Chances are, if you or your organisation provided any sort of training prior to the pandemic, in 2020 you would have had to move some or all of it online.

According to industry statistics, the global online learning market is projected to be worth $325 billion in 2025 (in comparison, the corresponding figure for 2014 was $165.36 billion (as reported by Chernev, 2021).

Suffice to say, there’s a lot of demand for online learning. It has clear benefits like being time- and cost-effective and much more scalable than face-to-face training. Online learning can even increase retention rates by as much as 60% compared to the 8-10% retention rate of typical classroom training (as reported by Growth Engineering, 2021).

As we pointed out in Part 1 of this blog post series, a decision to move your training programmes online doesn’t come without its challenges. Not least because the learner’s educational needs in a face-to-face environment differ from those in an online setting. There is also the matter of building an online learning strategy that is sustainable for your business and enables growth.

You may have already considered all this and are at the point of deciding whether to get external help to audit your content and develop online-native training programmes (we’re always happy to talk here: Learnium) or whether you’ll go at it alone.

If you’re not quite there yet, have a look at the questionnaire we put together in Part 1 which will help you decide on the transition to online delivery. Whatever stage you’re at and however you decide to tackle this, we hope this step-by-step guide will be useful.

 

Step 1: Prioritise programmes

You’ve identified the need to switch from face-to-face training to online methods. The question now is where to start – which face-to-face course should you prioritise for digitisation? It would help if you start by going through your existing programmes and sorting them under the following four categories (as summarised by Kineo, 2020):

  • Tactically critical – the type of training you need to deliver to your employees so your operations run safely and in accordance with the law
  • Urgent and important – training necessary to achieve short to medium-term goals
  • Important – training that impacts your longer-term, strategic goals
  • Necessary – training you need to deliver but could be postponed without immediate impact

Or you can organise around the below axes:

Prioritise learning programmes to move online

Source: Kineo, 2020

 

Step 2: Determine qualification level

This guide is mainly to help you convert your existing face-to-face courses into an online training programme, but let’s just quickly summarise what qualification levels are all about and why they are so important.

The qualification shows employers, teachers and learners what the learner has learnt and what they are able to do as a result of that learning. There is a large variety of qualifications available so they are grouped together into levels to show how they compare and what other qualifications they can lead to. In the UK, most qualifications that are taken through work, school, college or university, fit into one of nine levels (12 in Scotland). The higher the level, the harder the qualification (NI Direct, 2021).

Knowing the difficulty level you are aiming at will help you determine who your learners are and how to best approach them, and also what pieces of content you should include or leave out to match that difficulty level.

For more information on qualification levels, you can go here: What qualification levels mean – GOV.UK.

 

Step 3: Develop programme framework

Once you’ve clarified which course to digitise first and the qualification level you are aiming at, it’s time to develop a programme framework, or in other words, a breakdown of all the topics and everything the learner needs to know by the end of the course.

Start by listing down the learning outcomes and mapping them against the topics that you will deliver those outcomes.

 

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are simply your answers to this question: ‘At the end of this course, what do I want my learner to be able to do?

For example, at the end of a Level 3 training programme on Digital Marketing, you might want your learners to be able to define the key components of a digital marketing strategydevelop relevant buyer personas or structure a marketing story narrative and so on.

Learning outcomes should always be specific and actionable as they are the measurable achievements that the learner will be able to demonstrate by the end of the programme.

The following graphic representation of Bloom’s Taxonomy will help you formulate the right learning outcomes for your programme. As you go up the pyramid, higher-order skills and abilities are required and developed.

bloom's taxonomy

 

Matching topics to outcomes

You now need to outline all the topics you’ll need to cover during the programme to deliver those outcomes.

One way to do this is by brainstorming relevant topics and putting them into 2 categories:

  • Essential topics for understanding the matter at hand, and
  • Nice-to-have topics that would be beneficial if the time frame allows it.

For example, if the course you are digitising is around health and safety in catering and hospitality, an essential subject to cover would be ‘slips, trips and falls awareness’. An ‘overview of government legislation around workplace health and safety through the years’ would be considered nice-to-have as it’s of lesser practical importance.

Another way to help develop your framework is by researching what other certified training programmes teach around that same topic. Compare your content to other programmes that may be accredited by awarding bodies like City & Guilds. What topics do those courses cover? What content requirements do they have to meet to gain that accreditation?

