Tools and Strategies for Effective Online Training

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The first phase of digital technology for education and training simply involved putting courseware into electronic format — first on CD ROM, and eventually online. Soon, various other strategies developed for supplementing online courses, manuals and textbooks with the ability to communicate with instructors through email and forums.

This led to development of real-time, live online training solutions with the power of a synchronous event — where geographically dispersed participants could share knowledge and a classroom experience from their own desks, cubicles or another remote location.

While conventional Web conferencing tools can support e-learning, organizations have discovered that the needs of organizational learning are very specific: To interact strategically in a way that will foster interactivity, build skills and add value.

An online training platform needs to address this particular set of needs with a suite of tools designed to enhance the ability of educators to simulate an actual classroom. Supporting features include: Content development, a library for storage, annotation and chat tools and pre- and post-class preparation with detailed reporting.

Objective: This white paper will provide a comprehensive overview of the needs of live online training and how they can be effectively addressed by a specific set of features and tools within an online solution.

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Tools and Strategies for Effective Online Training

  1. 1. IntroductionThe first phase of digital technology for education and training simply involved puttingcourseware into electronic format — first on CD ROM, and eventually online. Soon, variousother strategies developed for supplementing online courses, manuals and textbooks with theability to communicate with instructors through email and forums.This led to development of real-time, live online training solutions with the power of asynchronous event — where geographically dispersed participants could share knowledge anda classroom experience from their own desks, cubicles or another remote location.While conventional Web conferencing tools can support e-learning, organizations havediscovered that the needs of organizational learning are very specific: To interact strategicallyin a way that will foster interactivity, build skills and add value.An online training platform needs to address this particular set of needs with a suite of toolsdesigned to enhance the ability of educators to simulate an actual classroom. Supportingfeatures include: Content development, a library for storage, annotation and chat tools andpre- and post-class preparation with detailed reporting.Objective: This white paper will provide a comprehensive overview of the needs of live onlinetraining and how they can be effectively addressed by a specific set of features and tools withinan online solution. 1
  2. 2. Planning an EventAs you begin to plan an event it is important to research and survey your participants to get asense of their existing level of competence, perceived needs and what they would deem to be asuccessful outcome for your training.At the same time, trainers should set clear objectives and organize online trainings according tothose objectives, making all elements part of that overall plan. (For more in-depth informationon how to meet strategic objectives using live online training, see “Using Webinars to EngageEmployees and Drive Productivity” — http://bit.ly/bNL4mk)For example, if a software skills class is needed to enhance productivity at a law firm,management and participants may have different objectives. Management may want to seeproductivity increases while participants may desire clarity and comfort with the tools toreduce their own stress. Both these goals should be aligned. Using preliminary surveys toestablish both of these objectives, and to get complete buy-in from management and partners,the scheduled online training might then be:“How to Work Smarter and Easier with LegalWay Software 3.0”This would address the strategic goals of a law firm for efficiency, while making employeessense that their need to adapt to a new way of working — and possibly accepting somestressful changes — is also being heard and addressed.Answers to additional questions on the registration form can help to further focus the contentof the event on the specific needs of the participants.For a software publisher, small business or entrepreneur, similarly targeted live online trainingevents that educate clients and customers add significant value by supplementing help deskand support efforts and can significantly enhance marketing initiatives.Getting buy-in from other departments and forging partnerships also enables trainers to get themost out of all the resources to blend their efforts for optimal results.Blending Live and Online Training ModalitiesA live online training program is most effective as part of a process that complements andreinforces traditional classroom training or facilitation and leverages existing courses andmanuals. By drawing upon resources already in place, content developers can use the featuresof an online training solution (e.g., a content library) to make a live event dynamic andresponsive to the real needs of participants. 2
