With kids going back to school (mostly virtually) and adults still working from home, we need to continue tweaking training and learning for an online or e-learning setting. Many people felt the pain of starting this transition from in-classroom to online in the spring. But there are still plenty of lessons to be learned to make it better.
I heard about the challenges my clients were having with Learning & Development (L&D) during this time, with some popping up more often than others. When it comes to challenges, I love to find the solution. So, here is my list of the top L&D challenges and how to navigate the maze of each one.
Challenge: We were thrust into a virtual training situation in the spring with no time to prepare.
1. Learn from past mistakes. We all learned valuable lessons from the remote learning experiments in the spring that showed it takes more than just deploying laptops and adopting online learning technology. Now, you realize it’s about adapting your curriculum and the way it’s delivered as well.
2. Deliver differently, as warranted. You may need to alter your communication style and be live more often if you’re the instructor. In addition, the learner may need to choose virtual training because it allows for more interaction with the instructor vs. e-learning where there isn’t one. However, the up-side of e-learning is that it provides flexibility for the learner to do the training when it fits into their schedule.
3. Prepare the learner. It’s a good idea to prepare your students for virtual and/or e-learning, because they’re probably used to in-classroom training. For example, take them on a guided tour through your learning management system (LMS), pointing out the different features and functionality. Show them how to find materials, assignments and assessments.
4. Be adaptable. The key is flexibility. Figure out what works for your employees as learners and your L&D team as trainers and/or developers of the curriculum. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We’re all in the same boat. And, if you need to incorporate some outside help, contract L&D professionals are a great way to fill-in any bandwidth or skills gaps you might have.
Challenge: Our trainers/instructors were not well versed in teaching in an online setting.
1. Never stop learning. School teachers were probably the most impacted by this in this spring because they had little to no experience teaching in an online setting. Some of the frustrations can come from the technology that’s supposed to be supporting your efforts to teach in this setting. So, it’s helpful to stay up-to-date and train yourself on the newer technology that’s available for virtual and e-learning. It’s going to help you be the best online instructor you can be. Once you find a tool that works, stick with it.
2. Engage the learner. One of the big challenges with being new to an online education environment is keeping the learner interested in what you’re teaching. It’s no secret that with in-classroom learning, it’s easier to keep learners engaged. Think about some things you can do to make remote learners into active learners. First and foremost, make course content easy to digest and retain by delivering it in bite-sized chunks. Neuroscience has proven that our attention span is 10 minutes. To further break up the lessons, you can:
- Have students take quizzes that provide immediate results.
- Deliver content in different formats: videos, audio, text and panel discussions.
- Ask students questions.
- Break into smaller groups for team assignments. You can do this in tools like Teams or Zoom.
- Discuss how they can apply what they’ve learned by sharing case studies.
- Make the learning into an interactive game.
Challenge: We didn’t have content catered to learning online or virtually.
1. Conversion is key. Materials for your instructor-led-training has to be converted to usable content for either e-learning or for a virtual classroom. It’s not enough to simply publish lecture notes, videos or a PowerPoint online and call it e-learning. It won’t be effective. Ineffective remote learning will only compound an existing problem of widespread dissatisfaction with corporate education and training. A Harvard Business Review article said, despite $359 billion spent globally each year on training, “not only is the majority of training in today’s companies ineffective, but the purpose, timing and content of training is flawed.”
2. Leverage an Instructional Designer. If you need those conversions done, and you or your team don’t have the expertise, many times leveraging the skills of an Instructional Designer can be a game changer. This role is typically tasked with redesigning courses, developing new courses or curriculum from scratch, and creating training materials such as manuals, user guides and learning modules. And, they typically have these 7 must-have skills.
3. Focus on user experience and assessments with e-learning. The e-learning materials must be organized, bridge the gaps that would be filled in by an instructor and have transitions that are easy to follow. With no instructor, it’s hard to know how much they are getting out of the course. The only way to find out is to integrate assessments. This can also function to reinforce learning and enable learners to check whether they understand the content or not.
Challenge: We don’t have a good closed-loop feedback system to determine what trainings are actually effective in increasing learners’ knowledge and skills.
1. Tools, tools and more tools. There are lots of tools out there to help you evaluate how much someone has learned. E-learning platforms are typically adept at quantitative assessments but a good LMS will offer tools to assist in qualitative assessment too. Some of these include online tests and quizzes, exercises that aren’t graded, homework and course projects. And with most tools, you can automate the process and receive easy-to-digest reports that can help the instructor evaluate the student and the overall effectiveness of the course.
2. Go beyond tests and quizzes. When it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of your training, you can’t just rely on tests and quizzes. You need to do more. As the instructor, you have to assess your learners and adjust accordingly, over the entire course and in a single lesson. One way to do that is through one-on-one sessions using video, audio, an online chat or a combo of these. This can be particularly effective to reveal any issues the learner is having and encourage them. Something not done effectively by a computer or a bot.
All in due time
Ideally, participating in remote learning will become a habit. Although that may take time. According to Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — on average, 66 days. But, how long it takes can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person and the circumstances.
The moral of the story? Give it time, patience and give yourself a break. It’s tough, and we’re all in this together. If you need assistance overcoming your L&D pain points, contact us. We’re happy to help!
About the author
Tim Pape serves as the Market Manager of our San Francisco office. In this position, he leads the sales and recruiting teams to ensure a high level of delivery for each and every customer. He also owns market strategies and initiatives to grow the Synergis brand. Tim has nine years of staffing industry experience, serving in Recruiter and Account Executive roles prior to his current position. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Georgia Southern University. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time as a newlywed with his wife and puppy, reading, traveling, golfing & cheering on his favorite sports teams.