In Part Four of this series, we discussed an easy way to draft your content so that it aligns with the objectives of your training. Now, it’s time to focus on techniques that will help your learners as they take your training.
Online course authoring is less instructor driven than traditional face-to-face classroom training. This doesn’t mean training instructors should remove themselves from the training process, however. The expertise and guidance that trainers provide is too valuable to discount. In fact it’s a provable commodity that improves learner results. In light of this, online training is both an advantage and a challenge. It is an advantage because you don’t have to assemble a far flung team to do the training, and it is a challenge because you have to determine an effective way to provide guidance to learners across time zones, countries, and even continents.
In John Hattie and Gregory Donoghue’s meta analysis of effective learning strategies , students who received help or feedback from an instructor were more successful at consolidating information from short term to long term memory. This means learners who receive input from instructors as they take or complete lessons are more successful at recalling the information they learn. Fortunately, there are some great ways to interact with learners taking online training.
Make yourself available to learners virtually
Video conferencing, interoffice messaging systems, or discussion forums directly embedded in your course authoring software are all great ways to touch base with learners. All you have to do is schedule a time or times during which learners can connect with you. Think of it as virtual office hours, and consider whether these meeting times need to be optional or mandatory.
Your course authoring software should provide downloadable, detailed assessment results, and this is a good place to start when you are mapping out your strategy. You will probably always find a few learners who don’t need help to successfully complete your training, and you may therefore be tempted to make these instructor-student meetings optional. However, this approach assumes that struggling learners will actively seek out your help. If you are in a fast-paced work environment, where training happens alongside other work duties, these underperforming learners may find it easy to de-prioritize seeking help in order to focus on their day to day work responsibilities.
The better alternative is to arrange time to connect with all of your learners, no matter how they do in training sessions. While it does require a bit more effort, there are a couple of great reasons to do this. First, both your high and low performers are a resource. You want to know what set them apart from the rest of your learners. You might have a gap in your training that high performers are overcoming because they have prior knowledge they were able to call on. Your low performers might reveal a problem that isn’t related to your content at all. There are a variety of factors that can affect learner success rates, such as computer literacy or language differences.
Second, when these instructor-learner meetings are mandatory, it removes any stigma or pressure for your learners. If you only talk to learners who are struggling, then these meetings imply some degree of failure on the part of the learner, but if it’s something everyone is doing, there is no way for peers to make assumptions about each other’s performance. This isn’t just to spare team member feelings, however. There is well documented evidence that learners who feel pressure or anxiety underperform.
Providing learners with guidance promotes learning while reducing frustration and lost time. When learners understand what is expected and what they need to do to be successful, they perform better. Learners need to receive timely coaching to develop favorable learning behaviors. The last thing you want is for a learner to commit incorrect information to memory. Remember, the goal is to reinforce appropriate behaviors so learners master the content.
 “Learning strategies: a synthesis and conceptual model”, John AC Hattie and Gregory M Donoghue, Nature Partner Journals in partnership with The University of Queensland, revised April 12, 2016.