What is live online training (LOT)and how do we do it so well?
When we're talking about an online classroom, we mean a synchronous environment with a leader and participants in multiple locations speaking and
interacting with one another at the same time, much as they would in a physical classroom. Participants can raise their hands, take surveys or tests, and participate in learning activities in a number of different ways. Audio is included in some products through Voice over IP, although some products provide only the collaboration and information-sharing tools and a phone is used for audio.
What are the similarities and differences?
Our training organization has been using live, online training for over four years and our experience indicates that moving from the traditional classroom environment is not a difficult task. We train both employees and customers using this technology.
Let's look at the similarities and differences between live, online training and the physical classroom training that many of us are so familiar with.
Think of what you do in a physical classroom: raise your hand, speak to the instructor, say yes or no, participate in a class discussion, listen to lecture while looking at content, view a demo, do exercises to reinforce learning, and so on. All of these things are available to you in the online classroom as well. As a leader, you can see participants when they enter the virtual room; you can call on them when they raise their hands and allow them to speak; you can demonstrate an application and allow a participant to try their hand at performing a specific task, you can write on a slide or whiteboard, and so on.
The mapping between the physical classroom and the live, online classroom is striking and makes it very easy for both participants and instructors to make the switch. In the live, online training, you have the advantages of leader and participant familiarity with the classroom environment—something most of us have been involved in since we were quite young. The difference is that this all takes place online, without visual cues or feedback.
What are the advantages of live, online training?
The primary advantage of online training over physical classroom training is the obvious one of reducing the amount of travel both participants and instructors must do, thus resulting in a reduction of the costs associated with this travel. This advantage applies to both live, online training as well as asynchronous training in the form of computer-based training and Web-based training.
Another advantage is the similarity of live, online training to the physical classroom training thus making it easy for employees or customers to participate in live, online training sessions because they have the physical classroom experience.
Will learners accept this technology?
Based on our experience, learners are ready and willing to try this technology, and studies indicate that they learn as much as those who participate in a physical classroom. By using the Internet at their own desks, participants do not have the stress incurred with travel. They can go home to their families at night and use peers at their work site as mentors if necessary.
Is this technology replacing the classroom?
Absolutely not yet! There is and always will be a need for the physical classroom. Live, online learning should be viewed as an additional way to get information to participants and reduce the need for travel and time away from the job.
How might I schedule live, online training sessions?
In our experience, we have found 90-minute modules to be a good length for live, online training. If the modules must be longer, a break would be helpful, just as you would have a break in a physical classroom. Most of our sessions are 3.5hrs/day.
There are two general types of content you might be considering: (a) an update or something similar, which would normally require only 60- to 90-minutes to cover, or (b) more complex topics which would normally require one to five days to accomplish in the physical classroom environment.
Our organization chose the following method for delivering live, online training on complex topics:
The corporate model where participants sign up for a course and then participate in a series of modules over the course of one to five days. This method requires more commitment from both the learner and the learner's manager.
Interaction is very important in the live, online learning environment is very important to keep you engaged so we do alot of talking.
Distractions that can arise when the participant is in his or her own environment, rather than in a separate environment like a classroom. The live, online training environment is prone to similar distractions. So we do alot of name checking and learning confirmation by asking participants questions.
Bandwidth (the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time) is a major consideration in this environment. As a result we have participants download large files ahead of time while you stream smaller files.
What do the participants need to know before taking a live, online training session?
Basically, participants need to know how to use a mouse and how to interact with a browser. Typically, you will enroll in a session through our Website. You will also access the session through a Website (our delivery partner).
To avoid issues on the day of the event, we ask that first-time online learning participants go through a check-in session with us before they attend their first live session to get set up and increase their comfort level. This check-in session checks their audio and goes through the basic tasks a participant will perform during the event. Most technical issues will be resolved during this check-in session so that the instructor doesn't have to be concerned with issues on the participant side during the session itself. Also, once issues have been resolved, future sessions should be pretty much trouble-free.