  3. 3. To that end, trainers should take advantage of successful strategies from the conventionalclassroom that can be carried over online: Games, scenarios, case studies, polls, chat,application and screen share, hand raising, visual materials that can be placed into slides, etc. Ifcompetitive groups and exciting activities are already part of a course or facilitation curriculum,they may also be integrated into the live online learning event with contests and team-buildingexercises that take advantage of existing relationships.Since not all trainers in the classroom or authors of online resources will be available for a liveevent, it is very helpful to observe their techniques and note the interaction and questions thatare most effective. Then the most significant and relevant materials and devices can bereinforced in a live online event and combined with visuals, graphics, polls, chat and the otherdynamic interactive aspects of an online training event.For example, supplementing a diversity training seminar with a live online training event wouldallow employees from localities with different cultures to share their real-world experienceswith powerful anecdotes and stories that bring to life the issues raised in textbooks or manuals.By performing a thorough needs assessment you might also discover what is not working inyour training materials. For instance, the law training referenced earlier may have uploaded auser manual and guide for LegalWay Software 3.0, and it is obvious that no one is able to getthrough its complicated approach to the software.Now the law firm might include a survey along with its training description to solicitparticipants’ opinions about existing programs.For example, the survey might ask: What is the most frustrating and time-consuming part ofgenerating documents quickly and effectively with LegalWay 3.0 software? Similar questionscould be distributed on blogs, bulletin boards or even wikis to learn what participants hope toachieve, and the law firm might receive the following results from support staff, paralegals andattorneys:We need to learn how to…  Begin pleadings with standard formatting templates  Generate a Table of Authorities and handling case citations  Highlight key portions of documents during discovery and at trialThis would be invaluable information to know in preparing content prior to a training session,and the training developer could even use this information in preliminary email and blog 3
  4. 4. promotion and in the “Who Should Attend” and “What You Will Learn” sections of anycollateral materials.This enables a successful blended learning strategy that combines online training with existinge-learning courseware and conventional training materials to provide an integrated programthat supplements and reinforces existing modalities.Best Practices for Content DevelopmentUsing the results from the needs assessment and the relevant materials and resources fromexisting courseware, the development team can begin to develop content with the mosteffective pieces in place, and then load these materials into the content library of their onlinetraining solution.The advantage that you can get with an online training tool like GoToTraining is that thedevelopment team can now tailor all aspects of the event to the specific needs of the audience.For example, if you were the training developer of the law firm, instead of simply adding thecontent from your LegalWay user manual to a PowerPoint presentation, you would take theresults of the needs assessment to demonstrate exactly how the new version of the softwareaccomplishes the tasks that the users told you they wanted to learn.By using the powerful shared desktop feature of GoToTraining, the trainer would actually openLegalWay software and go through the various steps with materials that participants areactually using and begin pleading documents, generating a table of authorities, and so on.Additionally, the instructor could give participants the “With GoToTrainings easy-to-control to access these documents in real time during the use features like tests, polls andsession. reporting, we can provide theYou assemble sample documents from various same value of face-to-facedepartments (i.e., family law, litigation, real estate for the training at half the price.”legal documents, etc.) and compile them in your — Jenina SmithGoToTraining online administration center. Chief Marketing OfficerYou might also introduce each demonstration with a Solutions Cube GroupPowerPoint presentation using screenshots of thesoftware to prepare the participants for the demo, andsummarize key points at the conclusion. This PowerPoint file might also serve as a preparatoryor supplemental handout for your session. 4
  5. 5. Both the sample documents for the demos, notes on how the demos should be carried out andthe screenshots and PowerPoint slides would be uploaded to your shared content library onGoToTraining and then (re)used in various live online events.These real-world demos can also be recorded with narration, along with annotations and audio.This allows video versions of the training to be viewed, reviewed and shared by any participant.Development ChecklistWhen looking for the optimal online training solution, keep in mind the following tools:  Customize registration to meet the needs of the program and the participantsFrom an online administration center, trainers can schedule new events with customizedregistration pages or copy existing events, as well as send invitations to participants. 5
