by Melissa Smith and Maria Chilcote, Managing Partners and Owners, The Training Clinic
Have TONS of asynchronous learning out there that no one’s using? You’re not alone. There’s been a trend in corporate training that ‘more is better.’ And so over the years, we have “stuffed” the clouds and taken a “Build it and they will come” mentality to asynchronous training.
(For those just getting into the virtual world of learning, synchronous training involves real time training with a live instructor while asynchronous training is self-paced, allowing the learners to log on when they can to read, complete assignments, post discussion questions, etc.)
We have received a steady stream of calls this year from folks who say, “We have so much stuff OUT THERE but no one is using it!” Each time we heard this, we imagined space junk just floating out there in cyberspace.
Although the virtual synchronous training out there needs a lot of ‘tending to’ in order to honor adult learning concepts, make it interactive, increase retention, etc., it’s asynchronous training that is suffering the most. Even when well designed, without the proper support systems our asynchronous learning efforts are literally turning into virtual “space junk.”
Start at the beginning and plan your approach. Major considerations include:
- Analyze the target population. What’s their access to and experience with and attitude toward online learning platforms?
- Define/assess the training needs. What’s in it for the learner to take an asynchronous course? How does the course tie into something they’ve already learned? How are learners going to use this new knowledge?
- Clarify expectations and objectives with supervisors. Yes, asynchronous learning needs objectives, too!
- Select program content and methods that honor adult learning and meet agreed upon objectives. Even though it’s asynchronous, you can still make the course interactive. Depending on your learning objective, you can spice things up by having the learner complete a self-assessment, take a quiz, post a question, join a discussion group, link in to someone on a collaborative platform, conduct a virtual scavenger hunt, or whatever fits your content.
- Identify support that will be needed to monitor and facilitate threaded discussions, read and provide feedback on assignments, and coach performance. Who can learners access to ask a question, clarify a term, provide an example or turn to with other needs? In other words, just because the learning is self-directed doesn’t mean you do away with a facilitator!
How you launch your asynchronous offerings is important, too. A launch plan should include these key factors:
- Provide education and training about the benefits and uses of the system, its features, and compliance requirements.
- Identify champions, a few key individuals who have a lot of credibility and who are likely to be excited about and use the courses. Invite them to record short presentations to welcome learners and encourage them to participant in the online initiative.
- Brainstorm ideas to encourage use. For example:
- Offer tangible rewards and recognition such as certificates of completion, publish names of people who have successfully completed courses, hold a drawing for a prize for everyone completing a course in a given month.
- Link online learning to your performance management process.
- Plan an ongoing marketing campaign that provides regular news about courses. Remember, if no one knows it’s there, no one knows it’s there! Create the buzz to make them curious, and they will come.
Then, once your asynchronous courses are up and running, follow-up!
- Provide supervisors with information to assist in follow-up coaching and support.
- Host ongoing discussion groups specific to the training content; make online resources available.
- Validate content with observation of use of skills on the job.
- Evaluate results of changed behavior with supervisors.
- Review and revise training content and process as needed.
- Publish successes – write a blog for the newsletter about success stories; send a summary to management.
- Research drop-outs data; respond to any negative comments with a phone call or visit.
And last, but not least, maintain quality – clean up your junk! As the system owner, one of your key jobs is making sure that the content is current, complete, and accurate. There are many things you can do to help maintain the health – and the usefulness – of your courses.
- Conduct spot checks. Look for information that is incorrect, in the wrong place, labeled incorrectly, inactive links, etc.
- Use reports and other system tools. For example, you can pull up course lists and then look for old courses or you can use the ratings on courses to find courses that people do not find useful.
- Monitor discussions. Discussion boards will require special attention. If possible, appoint one or two monitors to each forum to make sure that the discussions are complete and accurate.
Virtual training is great – except when it’s not! What are YOUR thoughts about space junk orbiting around in your organization?
Melissa Smith and Maria Chilcote
Managing Partners, Owners, The Training Clinic
We are the trusted partner of choice for learning and performance professionals worldwide.
With over 35 years of experience, we specialize in the design, implementation, evaluation, coordination and management of training. We provide the full range of train the trainer workshops and certifications along with facilitation, instructional design and performance consulting services.
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