Organizations that plan on increasing spending on learning initiatives in the next 12-24 months will do so by 87%. And best-in-class organizations will increase spending on learning initiatives by 121%, according to Aberdeen Research. Specifically, when it comes to online training, 24% of organizations plan to adopt learning technologies (e.g., online, mobile) to appeal to multiple learning styles and relieve business pressures that can be solved through knowledge sharing. There’s no question that the Learning & Development (L&D) field is expanding.
Online training is a significant force in the L&D field. Yet, the online training that many people experience at work is built on static content. Online training is often synonymous with online presentations, static slides, and perhaps a video and/or voice-over recording—a one-to-one experience that rarely incites true learning engagement.
In-reality, new ideas and technologies are allowing online training to evolve into a many-to-many learning experience, where learning is social and collaborative. Learning professionals are breaking conventions to design online training that supersedes the “online-training-equals-online-presentation” mindset of old. According to Aberdeen Research’s report, best-in-class organizations are “78% more likely to use user-generated content for learning, 72% more likely to enable social leaning through technology and 32% more likely to encourage learning from peers, not just from managers.”
Including interactive elements into online training can introduce useful layers into learning content. Creative use of video, infographics, cinemagraphs, animation, lo-fi graphics, audio and voice-over, to name a few, can improve learner engagement and information retention.
Consider This: Take variety and interactivity to the collaborative level by asking subject matter experts or learners to contribute video, infographics, etc. to enhance learning. For example, if your online training is targeted towards training the sales force on a new product, ask engineers and product designers to create videos that cover portions of the new product in depth. Ask beta customers or early adopters to create infographics or voice-recordings discussing the most useful features of the product, and trouble spots that may need more attention in the sales process. Added all together in an online gallery accessible through the online training course, your learners will gain a richer learning experience through access to “experts”.
Businesses are flocking toward agile development and other lean processes in greater numbers, as a way to value individuals, have working prototypes to discuss with others, increase levels of collaboration with customers, and to respond quickly to marketplace changes.
Consider This: Lean and agile processes are highly collaborative by nature. Being agile involves breaking up work into small chunks, always having working “product” to show, and being able to make quick changes in direction to respond to the customer. When building online training, consider using microlearning techniques. Break up learning content into small, easily-learned chunks, such as 2- to 10-minute videos. Have those videos created by experts, peers or partners to introduce a collaborative angle. Or, challenge your team to create online training content in one day. Collecting all these “mini-modules” into one overarching program could result in valuable training that was created in a lean, efficient manner. When that content needs to be updated, the update could be accomplished by a team of people spending less than a day on the updates.
Mobile learning, or mLearning, is learning, education or support delivered on mobile devices. Mobile devices can include Smartphone’s, tablets, notebooks, MP3 players, wireless gaming consoles, or any technology that allows the learner to leave the desk and move while learning. mLearning is collaborative as content sharing can occur instantaneously.
Consider This: When learning is enabled on a mobile device, learners can easily integrate social learning technologies with learning. Microblogging (texting), the ability to share relevant photos and videos with experts or other learners, and the ability to access others who have a vested interest in the learning conversation allows for one-to-many, or even many-to-many learning experiences. For example, you can incorporate multimedia content on the internet into your online training via QR (Quick Response) codes. So, you can easily direct learners to point-of-need video, audio, graphics when they scan a QR code with their mobile device. You can also differentiate learning by directing subgroups of learners to different content via unique QR codes. For example, for a new product launch, sales people and tech support personnel could be directed to differentiated content via QR codes, keeping the content each learner accesses completely relevant to his or her job role.
Blend It Up
When, despite pulling out all the stops on your creativity, online training by itself is simply not collaborative enough for your overall social learning initiative and goals, consider a blended learning initiative. Use online training as a part of the overall program to extend training beyond a single “event”.
With a creative outlook on the possibilities of online training, it’s possible to take online training past the artificial limits of simply hosting a one-way presentation online. Make every online training experience a full-fledged learning opportunity by encouraging social learning and collaboration.
Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.