Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Preparing for Virtual Training

By Danielle Slatinsky

Cindy Huggett, author and online trainer, delivered a webinar titled “Virtual Training Implementations: Preparing for Success” on April 19, 2012. She mainly discussed ways to successfully utilize online training for corporate learning.

A challenge you may face in the workplace is how to switch to virtual classroom technology from traditional, in-person methods of training. The 2011 Training Industry Report showed that “76% of organizations report using virtual classroom technologies (up from 71% over previous year).” This shows a significant increase in the use of online training.

Before we go further into how to implement online training, it is important to understand the definition of virtual training. Cindy defines virtual training as an instructor-led, online class that includes participants from various locations. There are four types of online training: meetings, presentations, seminars, and training classes. Each type varies in the amount of interaction from participants and trainers.

Cindy described many “best practices” that will help make the transition into virtual learning smooth and effective.

Best Practices
  1. Define it. You need to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands the expectations for the online training. Explain what type of sessions will be held (meeting, presentation, seminar, or training class). Explain if it will be a casual learning environment where participants can eat lunch and e-mail, or if it will be a more structured learning environment where participants will be expected to interact and be responsive.
  2. Involve the right people. It is very important to get support and buy in early on. Figure out who needs to be involved: trainers/facilitators, IT department, designers, managers, participants, etc.
  3. Thoughtfully select facilitators. Be sure to prepare facilitators on the virtual delivery and platform. Facilitators will need adequate prep time. Consider what facilitators will need: headsets instead of speaker phones, correct technology, and possibly a co-facilitator. A co-facilitator is someone who can assist with technology and delivery.
  4. Consider scheduling. It is necessary to consider the schedules of participants. If the participants are in a different time zone, then arrangements need to be made to accommodate them. Virtual training is not necessarily on a typical 9-5 timetable.
  5. Create an appropriate learning environment. Find a good spot for effective learning. Maybe set up a room specifically for training where learners can focus. If participants need to be at their desk, then it is good to at least have them clear off their desk to reduce distractions.
In addition to her five best practices, Cindy also discussed three “must dos.”

Must Dos
  1. Prepare facilitators. Facilitators need a different skill set from classroom trainers. They need to be able to multi-task, engage with an unseen audience, and use technology. They also need to learn a virtual platform.
  2. Prepare participants. Before conducting online training, make sure the participants are ready to get the most out of the training. Check to see if they have an appropriate learning environment. Find out if they have the necessary technology. Ask if they will have any distractions that will keep them from focusing for extended periods of time.
  3. Get details right. Administrative work needs to be done before the virtual training begins. A process for logistics needs to be established in regards to how the participants will get handouts, who the communicator will be, whether or not there will be a discussion board, etc. It is also very imperative to send out correct connection information, including proper links, handouts, and session times.
Cindy also provided a few practical tips for the successful implementation of virtual training.

Practical Tips
  1. Check technology. Participants need to have the right technology in order to receive the online training. They need to know ahead of time if they will have to install software or obtain headsets.
  2. Have a kick-off session. You might find it beneficial to provide an overview of the training before it begins. Include a welcome message from leadership. Teach learners how to participate in an online environment. Give them an opportunity to experience what it is like to use a virtual platform.
  3. Conduct technology checks. Test the audio to make sure the participants will be able to hear the training.
  4. Involve the participants' managers. A participant should not have to worry about their boss thinking they are playing online games instead of working. It might also be helpful if the manager tries not to disturb the participant during the training so they can focus on learning.
  5. Have backup plans. As everybody has experienced at one time or another: technology fails. Make sure to have a plan in place so that if the technology does fail, the training does not have to stop.
As the major shift from traditional classroom training to virtual training continues, these best practices, must dos, and practical tips that Cindy provided will prove very helpful.

