Hosting employee training can be an expensive proposition. Funding for travel and accommodations is often a significant part of the training budget. But we tend to approve the allocation of those travel-related funds because providing learners with the ability to collaborate during learning is such a key component of ensuring that learning sticks.
Online training is an attractive—and realistic—option because the need to travel (and spend money on that travel) is removed or reduced. Learners can engage in online training anytime, anywhere and on the device of choice. And with the features of the modern LMS and the wide range of affordable and accessible technologies available today, there is absolutely no reason that social, collaborative learning cannot be an integral part of the online training experience, too.
Weaving Collaborative Learning into Online Training
So, how do you incorporate that collaboration, communication and conversation that is so critical to the learning experience into online training programs? Be creative and weave in human-human touch points into online training—before, during and after the online training program itself.
As examples, consider the following ideas for creating those collaborative human-human touch points in online training.
1. Surveys and Quizzes: Send pre-course surveys or quizzes, to both advertise (internally or externally—either way, marketing is key to start the buzz and increase anticipation) course content and gauge base-level knowledge. Get your participants to share their thoughts, questions and ideas with each other before the course starts. For example, why not share the results of your quizzes and surveys with your learners?
2. Offline Assignments: Assign pre-work, which could include self-assessments, written assignments, a review of current work procedures, or field trips. Ask learners to share what they’ve learned during pre-work with each other. These activities not only set the context for focused learning, but facilitate relationship-building before online training even begins.
3. Get the Team Together: Encourage self-paced learning, but hold regularly scheduled lectures, discussions or reviews as interim check points. For those managers who take the plunge and create online training for their own team members (highly recommended!) incorporate relevant learning conversations within regularly scheduled weekly meetings with the team.
4. Discussion Boards: According to a survey from Software Advice, a site that helps businesses find the right LMS, 24% of users (the majority) prefer social networking in the form of discussion boards.
Find creative ways to encourage and extend the learning conversations beyond the online training course or program, to further inject the human factor into the learning.
5. Learner Submissions: Make online training fun. Ask learners to submit videos on a training-related topic, or complete scavenger hunts, quests or other social learning games.
6. Recruit Trainers from “Within”: For learners who excelled in the online training program, consider asking them to create training modules of their own to share with others. Creating microlearning content rather than longer online training courses can reduce pressure on subject matter experts who, after all, do have a day job.
These ideas encompass just a small sampling of what’s possible in the quest to meld collaborative learning with online training.
No Need to Leave Your Desk
For those times when face-to-face learning really is required, consider blended learning programs. Just because a training program could benefit from a face-to-face learning component does not mean that online training does not have a key part in the overarching learning program. Move as much of the content as possible into online training, thereby minimizing the amount of time required for face-to-face training.
There’s less reason that you might think to leave your own desk to “attend training”. Judicious use of online training will minimize travel-related costs without sacrificing training program quality and the ability for participants to learn collaboratively. And, in the process, you’ll be enabling the organization to establish a culture of learning—a hallmark of continuous improvement and sustained success.
Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in 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. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.