In order to keep a session from not starting smoothly, our session leader does not deal with technical problems during the session. There is a help desk available for participants to call.
What kind of facilitator do we engage to do online training?
We look for a subject matter expert with:
1.A willingness to try new technology.
2.Comfort with their training skills.
3.Variety in voice and intonation.
4.A comfort with the lack of face-to-face interaction for feedback and support that is encountered in the online environment.
5.A comfort and proficiency delivering live, online training, and will practice with the online delivery tool.
What do you need to run the session?
From a logistics perspective, our instructor is in a room with a door to reduce the amount of noise that might interfere with their concentration. Our instructor is prepared with notes, pencils, paper, glass of water, a headset/mic and a telephone (just in case they too need technical support or answers to questions). The instructor also has a second computer in the room which they use as a representative participant machineso they see exactly what you are seeing. Our instructors are also allowed to where they fuzzy bunny slippers, which you most likely will not see.
Our participants will ideally have a PCwith a robust internet connection; a headset and a mic. If you are learning a software application, ideally you will have this on your PC or alternatively we can give you access to a machine with the labs/software. Prior to your session start date you will have the opportunity to test your system to ensure you are ready for training day.
How do we communicate with the participants during the session?
There are actually a number of communication methods in a live, online training session. Of course, we and our participants can speak just as you would in a classroom. Typically, a participant raises his or her hand and the leader "calls on" that person by giving him or her a microphone. If the leader wants a more informal environment, they can increase the number of people who can speak at the same time. Participants can also send chat messages to the leader or to other participants. This is useful if the participant doesn't have a microphone. It's also useful if the participant has a problem or has to leave early; he or she can send a chat to the leader explaining the situation and, therefore, not disturb the rest of the class. Participants can also communicate by using yes or no buttons and laugh and applause buttons.
What goes on in a typical live, online training session?
Typically, well before the session is due to begin, the training firm or leader may send out documentation, handouts, or lab exercises to the participantsenrolled in the session. They may send out a reminder notice as well.
Our leader and help desk is the first person on the session to ensure the session is open particularly to say hello to participants as they arrive in the session in order to make you feel comfortable speaking and to check their audio before the session actually begins.
While waiting for the session to begin, we launch and host any application(s) to be shared, create any surveys to be used during the session,and check Web sites to be used to make sure the content is current. Once the session has begun, we keep an eye out for raised hands, participants who stepped out, private chats, and so on. This is very much what we would do in a physical classroom where you are constantly scanning the room to see who has a raised hand, who looks asleep, what's going on outside the window, what your content looks like, and so on. It's important to set expectations for the live, online environment, particularly for the new participant. This means that if you have to check your private chat (and most of us have difficulty reading one thing and speaking something else), let your participants know that there will be a short period of time when you will not be speaking, known as "dead air." Some participants are not comfortable with this; they feel that something should be going on every minute of the session or else there must be something wrong with the technology. Make participants aware of what is going on.
What is the best way to engage learners?
As we mentioned before, interaction in a live, online training session is extremely important. We realize that our body language is no longer available to "entertain" our learners. We put put all your animation and enthusiasm into our voice and keep our participants busy.
This means lots of questions for our learners as well as activities that they can participate in. Here are some of our practices:
•We draw on slides and applications; mark them up using the markup tools. This makes them more active. You can also use animations in your content.
•We ask participants questions—not just "Does anyone have a question?" Ask for their experiences and their ideas.
•We have slides with questions on it. Elicit answers and ideas from participants and write them on the slide.
•We share an application and have various participants work the application while we guide them.
•We provide lab work if we are teaching an application.
•We provide job aids or case studies that participants can print out through the live, online training session and refer to through the session.
Live, online training can be a lot of fun for both the leader and the participants and it's not a difficult transition for either.
So, relax, put your headset on, put your feet up, and start learning!