 

Step 4: Audit your own content

You’ve now established the framework for the programme you want to turn digital. Next, you need to take stock of the content you already have in place and see if it matches the framework. Where are the topic matter gaps you need to fill? What topics do you already have covered, and which of those might not necessarily be relevant to the new framework?

To help this, you can sort your content in a spreadsheet. This way you can determine:

  • What you should update
  • What you should delete, and
  • What you may need to reorganise.

 

Step 5: Pick evaluation criteria and method

To determine the effectiveness of your training programme, you need to have an evaluation method in place.

You can use the Kirkpatrick Model, a widely recognised method of evaluating training effectiveness. You assess your programme against the following 4 levels of criteria:

 

Level 1: Reaction

This measures how the learners reacted to the training, whether they found it engaging, useful and relevant to their jobs or situation.

Reaction is most commonly assessed by an after-training survey in which you ask the learners to rate their experience.

A crucial component of Level 1 analysis is a focus on the learner versus the trainer.

Evaluation category

Trainer-centred

Learner-centred

Programme objectives

The programme objectives were clearly defined.

The programme objectives were covered by the instructor.

The material was the right level of complexity for my background.

I understood the learning objectives.

I was able to relate each of the learning objectives to the learning I achieved.

I was appropriately challenged by the material.

Course materials

The course materials were well organised.

The course materials complemented the course content.

I found the course materials easy to navigate.

I felt that the course materials will be essential for my success.

Content relevance

The material was relevant to my needs. I will be able to immediately apply what I learned.

Facilitator knowledge

The facilitator demonstrated a good understanding of the material.

The facilitator shared their experience in regards to the content.

My learning was enhanced by the knowledge of the facilitator.

My learning was enhanced by the experiences shared by the facilitator.

Source: Ardent Learning, 2020

 

Level 2: Learning

This measures whether the learners acquire the intended knowledge and skills. This is typically done by traditional assessment methods at the end of course. It can also be useful to evaluate learners’ competencies at the beginning, so you can measure the level of improvement by the end.

Below are some of the assessment methods you can employ in an online delivery context:

  • Online quizzes – they can take many forms, including multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks and hotspots. Before the lesson, the learner can take a non-graded quiz to measure their existing knowledge.
  • Open-ended/Essay questions – best suited for evaluating higher-level learning as it encourages critical thinking. You prompt the learners to explore their thoughts and opinions on the particular topic.
  • Branching scenario questions – develop a series of questions around what approach the learner would take in a certain situation. The start point is the same for all learners but depending on their choice throughout the activity (sometimes in the form of a game), they’ll be taken to different conclusions. For inspiration, think of Netflix’s 2018 interactive film, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
  • Drag-and-drop activities – using images and text, you create a real-life scenario where the learners need to sort items under categories to solve a practical problem. For example:

Drag-and-drop activity created with Articulate Storyline

A slide from drag-and-drop activity created with Articulate Storyline

  • Online interviews – you can use a brief online interview to ask the learner to demonstrate the skills they’ve learnt, where the mastery of that skill is an important requirement. After the demonstration, you can provide them with feedback.
  • Dialogue simulations – a way to train learners for real-life conversations with customers, colleagues or other relevant people.

Dialogue simulation created with Articulate Rise

A slide from a dialogue simulation created with Articulate Rise

  • Online surveys – you can use these to ask your audience directly what their feedback is, for example, why they made a particular choice during the course.
  • Educational games – test learners’ comprehension with specially designed online games. For example, if you teach entrepreneurship, a snakes-and-ladders style game where the snakes represent myths and poor practices and the ladders represent good practices and strategies.
  • Peer evaluation and review – ask the learners to review and mark each other’s work. This is also a good learning opportunity as they will need to reflect on what they’ve learned to critique and provide structured feedback to their peers.

 

Level 3: Behaviour

It’s important to understand whether your training programme had a real impact on the learner, to see if the knowledge they gained is being applied or it changed their behaviour in some way.

To check if your learners have transformed their behaviour as a result of the training, you can use self-assessment questionnaires, on-the-job practice and skills checks, interviews with supervisors and colleagues, сustomer surveys and so on.

If the learner doesn’t show a behavioural change, that could mean either:

  • That the training was ineffective, or
  • That the company culture, organisation or processes aren’t yet equipped to deal with these changes.

Either way, you would need to investigate and uncover the reasons.

