So how do you create an online training course that people don't hate? Six months ago, we set out to recreate the online version of The Fearless Presentations ® Course. To be blunt, when we started, I just assumed that we would just update the videos of the old version, make it look prettier, and be done. However, the more we updated, the more opportunities that we noticed. I think my biggest obstacle at the beginning was my preconceived notions about online training.
First, I was thinking of the online version of the course a replacement for in-person training. Second, from years of experience, I know that unless you are able to practice a new skill and have a series of successes, your confidence in that skill will likely not grow. So, if you just watch a series of online videos, you may gain a lot of knowledge, but probably not a lot of skill. As we developed more and more of the content for the new online course, though, my preconceived notions began to falter.
Once I realized that if we started to use the online course as an additional information source versus a replacement source, I realized that the online version could fix many of the limitations of the in-person training. For details about some of these realizations, see Modern Examples of Training and Development Programs for Employees in 2019 from last week.
Now, I'm not saying that we figured everything out. But, we did identify a few Best Practices that might be helpful for you if you are going to be designing any online training sessions. Our observations are listed below.
Online Training Best Practices that Supports Your In-Person Training Sessions
Microlearning: Organize Your Online Training into Bite-Sized Nuggets of Content
No matter how entertaining you are as a speaker or trainer, no one wants to watch a long video of a person speaking. YouTube has spawned a new trend in elearning called microlearning. It makes sense. Attention spans are limited. So, if you want people to enjoy your online content, break it up into bite-sized pieces. For instance, the first session of the in-person Fearless Presentations ® class is about an hour long. This session is also very interactive and activity driven. So, turning it into an online course session was pretty challenging. The solution was to break the content down into simple to digest components. Granted, we ended up with 12 separate videos, but each video was accompanied by a text summary of the video content. This gives the viewer the option of watching each individual video for more detail or just skimming the text.
Think of an online course like a huge cheesecake. It is fantastic if you enjoy it a slice at a time. However, if you try to eat the whole thing in a single sitting, you'll likely just make yourself sick. So give your viewers the option of receiving the content in bite-sized pieces.
Make Your Online Course Video-Based, But Offer Options
We actually had a lot of internal debates within our company about this one. On our production team, we have people from four generations. Our youngest is in her early 20's and the oldest member is, well more a fan of Disco music. The younger members wanted to make the whole course a series of short videos. The 30+ group wanted a combination of online activities and video. The more seasoned group preferred text instructions with the activities. So, basically, we included all of these items. We created short videos, with text instructions, and activities. That way, no matter how you prefer to receive the content, there is an option for you.
Interestingly, by doing this in our online course, it had a fantastic benefit to the in-person version of the class. Because the sessions are clearly segregated by content and give the option of just doing the activities if the participant wants, many of our seminar attendees are forgoing the printed manual in class. Instead, they are using the online course inside the in-person class. It is working fantastically. By doing the activities from class digitally, their notes get stored in their individual online account. For instance, when a participant designs a presentation using the speech creator, the system sends them out a slide-style visual aid electronically. It save a tremendous amount of class time.
Make Sure that Your Course is Accessible on Multi-Device Platforms (Mobil, Laptop, Desktop)
This was the big problem that we had with our old version of the online course. When we created it, the technology was designed for desktop viewing. (Who would take a course on their phone in 2010?) The fantastic news, now, is that technology has improved to where you can house your online course on a simple WordPress website with the help of a few simple plugins. Even in recent years, if you wanted to create an online course, you can to use a third-party platform like Coursera or Udemy. These platforms are still good options, but if you are trying create an internal training program just for your employees, they don't really work as well. However, now, you can create either an entire website for the course, or, you can just add a plugin like iMember360, that makes all or part of your website a membership site. It takes just a few minutes to setup.
As long as your website theme is responsive to different screen sizes (most are automatically, now,) anyone with a login will be able to view your course on any device. It's really easy, now.
Your Course Has to Be Interactive
People learn by doing, not by watching videos. So, you have to make your courses interactive in some way. An easy way to do this is with Google forms. After each video, give your attendees something to do that will help them apply the instruction in real life. For instance, in our online class, there is a specific section that helps people create a presentation outline that is more "audience focused." We ask them three simple questions and give them a form to insert their answers. The form then combines their answers together to create a really cool title for their presentation when they hit the NEXT button.
You don't have to have a ton of interaction. Just something that helps your attendees use their other senses, so that they don't get bored.
Make Your Online Course Social
This is more important if you are charging a fee for someone to access your online course, but it can also be helpful for internal courses as wee. Give a way for your attendees to interact with you. A great way to do this is to offer the online sessions live. Yup, live. This allows your attendees to ask you questions and interact with you as they are learning. We are in the process of beginning to offer our leadership classes online, now. We will be offering weekly leadership sessions in a live training format to our members. So, stay tuned.
You don't necessarily have to go to that extreme, though. You can just open up the comments at the bottom of each session post in WordPress to allow for questions from your attendees. Another great option is to create a Facebook or LinkedIn group that is open just to attendees. Whatever way you choose to go, make sure that the conversations are two-way versus just one-way.
Technology is Constantly Changing
The thing to keep in mind about all of these ideas is that technology is always improving. What is popular today will be "old school" tomorrow. So, keep updating your online training. If you'd like details about the Fearless Presentations ® Online Course, just click the link.