Do you already use these methods when planning your own virtual training sessions?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ways to Improve the Effectiveness of eLearning

By Danielle Slatinsky

Training Magazine Network hosted a webinar on April 10, 2012 titled “Making eLearning Stick.” Dr. Barbara Carnes, author and CEO of Carnes & Associates, Inc., was the main speaker, and more information about her work is available here.

Dr. Carnes mainly discussed the reasons why information learned through eLearning is not typically retained, and she also provided ways to make sure that eLearning sticks in participants' minds.

Common Frustrations with eLearning

Dr. Carnes started the webinar by explaining that many people are frustrated with training programs because the completion rates for eLearning and webinars is very low. Developers spend a substantial amount of time creating training programs that are designed to be meaningful, and people are not applying what they learn to their jobs.

Scrap learning is a term Dr. Carnes used to describe learning that is not applied in the workplace. The key to avoiding scrap learning is in the training transfer, according to Dr. Carnes. Training transfer means that the knowledge and skills gained in training are transferred, or applied, to the job.

What Contributes to Effective Learning?

Based on Dr. Carnes' research, there are three components that contribute to the effectiveness of eLearning: pre-work, learning event, and follow-up. Pre-work, such as a questionnaire or survey, contributes about 25% to learning effectiveness. The learning event, or eLearning training course, also contributes about 25%. Follow-up actually contributes the most; it impacts the effectiveness of training by roughly 50%, which is twice the amount of pre-work and the learning event. Ironically, follow-up is usually the least implemented event.

In Dr. Carnes' presentation she listed a variety of learning content and activities: active participation, relevant content, learning goals, behavior modeling, self-management strategies, strategy link, and error-based examples. She specifically focused on error-based examples and strategy link. Error-based examples are not commonly used, and she said that they lead to higher levels of training transfer when they are coupled with good examples. Strategy link consists of linking core content to teaching objectives, mission goals, or the business strategy. This helps participants see the larger scope and relevance of the training.

Methods for Knowledge Retention

Dr. Carnes listed many T.I.E.s, or Techniques to Integrate Education. These techniques should be used before, during, and after learning, regardless of the content. They can be used for new or existing training presentations, and they increase the training transfer.

For example, a pre-training briefing is beneficial to provide expectations and encourage a positive attitude about the training purpose. Dr. Carnes suggested sending out an e-mail from the boss before training, which should include what they will learn, how they will apply it to the job, and what could happen if they do not learn the material.

There are a multitude of methods that can be used during the training to improve retention. Studies have shown that it helps if participants are asked to close their e-mail or other applications while learning because distractions increase the time it takes to learn. Pop-up reflections containing self-regulation questions are also advantageous. A pop-up reflection asks the participants rhetorical questions to get them to think about what they are learning, such as “Do I understand the key points in the training material?” or “Are the study strategies I'm using helping me remember the content?”

Another method that can be effective is threaded discussions. Dr. Carnes mentioned that interaction leads to better outcomes. It is important to use open-ended questions in threaded discussions, and it is also helpful to require a certain amount of responses. These threads allow the participants to process the material and think critically about the content. When you take this approach, you will need someone to monitor and track the dialogues.

At the end of training, summarize the material and have participants reflect on ways they can apply it. Dr. Carnes discussed the method of asking learners to write a note to themselves about what they learned and how they intend to apply it to their work. She also brought up the idea of using a training transfer certificate instead of a certificate of completion. With this tactic participants do not get credit for the course until they answer a questionnaire or survey three to six weeks after the training.

The common theme of these retention methods is increased, relevant interactivity.

Relapse Prevention

Dr. Carnes concluded the webinar by talking about relapse prevention, which should take place at the end of training. Methods such as conducting a specific and structured group discussion will help avoid loss of knowledge gained. These discussions can include topics about the benefits of using the training, the possible obstacles with applying the training, and ways to overcome those obstacles. This process is similar to what rehab facilities use before they release patients.

By applying these methods to eLearning before, during, and after the learning process, it will be much more likely that participants retain the training and apply it in the workplace.

Do you already use any of these methods for eLearning?