 

Level 4: Results

Level 4 tries to answer the question of whether or not your training programme was successful. That is done by measuring the direct results of the training against the business’ Key Performance Indicators set on a managerial level.

Common KPI’s include higher return on investments, reduction in errors and better retention of staff.

If after completing the course, the learner starts meeting or improving on their KPIs, it’s highly likely that the training led to these results and was therefore successful.

 

Step 6: Choose delivery model

As we previously discussed, online learning can take many shapes and forms. It can be on-demand, blended with live video calls, but also online delivery can complement or be complemented by face-to-face training or mentoring. Depending on your learners’ needs, you may decide that the content you teach works just as well 100% online as it does in-person, or you may take the blended approach and introduce some person-to-person elements, such as practice sessions, workshops or job shadowing. Most training programs will include a variety of delivery methods.

 

Online training delivery

There are two types of online training. The first one is synchronous where the learners and the teacher or just their peers are online at the same time doing something together in a live setting. Asynchronous training, on the other hand, is self-directed; the learner, in their own time, completes the activities they are required to complete.

 

Mobile or desktop?

When developing an online training programme, instructional designers need to consider who the audience is, when and where the training will be completed, and nature of the content being delivered (i.e. types of activities needed).

In many cases, mobile training (or learning on your smartphone) would be the way to go. Most people now own a smartphone, and mobile-only learners now outnumber desktop-only learners. Furthermore, mobile learning results in a 72% increase in user engagement, as reported by Parmley (2022), Gutierrez (2022) and others. The Lemo app is a good example of learning designed for mobiles.

Desktop delivery, however, might be more appropriate for audiences more familiar with using their laptop or computer. Or perhaps if the company uses a web-based LMS or doesn’t provide smartphones. Find out more about how you can enhance your learners’ desktop training experience.

 

Some topics of training, typically theory-based or regulatory, are well suited to online delivery:

  • Safety training
  • Technical training
  • Quality training, and
  • Professional training

However, soft-skills training like leadership or team training may require a different, more personalised delivery method.

 

Blended training delivery

One of the reasons blended learning works well for delivering personalised training is that our brain is wired to learn from other people, via social interactions. However challenging it may seem to replicate face-to-face interactions online, with a combination of different teaching methods and digital tools, it is possible.

Let’s take soft skills training as an example. Because of its inherently personal nature, it is the perfect contender for a blended training programme.

To start the online part, you can pose a series of open-ended questions asking the learner to reflect on their interpersonal skills. Then, you can ask them to watch some theory videos on the subject. Finally, to emphasise the social learning aspect, you can arrange face-to-face role-play sessions with mentors or peers where you can observe your learners’ progress.

 

Make note: You have to consider the different learning styles

When choosing what delivery model to adopt, you need to make sure you cater to a variety of learning styles. Some people would learn better by seeing the information written up, while others would prefer to listen to it. In your programme, you should aim to accommodate as many learning styles as sensible.

Here is an overview of some recognised learning styles:

  • Visual – these learners need to see it to learn it. They may respond well to images, colours, or mind maps.
  • Kinaesthetic – these learners are all about doing things physically. For them, activities such as role-playing, having materials physically printed so they can fiddle them in their hands may work well.
  • Aural – these learners would remember something more if they hear it rather than read it.
  • Social – these learners work best when they participate in study activities with other people, for example quizzing each other or having a study group.
  • Solitary – these learners work best alone. For example, they may prefer to make notes and recite them back when studying by themselves.
  • Verbal – these learners respond well to written or spoken words, using tools like rhymes and acronyms.
  • Logical – these learners use logic and structures in order to learn effectively.

 

Steps 7: Create the content

We will cover this in our next blog post, How to Create Content for an Online Learning Programme (coming soon).

 

To sum it all up

Let’s repeat the steps to plan a successful online learning course:

  1. Prioritise a programme
  2. Determine its qualification level
  3. Develop the programme framework
  4. Audit the content you already have
  5. Pick the evaluation criteria
  6. Choose the delivery method
  7. Proceed to create the content

 

To be continued…

This piece is the second part of an extended series of blog posts in which we are discussing what practical steps you can take to create not only an efficient online learning programme but a whole new engaging learning experience.

The series includes:

Part 1 – Moving Your Face-to-Face Training Online: Challenges and Good Practices

Part 3 – How to Create Content for an Online Learning Programme

Part 4 – How to Measure the Success of Your Online Learning Programme

 

Thank you for reading and until next time!

 

 

References