  6. 6.  Provide a catalog and calendar of eventsThe centralized administration center provides a calendar of available events in catalog form,with tabs for upcoming trainings and archived (recorded) events. 6
  7. 7.  Maintain a library of content, including graphics, Web pages, presentations, demo files, surveys, polling questions, training manuals and materials, reusable tests and evaluations that can be (re)accessed for all of the organization’s eventsA content library makes training materials, tests and evaluations available for reuse andediting. It also allows trainers to upload and deliver dynamic content and analyze results withdetailed reporting 7
  8. 8. Other development features to look for include:  Library of reusable tests, materials and evaluations  Self-service registration pages and automated email reminders  Participant audio options for phone conferencing, including toll-free and VoIP  Configurable class sizes and the ability to perform pre-session tests and surveys  Invite attendees “on the fly” during an event — especially if excitement has been generated  Include a full range of subject matter experts regardless of physical location  Record, archive and make classes available for review and attendance after the live event — with detailed reporting  Database tools to analyze and adapt to the results of evaluations and tests to keep the training effective  Instructor-participant communication functions to ensure the transfer of skills from the training to the real world (e.g., chat, hand raising, presenter control, etc.)Using Your GoToTraining SolutionAfter a thorough series of rehearsals, you’re ready to start your training session.You will need to know where all of your demo materials and presentations are located —upload them to your dashboard from the content library.Brief any assistants and monitors on last-minute issues and begin recording — introducespeakers and begin the session.The speaker should maintain visual contact with the audience view on the dashboard and usedrawing tools, polls, hand raising and chat for interactivity. Changing presenters or launching aquiz on the fly can maintain interest and attention as well.Providing (downloaded) materials for lists and interactivity can further maintain participantinterest and engagement. 8
  9. 9. Live Online Training Resource ListWhen looking for the optimal online training solution, keep in mind the following resources:  Audio conferencing and chat dialogue maintain interactivity and connection with studentsAudio conferencing and live chat dialogs maintain a stream of direct communication betweenparticipants and organizer to report issues and pose questions for the moderator andspeaker. 9
  10. 10.  Desktop and application sharing demonstrate procedures, highlight key points, allow access to Web pages and PowerPoint presentations  Video recording and archive make content available for review and to those who missed the session  Instant invitations build promotional buzz and get attendance “on the fly”  Change presenters for maximum subject matter resources and change the pace of the training  Transfer keyboard and mouse control for demos and joint form fill gets everyone into the act  Drawing and annotation tools highlight key points and maintains participant attention  Multiple monitors enable trainers to watch the dashboard and participant view as they deliver content  Timer for tests and breaks keeps attendees alert and simulates a conventional classroom  Generate evaluations, tests and reportsReports provide a way to evaluate all phases of the training by detailing who attended, howthey tested, and the feedback provided about training sessions.  Analyzing the reports lets organizers evaluate the event and gauge retention of information and skill levels in order to make necessary adjustments 10
  11. 11.  Surveying participants for feedback and to monitor effectiveness of training to real- world situationsClosing SummaryLive online training has proven to be a uniquely powerful way to engage learners and ensureretention of information. GoToTraining is a tool specifically designed to address these issues inone comprehensive suite: 1. Effectively deliver the course material that is specifically planned and geared to the online venue using a content library, online administration center and simple-to-use registration process. 2. Maximize the ability of the instructor to connect to the participants and keep them engaged through creative subject matter presentation, interactive activities and involvement. 3. Provide powerful pre- and post-event assessments and follow-up activities to reinforce learned concepts and skills, and ensure the transfer of training to the workplace or other venue of application.When implementing a live online learning initiative to complement or augment existingmodalities, it is vital that the training platform support a wide spectrum of capabilities. Theability to seamlessly plan, schedule events, deliver interactive and compelling content, analyzereports and follow up with participants is a complete training process that will meet the needsof the organization and the attendees.About the Author:Tom Bunzel specializes in knowing what presenters need and how to make technology work. Heis currently completing a book, “Tools of Engagement: Presenting and Training in a World ofSocial Media.” He can be reached through his Web site: www.professorppt.com. 11

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