When we first migrated online, L&D teams scrambled to replicate training over Zoom only to find that videoconferencing resulted in limited learner engagement. While these initial results were disappointing, there’s still hope. We can adjust our strategies to develop new, more effective learning experiences as we continue to navigate this digital reality. Designing high-impact online training sounds daunting, but it’s a challenge we’re equipped to face. Using the three strategies detailed below, you can create facilitated, collaborative learning experiences that engage learners and drive business impact.
Strategy #1: Plan for SuccessStart small then scale. You don’t need to migrate all training online at once; choose one initiative to start with and grow from there. Begin with the:
- Most pressing (a cancelled in-person training)
- Program with the greatest impact (an initiative that increases employee engagement or business performance such as leadership development)
- Easiest program to transition online (one that already has online components)
Once you’ve selected an initiative, make a plan. Spending some time upfront creating a plan can ensure a successful learning experience. Start by forming a team that will help you develop this course. Then take an inventory of what technology and resources are available. This will inform the structure of your course and content. You can curate existing pieces or create new materials that can be reused such as videos, PowerPoints, and infographics. Lastly, outline your timeline. How much time do you have to accomplish your goals?
As you’re planning your learning experience, keep in mind that there’s no need to recreate the same materials each time. Think of ways to streamline that enable you to scale quickly, such as recycling course frameworks or creating content that can be used again.
Strategy #2: Choose Your Facilitation ModelDon’t fear digital facilitation. You can be effective no matter how much time you have. Incorporating facilitation to your course will encourage and guide learners as well as create opportunities for connection and deeper learning. We’ve identified three possible facilitator personas, listed below from lowest to highest involvement. The more involved your facilitation is, the more engaged your learners will be.
Train Conductor. Get the learning experience in motion and help make the ride smooth by laying a clear path forward (like a track).
- Leverage automated emails to communicate information, reminders, and encouragement.
- Create open discussion boards so learners can easily seek help.
Camp Counselor. Energize learners and create a safe, fun community (like summer camp).
- Monitor learner activity and take action to support learners where needed.
- Run engaging live events with polls, chat, and some fun games to connect the course community and excite learners.
Coach. Ensure the whole team (in our case, the learning community) is successful while supporting the development of each player with personalized attention.
- Provide individualized assignment feedback to promote deeper learning.
- Motivate and engage learners with personal check-ins that allow learners to reflect on their challenges, successes, and growth.
Strategy #3: Maintain Engagement and FeedbackInteractive aspects of face-to-face training—group collaboration, mentoring and coaching, peer sharing, and formal and informal feedback—can be done online and at scale. These social elements can enhance learner experience and learning outcomes.
- Create teams to make a large course feel more intimate and interactive.
- Involve mentors (subject matter experts or managers) to support deeper learning and increase retention rates.
- Incorporate peer sharing and feedback to catalyze community development and foster deep social connections.
Lastly, once your course is live, remember to track learners’ progress. Take advantage of data such as attendance rates, the amount of community interaction, and assignment completions so you can monitor activity, measure the impact of the course, and implement changes in the future.
While the pandemic has imposed obstacles for L&D, it has also opened our eyes to the vast opportunities for skill development online and at scale. Online learning enables you to create engaging experiences for your workforce that meet your learners’ needs. With these three strategies, you have the foundation to quickly create online courses at scale that promote deep learning and development as well as deliver the impact your business needs.