Most expert trainers are realistic about how much they can improve someone’s performance in a one-off workshop.  The trainers we work with often say “I’d love to coach people for a few months or a whole year, but the organization won’t pay for that, at least not for junior staff.”

Fortunately, there are ways to offer a more extended learning experience for the same cost as a one-off by intelligently leveraging online delivery.

Specifically:

  • Break up those week-long blocks: When organizations fly people to face-to-face training events, they typically want as many training hours as possible in return.  This breeds a tendency towards overstuffed marathon workshops where learners spend days away from their usual work environment.

    The problem is that this doesn’t match how people learn.  Shorter lessons, with time in between to reflect and try out new skills in the workplace, generally work better.  

    By reducing costs, online training and coaching can allow for more sessions spread out over time, with any time that would have been spent in transit going towards more interaction instead.

  • Use a chat/discussion platform like Slack to support “just in time” learning: Organizations usually take a “just in case” approach to learning, exposing people to a wide range of skills and concepts during training events, most of which participants will likely forget before a chance arises to apply them.  However, there’s a growing trend towards “just in time” learning, which de-emphasizes conventional training and focuses instead on providing fast answers to specific questions that come up on the job.

    Offering learners a platform where they can post questions and receive guidance from coaches, peers and other experts can greatly improve learning.  This can be accomplished via traditional discussion forums or a modern collaboration platform like Slack. Over time, you can write blog posts / knowledge base articles with answers to frequently asked questions, allowing you to spend less time reiterating the basics and focus on application.

  • Use the right formats for self-guided material: The best online training programs usually take a “blended” approach, with self-guided modules covering theory and instructor-led sessions to discuss application. The key to self-guided learning is to know your audience’s preferences.  If you’re training attorneys or scientists who can speed-read, then skip the narrated slideshow and just give them text articles (or at least offer transcripts of any videos). If your training involves hands-on skills where a demo is worth a thousand words, then video might be the way to go.
  • Upgrade your online delivery skills: Online training done poorly can be painful for all involved.  While “online” and “classroom” delivery best practices are mostly the same (i.e., avoid lecture, make it a dialogue between learners and the instructor), there’s less margin for error online, as it’s easier for audiences to tune out.  Hence, the first step for developing effective online training is often to brush up on instructor-led training fundamentals.

If your organization is interested in developing strategies to maximize learning with minimal formal training, feel free to contact Sonata Learning for a consultation.

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Emil Heidkamp is the founder and senior learning strategist at Sonata Learning.  He works with NGOs, corporations and government agencies to implement training and knowledge management initiatives impacting thousands of learners in over 50 countries.