As we face uncertain times, many organizations that rely on in-person customer training are looking to quickly transition to remote learning to offer a more scalable, flexible learning experience. While some of these organizations have been transitioning to a blended delivery model for years, some still have a significant percentage of their training programs as in-person offerings.
For organizations facing this challenge, there are options. The key to the transition is making sure that, while things need to move quickly, you take a moment to confirm you have the right technology/infrastructure, and you are thinking further out than 3-4 weeks from now on your content and delivery strategy. Creating a truly scalable training program is going to offer tangible, long-term benefits to your customers and your organization.
Here is some advice for organizations looking to make the transition from in-person to online learning programs.
STEP 1: The Immediate Transition. Moving In-Person Training Programs to Virtual Events
The first response for organizations delivering or relying on in-person events, conferences, or training programs when faced with business upheaval is to look at virtual event options. Organizations tend to search for virtual conferencing or webinar tools such as Zoom, GotoWebinar, GoToTraining, WebEx, Adobe Connect, On24 and that is a good start. However, in most cases, these technologies are just one part of the overall solution you will need.
Webinar technologies are critical for the actual live event delivery. Where they lack functionality is in pre-sale and registration, ecommerce, pre-learning, post-learning and other key post-event and ancillary features such as cohort performance measurement, user management, learner insights, training pathways, certification management and more.
To deliver a more comprehensive experience, you should combine that virtual event experience with your learning platform. This provides you with the tools and resources to not only transition your events, but also help you run your training business holistically. Most enterprise learning platforms, including ours, seamlessly integrate with all of the popular virtual meeting technologies.
Once you have stabilized and transitioned from the in-person to virtual training phase, it’s time to begin the optimization phase.
STEP 2: Optimization. Introducing Self-Paced Pre- and Post-Learning to your Virtual Trainings
While virtual events are effective ways to deliver live training, a portion of the time invested in these events is dedicated to housekeeping and non-critical content.
Introducing pre- and post-learning is a proven best practice for good training product design. It helps improve revenue margins and may enable you to cut your live programming by 50 percent. How many in-person events have you been to where the first hour is subject background, admin, or getting to know your fellow attendees? This is all unnecessary in a live setting and should be done in a self-paced, pre-learning environment.
For pre-learning, provide a background and overview, an instructor bio, video introduction from the instructors, an “introduce yourself segment” and share items you would like addressed by the instructor. Providing downloadable assets for the live event helps ensure attendees are ready to go when the event kicks-off. Last and very important is training product margins. By introducing pre and post-learning you will positively affect the learning experience, truncate the length of the live training and increase your profit margins.
Post-learning falls into the same category of a well-designed training product. How many in-person or virtual training programs have you been to when 3-weeks later, without any follow-up, your recollection or adoption of the training practices has dissolved? A strong reinforcement program and adoption focus is critical to every successful training practice. Consider adding self-paced content that can roll out systematically for a number of weeks following the program. Keep the cohort engaged and enable them to share their wins and challenges with one another as they implement what they have learned. Add assessments or certifications. There are many powerful things you can do in this phase, including recommending the next training opportunity, to take your training to the next level and deepen your customer relationships.
STEP 3: Scalability. Introducing Self-Paced Training Products
We find that our most successful customers have a diversified training product catalog. What that means is they have a variety of training products and monetization approaches in their business. This provides a wider net to cater to individuals and customers who want options in how they prefer to learn. An obvious addition to in-person and virtual training is the self-paced online course. This is what we’ll focus on here, but other product options, such as micro-learning (short format learning items, for e.g. articles, summaries or videos), are also proven to improve product engagement and provide a more accelerated development pathway.
Below are some ways that the self-paced learning model can be implemented:
Self-Paced Online Courses
This is a fully self-paced online course that users can sign up for at any time and learn at their own pace. To reduce costs and save time, you'll need a learning technology with a native authoring tool to host, manage and accelerate the development and delivery of your training products. Self-paced courses are very powerful -- you build once, continuously improve by studying the engagement metrics, and create scale as you move on to the next one. Learners enrolled in self-paced learning can be a bit more transient, so you’ll want to make sure you have notifications in place to remind learners about their progress and keep them engaged.
The benefits of the fully self-paced online course is that there is evergreen enrollment and learners can dedicate time, whenever and wherever they have it, to training. In addition, there are exponentially higher margins than in-person training, as you’re eliminating the costs and logistics of teaching at a specific place and time. Self-paced training products are a must for every organization.
Time-based, Semi-asynchronous Online Courses
This is a great hybrid model that has been successfully deployed for decades. Using a self-paced online course model, the basic formula is to have a course start on a specific date with an instructor. Content is then released weekly over a determined period of time. It creates a cohort and sequences the training delivery, so the progress of the cohort is in sync and the instructor is moderating weekly. The idea is that learners engage in self-paced content and there is a live chat or virtual workshop/office hours at a predetermined time. In this model, having a post-work social learning component adds great value, where learners comment on each other’s projects/work. Additionally, set deadlines and have private messaging between the instructor and learners (this could even be a premium offering) for more personalized feedback.
As I mentioned, organizations are expected to move quickly to address existential business challenges. The good news is there is a well established pathway to act swiftly. We are working with a group of our customers who are currently making this accelerated transition. The only words of advice: quickly transition to virtual, then immediately work on scalability. It will offer more value and longevity to your training operations.