If you’ve been wondering how to develop a training curriculum for an instructor-led online program, the answer is a multi-faceted one. The Internet adds layers of complexity to learning, requiring course creators to not only analyze the learning needs of employees and examine the content of their lessons, but delivery methods as well. As you organize your sessions, keep three core principles in mind –
- the content of your course,
- the pace and structure that you’ll be using and,
- what educational methods you’ll use to actually teach.
1. Exploring the Content of Your Course
The convenience associated with online instruction has spurred many corporations to offer online equivalents of face-to-face style seminars and courses. That transformation, however, hasn’t always been easy on their educators. While some information translates well from physical training sessions to digital ones, some lessons cannot simply be cut-and-pasted.
So, how do you go about it? Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
- If the material you’re teaching requires a lot of discussion or explanations, a simple talking point handout won’t provide the depth your session attendees need. You may need to branch out into alternate media solutions. These may include pre-recorded video clips, or discussion board assignments that call for learners to respond to one another’s posts.
- When developing training curriculum modules, don’t force “analog” materials into a digital space. Instead, take key points and write your own web-friendly version.
- Don’t rely on print materials alone for text-based examples and reading. Consider directing learners to current, credible news sites and online trade magazines to supplement your lessons.
Before your first meeting, decide on the “soul” of your course. Use these questions to help you “refine and define” your approach:
- How much of your message will be practical versus theory?
- How deeply will you explore the various talking points you have slated?
- What the takeaway will be for your learners?
- Will they be able to master a new skill, or have a better understanding of a current one?
Fleshing out the identity of your course will help you clearly communicate its value to potential attendees.
2. Planning the Presentation of Your Content
Online training is often part of a busy lifestyle that may not allow for a static meeting place and time. The flip side of digital convenience is that instructors cannot rely on learners to attend when they want them to. Some attendees may complete their reading and assignments at 8 am on the day they’re posted, while others may post just before midnight on the deadline date. This poses a unique challenge for retention and testing on the instructor’s part.
It will pay off to keep these points in mind to ensure that the training has maximum impact on attendees:
- Maximize comprehension during each module or session by incorporating ideas from a former lesson. This is a proven technique often used during in-person lectures.
- Your overall course progression should allow room to discuss information from previous modules.
- Consider incorporating a timer to minimize attempts by procrastinators to learn new material during an active test. You may also use a one-and-done test structure that doesn’t allow backtracking on questions.
- Be clear about deadlines and time expectations for the course from the very first day.
Online learning isn’t entirely immune to the scheduling challenges that face sessions that meet in person. While snow days aren’t a problem, some scheduling flexibility should be built in for emergencies. Have a plan in place for technical malfunctions or absences and state it clearly in the course introduction materials. This backup plan is essential to keep your learners on the same page.
3. Selecting the Right Delivery Method for Your Session
Live learning, such as telecasts or interactive course-wide “chat” sessions, is invaluable to keeping your learners engaged. It adds value to your session and permits space for in-the-moment questions and clarifications on material. Some core competencies, however, are better left to a self-paced module. These give your attendees the chance to absorb the material at a comfortable pace, rather than struggling to keep up with the group during a live module. The best online training courses will typically involve a mixture of these two approaches. They will, once properly “matched” to your course modules, work together to promote attention and focus.
- You will need to expand on this concept of versatility in your educating methods, as well. Larger concepts, particularly those that can be approached from different angles, do well as discussions. Your attendees will, ideally, talk out the approaches that will work best for them, and gain valuable insight from one another.
- If your course content is more technical, experiential exercisescan turn a round of follow-the-leader into lasting, applicable knowledge. Give your learners a chance to explore the dashboard or toolkit used in your lessons as they make important – and teachable – errors along the way.
- For skills that are more in-the-moment, simulation exercisesmay be needed to fine-tune potential missteps before happen outside the course. Tools such as screencasts and how-to videos are ideal in this scenario. Guided role play – where the educator or fellow attendee “plays” a customer role – may also be helpful.
Online learning is a powerful tool that connects your important lessons with attendees from across the globe 24 hours a day. If special attention is paid to the content, structure and progression of that opportunity you’ll be creating an online training curriculum that is not merely a benchmark to be passed, but a true opportunity to better lives and improve industry or subject comprehension.
Always make an effort to see your course through a learner’s eyes and consider concepts like scheduling, subject matter layout, consistency and opportunities for organic learning moments. If you can master these, you’ll be at the head of an engaging training session that they’ll enthusiastically recommend to their peers.