What!? Online training can be as good as face to face?

Most people love face to face training, but it’s not always viable. In our busy lives it’s not always easy to get people away from their jobs and into a classroom for an extended period of time. For businesses, it’s not always economically viable.  However, online alternatives can’t always capture the face to face experience. Online courses can be linear with heaps of text, don’t take into account what you already know and can feel a little lonely as you navigate through the ‘click next’ buttons.

Learning professionals are working hard to come up with solutions to make online training more engaging and relevant. It’s not always easy, the transition from classroom to online for trainers can be a big step. Technology is making it easier with affordable and practical solutions becoming more accessible. Only the other day I was amazed to see 3D goggles used in simulated training scenarios and 3D scans replicating your image in the online world as a viable option. There is really no limitation or excuse anymore for not creating online training that is just as good as or even better than the face to face classroom experience.

Face to face training is often considered superior because of the interaction participants have with the trainer and their peers. How many times have you learnt from the stories other participants tell or questions they ask or the network created as a result? This is known as social learning and it can be recreated online. Discussion boards, twitter feeds and chat functionality can give a participant an opportunity to connect, tell stories, ask questions and interact. For those that are new to the online world this can seem a little daunting.

This is where gamification can come in handy. If you haven’t already heard of gamification, put simply, it means using elements from games and incorporating them into the training. To gamify social learning, you could allocate points or other rewards for partipants to answer questions and interact with others. This isn’t a new concept, it’s been used in face to face training forever. I’m sure everyone has attended at least one training course where chocolates were thrown to participants when they answered a question. Creating comparable online situations to face to face is just about being a bit more creative.

People connect with stories, when a trainer is in front of a class they can use scenarios, examples and case stories to get their point across. I have participated in online training that forgets this basic principle in their eagerness to cramp their course with as much information as possible. Online training is mistakenly used as an online text book. The participant is required to read from cover to cover only instead of turning pages they are clicking a next button. At least with a text book, you can skip irrelevant chapters which is not always the case online. Online training is the perfect environment to introduce and get creative with case studies, stories and scenarios.

You can weave narrative themed analogies throughout your training material using technology such as interactive videos and augmented reality. Online courses can also be designed to have bite sized chunks where the participant can pick and choose what they what to learn about instead of being forced to follow a linear progression.

Designing online courses is a specialist skill above and beyond the skills of a face to face trainer.  There is however a growing number of technology and software available that make designing and hosting quality online training accessible for all educators or subject matter experts not just those with specialist online training experience. One such software is Curatr and it does the hard work for you. Curatr organises your material in small bite sized objects organised in levels.

To level up, participants watch or read whatever chunks interest them and are rewarded with points. Extra points are awarded if they join in discussions or interact with other participants. This software gives online training beginners an opportunity to deliver high quality training using best practise learning methodologies. For expert online designers, Curatr is a platform for them to showcase their creative skills.

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