8 Steps to Make Online Training Effective

As online learning becomes the norm for the foreseeable future, I am busy conducting sessions on creating online learning modules or helping organizations roll out online training sessions.

As a learning experience designer, I am constantly asking myself these questions: what makes an online training session effective? How can we increase retention and recall?

To experience sessions as a ‘learner’, I’ve also sat through many webinars and online training sessions. I must say, this has greatly helped me get a much better idea on what works and what doesn’t.

Here are some of my ideas to answer these questions:

1. Slow and simple: This is more true if you are creating an online module from a classroom session. The activities, tasks, role plays, etc. you typically do in a class will need to be thought through. You will have to simplify – reduce concepts, use videos, plan for group work, assessments based on your topic.

2. Shorten and lighten: Considering the average attention span of human beings is shorter than ever before, conducting sessions in multiples of 45 minutes works best. Keeping the sessions light, with some informal interaction will also help ease the burden of learning.

3. Interact and encourage participation: As a learner, sitting in a session where trainer who drones on for 15 minutes or more without a pause makes me sleepy or restless. I like interactive sessions that allow me ask questions – or at the very least type a question. And sometimes, a peer learner’s question may help me understand something better.

4. Open line of communication: I’ve been in sessions that allow learners to speak and some others who ask them to use chat to communicate. As you can figure out, both have pros and cons. But in either case, keeping an open line of communication is important so learners can feel connected.

5. Consider having a moderator: Most participants like asking questions as a session progresses. However, a trainer won’t have the luxury of reading each comment as a session unfolds. In such cases, it makes a lot of sense to have a moderator who can ensure nothing is lost in the flow of the session.

7. Go easy with on-screen text: All video conferencing tools allow screen share. However, no matter what content you share, the learner’s screen will include shared content, chat, and participant lists. Given the relatively small real estate on the screen, it makes more sense to reduce text and probably increase image on screen, and add videos.

8. Go tech: To make your session stand out (and reduce learner fatigue), use features like reactions, polling, breakout groups, etc. to improve the learning experience. Adding pre-reading material by email, assessments, forms, surveys on Survey Monkey, will definitely improve a session. 

That’s all I have for now. What would you add to this?