a combination of both types of learning and more, as needed.

What features in the modern LMS support it? The LMS should not force designers to choose formal over informal learning—both should be supported. The determining factor is not the tool, but how designers choose to design the training experience.

Does a formal training best support your learning objectives?

  • Create a mandatory series of online courses.
  • Predetermine the order in which the courses must be taken and communicate due dates.
  • Ensure compliance with quizzes, duration tracking, and engagement tracking.
  • Issue certificates or certification upon successful completion.

Will informal training help your learners to close their skills gaps more effectively?

  • Create optional courses for your learners, let them choose their own learning paths, and allow them to determine completion deadlines.
  • Use microlearning concepts to provide learning in small chunks. If your course catalog is well-organized, the learner will be able to quickly scan the catalog to find “bite-sized” learning chunks that will let him learn what he needs to know when he needs to know it.
  • Integrate social networks, like Yammer, to allow your workforce to collaborate, communicate, socialize, and create informal learning spaces outside of (but connected to) formal learning spaces.

Supporting Performance

“Performance support” involves presenting the learner with critical information at the point of need—that is, at the exact moment when she needs the information, on the job, and within 10-seconds and two clicks max. Performance support was first introduced over three decades ago by Gloria Gery. The concept is experiencing renewed attention, as new technology makes it easy to integrate point-of-need information into workflow.

What features in the modern LMS support it? Performance support is related to informal training, in that the learning happens outside of a formal classroom setting. It’s also related to microlearning, in that the lesson is learned in a bite-sized, easily-accessible chunk. Support for on-the-job performance can be delivered by technology (i.e., the learner can pull up crucial information on a mobile device) or in a traditional way (i.e., the learner can refer to a printed job aid listing task completion steps).

How can you provide performance support to employees?

  • All of the LMS features listed above under “Informal Learning” can aid in delivering performance support (e.g., the ability to learn on your own schedule, choice of learning path, and microlearning techniques).
  • Modern LMS’s are device agnostic: learners can start training on their desktop, and pick up where they left off on a mobile device at the job site.
  • LMS’s allow you to import files, such as PowerPoint, Video, Word, and PDF). Job aids and other reference material can thus be imported into the training module and then downloaded for later access.
  • Integration with social networks, like Yammer, allow for after-training conversations, mentoring, knowledge sharing and informal learning. The mentor doesn’t need to be physically co-located with the learner to offer advice and expertise.

Going Global

Adapting winning content created in one language to other languages enables you to take your content to the global stage through localization best practices.

What features in the modern LMS support it? An LMS that provides localized training experiences will already have all the contextual nuances of the supported languages embedded in the learner-device interface. Localize your video, audio and other specialized content into the language of your choice, and you can offer the same course in multiple geographical locales.

Being Lean and Agile

Adapting the Agile Manifesto of software development to instructional design: Create useful, working online training developed with “customer” (learner/stakeholder) collaboration, respond flexibly to the market, and value individuals and interaction over formal processes.

What features in the modern LMS support it? There is nothing with an LMS that inherently prevents you from being agile when developing learning content. Just choose to use process-light, user-focused techniques to hone in on what matters most to your learning audience. Create and deploy relevant content quickly (ideally 1-2 week iterations). The point is to avoid wasting unnecessary time building an online training program which may be obsolete at the time of release, or doesn’t end up meeting learner needs after all, and for which a course correction is too late and/or too expensive.

How do you use agile methodologies to develop online training content?

  • Find your learning stakeholders.
  • Ask your stakeholders to identify the learning needs and divide those into small, prioritized units.
  • Take the top priority learning units and create content.
  • Release your content. Get feedback.
  • Poll your learners (your customers). Get feedback.
  • Assess your learners’ understanding through quizzes. Get feedback.
  • Re-evaluate your list of unaddressed learning needs (including feedback gathered), re-prioritize your list, and select the learning unit focus for the next iteration.

Getting Personal

Online training is typically made for mass consumption—one reason why it’s so cost effective compared to classroom training. At the same time, ensure that every learner feels a personal connection to the training, thereby increasing engagement.

What features in the modern LMS support it?

  • Glean your LMS data analytics to create personalized training for each learner. For example, statistics on the “top 5” courses or series, completion trends, and average time of completion are great hooks to pull training sponsors into the learning analysis effort.
  • Insert personality in the module through creative use of video, audio, presentations and visuals.
  • Offer “one-on-one time” with the experts (online instructors or subject matter experts) in the form of an online chat, hangout, webinar, or other personalized discussions.
  • Give learners a voice through social learning opportunities.
  • Let learners choose their training path.

Delivering Maximum-Impact Online Training

What is “maximum-impact online training”? It’s training that solves a business need and provides tangible value while emotionally and intellectually engaging the learner.

There are many strategies for accomplishing maximum-impact online training, some of which are outside of eLearning. The right strategy depends on your situation. However, when it comes to online training, two aspects of that strategy necessarily involve identifying the administration/management tool and the content itself. Use the tool(s) flexibly and creatively to create content that delivers maximum impact.

Which learning methodologies and tools do you employ to create learning content that inspires action? And how have you been able to leverage your LMS, in particular, to support your content design strategy?

Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader who's had roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program and a Certified ScrumMaster. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

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