If you think that face-to-face training is the best way to do training, think again. New research shows that a blended approach produces 35-69 percent better outcomes than face-to-face alone.
What's a blended approach? It's a mixture of delivery modes, put together in a pattern to create the best result. For example, a blended course might involve one full day face-to-face, followed by several one-hour webinars delivered sequentially across a number of weeks. Another example might include a self-paced DVD program, followed by three two-hour webinars, followed by a live one-to-one coaching session.
The blended approach delivers even higher value than its impact on results in the workplace. It's also an important part of reducing the need to travel for the training. Time in training sessions is time away from the job, so many employers are happier with training at the desktop that lasts only an hour or two. In addition, corporations worldwide are eager to eliminate travel, weather across town or halfway around the world. So, when your business offers part or all of its training online, you have a competitive advantage that companies that hire you will value.
So if your business delivers training services, it's important to take a fresh look at how to restructure your training offerings to provide a significantly higher impact. If you plan on doing some live online training via Web conference technology, here are some success factors to help.
- Keep your online learning session short. For training webinars, limit each session to one to two hours. One hour is best, but two hours works well when the training is interactive enough.
- Tell students not to take notes, but instead to enjoy the experience of learning together. Promise your student participants a handout at the end of the session that captures all of the notes on the slides. If your slides are proprietary, you don't have to give them a copy. Instead, give them a high-value handout that details the critical points, lists, and actions that are required for your participants to be successful. In an online learning environment, a short and focused PDF handout is better than long and comprehensive book.
- Design your training webinar for vigorous, relevant, and continuous interaction. The toughest audience in the world is one that links from the desktop. At any moment in time, people are seconds a way from multitasking. The only way to keep people from multitasking is to create (1) extremely high value content, (2) delivered at a brisk pace, (3) intermixed with constant interaction that adds value to the experience of learning at that moment. When online trainers can't see the students' nonverbal cues, s/he has to be even more deliberate in building high quality interaction throughout the session.
- Have students meet from individual desktops, not a conference room. To get the highest level of interaction, it's best if each student links separately to the Web conference online learning session. That lets every student be able to participate easily and quickly in polls, chat discussions, imitation feedback, and voice interaction. When students meet from a conference room, sharing a computer inhibits rapid interaction that is needed to keep everyone else engaged. No one must be disadvantaged by location from being a full and equal participant in the learning.
- Design your slides for brain appeal. Your students cannot see your face. But they can be very engaged by the PowerPoint slides that you use in your training webinar. Avoid standard Microsoft PowerPoint templates. Instead, find commercial templates that better express the theme of your training. Avoid clipart. Instead, use commercially available photo art and photo images. Avoid standard formatting. Instead, skillfully learn how to create and design slides that engaged the attention of your desktop students.
- Team teach online learning sessions when you can. With experience and training, a single person can manage all aspects of an online learning session. But it's better to team teach in your initial training webinars. For example, while one person instructs, the other annotates, manages polls, sets up chat discussions, observes the participation of the students, and asks questions to keep interaction going.
- End with an online version of a standing ovation. You know that when you have delivered an excellent learning session. Students are eager to say how much they enjoyed the experience of learning with you. In an online learning environment, many trainers don't get that feedback. Before you end the online learning session, ask students to use chat to tell you what they learned that they will apply. Encourage them make several entries. Then a moment later ask them what they enjoyed most about the class. They will be able to share their comments with the group or with you privately, as you specify. If you ask your student participants to share their comments publicly in chat, everyone will see dozens of positive comments that reinforce the high-value of your content as well as a very enjoyable interactive session, too.
- End the online learning session with a three-minute online survey. Most Web conference platforms will allow you to drop the student off at a website where you can poll them on the metrics that show the value of your online learning program or session. If a company hired you (vs. individuals), summarize the information from the feedback form, and send it to the client. If students registered independently, neutralize the feedback and post the data on your website, along with quotes (of course, by permission).