Forbes reported earlier this year that corporate training spending in the US increased by 15% to reach $70 billion, while the figure grew to $130 billion worldwide. These figures show that corporates are taking employee training and development extremely seriously. Some major corporates that have taken advantage of the benefits of online training, include Bank of America, AT&T, Intuit, Qualcomm and Yahoo!
In a previous post, we discussed the many advantages of online training. However if you cannot engage with your audience in your trainings nor provide an easy way for them to attend, it’s likely to be a waste of time for both you and your trainees. Today I’m going to discuss how you can develop an awesome online training program.
What Makes an Awesome Online Training Program?
Every company will have its own unique corporate culture and that should play an important role in the nature of the training program. However, many aspects that are not unique to your particular company should be included – such as product or industry knowledge, learning methods and technology, and assessments. You should look to apply these features when building a new online training program to ensure its success. The following features should all play an important role in a well-balanced, effective online training program:
Accessibility: Trainees should have easy access to the materials during and after the live training sessions.
Simplicity: Employees should not require a separate training course in how to use your online training software and how to access the training session. It should be easy and straight-forward, and the course content should be at the same level of complexity as your offline training programs. There should be a seamless integration between the course content and the online training system.
Interaction: The program should be interesting, interactive and insightful. This is where company culture plays an important role. If your company has a very traditional corporate culture, the training should follow that model, but if you have a more relaxed company culture, your online training program should not be so ‘stiff’.
Assessment: Users should be able to come away from the training with new insights and a deeper understanding of the content. A follow up stage after the training will allow you to assess their learnings.
Those are the four points you will want to consider when building your training program. Now that you know what goes into a quality online training program, how do you create it?
Creating an Awesome Online Training Program
Firstly, let’s start with skills and expertise. An online training program needs to be concise and impactful to meet the company’s outcomes and that’s why it is critical to involve the right talent to create the program. While a person may be an exceptional salesperson, he or she may lack the essential training or design skills needed to put together an awesome and effective online training program. If you attend online training programs or webinars regularly, you may have noticed that the ones which stick in your mind have done an excellent job on not only the content, but also on the way they present it. These are the skills required, which you may find in one or more employees:
Product Knowledge – First and foremost you, or someone in your team needs to have in-depth knowledge on the subject in order to provide the training material and review the course for accuracy purposes. If it’s your job to conduct the training but you are not 100% comfortable with all the training material, you have two options: first, obtain that knowledge by going to a colleague who can answer your questions. Alternatively, get that colleague to join you in the training program as a second “expert” trainer.
Training Experience – Of course it helps to have some experience in conducting online training sessions, but it’s not necessary. By reading this post and other online meeting best practice posts you will quickly pick up the required skills. Alternatively for your first couple of trainings, it might be wise for you to team up with someone in the company who has a little more experience in conducting online training sessions. It is commonplace nowadays for there to be more than one trainer in a session. After a few sessions, you are likely to have gained substantial experience and will feel more comfortable conducting the sessions alone.
Course Design Skills – If you have an expert designer at hand, fantastic. The course designer takes the information provided and turns it into a series of online instruction sessions, graphics, quizzes, challenges and more. He or she would design the course materials for optimal flow when it is presented using online training software and web conferencing.
However, a course designer is not always required. If you are presenting slides or other material, you will know that text heavy content is boring to watch during a training session. That’s why it’s important to regularly include imagery. Minimize the text by breaking it up over several slides and use some high quality images or photos. Note that the photos/images should support the message from the text on the slide. Also, alternate images with quizzes, graphics and stand-out lines of text (e.g. important or famous quotes) to keep your trainees engaged. Try this and you’ll see that it is not difficult to put together the course material yourself in a way that is visually-appealing.
Once your team is assembled, move on to these next tips on creating your awesome online training program.
1. Offer Live Sessions
While text documents are very accessible, it’s not enough to upload a presentation file online and expect people to read it and absorb all the key learnings. Trainees are bound to have questions and will gain much more from an interactive live online training session, where they can listen to and speak to the trainer. Webinar software is the preferred method for online training, so be sure to utilize a screen sharing tool in your online training in order to share everything on your screen with your trainees.
2. Brand Your Online Training Program
When users arrive at your online training program, they need to know that it belongs to you. Use your company’s branding, colors and logos on the online training program’s interface. Mikogo recently launched a new feature that allows companies to brand their live sessions. Read more about it here: Branded Session Login Integration
3. Include Demos
Some of us learn through practice and online training, by making use of screen sharing software, affords a fantastic opportunity to do just that. An example of this would be training your staff to use a new software package your company just purchased. You can allow them to watch as you demo the tool and walk them through it. Alternatively, you can switch presenter so you can watch them as they’re using the software and prompt them as they navigate it. Another idea, perhaps for a follow up training session, is that to test them to see if they are able to use it without any assistance.
4. Use Case Studies or Scenarios for Meaningful Learning
We have all attended training seminars that were great in theory, but pretty much useless in practice. Making that mistake with your online training program can cost you a lot of time and money. However, by using real case studies or scenarios, you can customise the course to suit your audience and to challenge them to solve real issues. By this I mean that you could provide real-work examples of how your course material applies to their current jobs and projects. One way to do this in a case study format, is to provide a problem, solution and conclusion. For example, let’s say you are training employees or freelancers on using a new software system. If you can detail a recent problem which your workers have encountered and how this new software solves those exact problems, then you can conclude with them that the system is ideal for their work – and so is the content of your online training program.
5. Assess, Evaluate and Certify
Demos, case studies, etc. are a great start in any online training program. But to ensure the material doesn’t go in one ear and out the other, as a follow up training course, get them to show you how they have applied the learnings to their work. Online tests and assessments allow you to not only see whether your employees have learned something new, but it also helps you to evaluate the quality of your online training program. Again, screen sharing is essential here so you can get your trainees to present their screen to you and see how they have applied their learnings. You can also use online authoring software to create assessments or quizzes in multiple formats and to create certificates for attendees who have scored over a certain percentage.
Scheduling Your Online Training Program
Web conferencing software is becoming particularly helpful in scheduling online trainings. Since there is no need for travelling, attendees can access the training from anywhere, which makes scheduling far easier with distant and remote workers. Be sure to inform your trainees well in advance of the date and time of any upcoming training sessions and how they can join. A reminder email 24 hours before the session is also recommended. However, there may be cases in which someone is unable to attend due to time differences or other unavoidable circumstances. In that case, you can record training sessions and make it available for trainees to view the recordings at any time.
Be sure to provide any recordings and course material to those who could not make the training program. Also, when you follow up with all your trainees, don’t forget to contact the ones who missed the training. Hopefully they would have gone over the recordings and material by then and are likely to want to attend any follow up training courses you are offering. Remember the importance of live sessions mentioned above in Point 1.
Discussion: Do you have any questions about creating your online training program? Please feel free to leave your question in comments, below.