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The transition from On-site Instructor-Led Courses to Online Learning  

by eBusiness Systems  

The global COVID-19 Pandemic has brought with it a lot of challenges that we have all had to learn how to adapt to. It has pushed forward a culture change in the way we learn and in the way we work. Through these unprecedented times, remote working has become the norm, or rather, a necessity. The same can be said for learning. Schools and other institutions have had to adapt their operations to the needs of the day and offer alternatives to the traditional classroom learning. The main alternative has been online learning. Within organisations, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, learning and personal development was recognised as a critical deliverable for the improved performance of the organisation. Ongoing training and development ensures that  people within an organisation become more proficient in what they do and acquire new skill sets. Ongoing training and development also serves to better engage employees within the organisation. Most organisations acknowledge this need for training and development of their employees. Many have invested in building the required systems, processes and resources, including trainers and instructors, to make this a reality. Ongoing training and development does not happen when there is nothing better to do. It happens because senior management make it a priority and commit to make it happen as part of the normal operations process. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has put more pressure on organisations to adopt and adapt to change at so many different levels. The traditional on-the-premises approach to work has had to change within a very short period of time. Remote working, long resisted by so many firms which insisted on having staff on the premises, has now been accepted and often promoted by those same firms which were so resistant in the past. Those organisations which had already moved to digital work flows and cloud-based computing were of course much better prepared to deal with the new reality. Other firms which were still dependent on physical document and local server configurations struggled to adapt to the change required and many paid the price with major losses of customers and staff. To these organisations, their main challenge is to develop a new business model to enable them to leverage available technology and deliver value to their customers in the context of the new reality. This includes the manner in which internal systems and operations, particularly training and development of staff is carried out. These organisations now face the task of transferring training material from the physical training place to the virtual training space.  

This transfer of learning material to an online medium can prove difficult to organisations who are not geared up for it, or who simply do not have the necessary resources in-house to be able to handle it effectively. In addition, trainers who have been very proficient in providing training in an on-site basis now face a new challenge of adapting their learning materials and teaching styles to online delivery. This is not a matter of posting a series of pdf documents on the company’s website and plugging in Zoom to allow for the trainer to deliver online the usual training session held onsite. Online learning calls for more planning and richer content material to engage and motivate participants to want to learn within the new environment. If not done correctly and effectively in the initial stages of transfer, this can de-motivate staff and have lasting negative effects for the organization.  

Best practices in the transition of learning from the learning place to the learning space highlight a number of the key elements for this transition. These can be summarised as follows: –

1.Employees work around their personal schedules  

On-site training is slowly becoming an arduous task for employees to complete in the modern day world, where the norm is to deliver more with less. Between jam-packed work days, longer commutes due to over-congested roads, personal commitments to family, hobbies, etc, employees  find more demands are made on their time, both during and after work. Online training allows employees to build in flexibility enabling them to work around their schedules, working at their own pace. Online learning can be accessible at any time and at any place, making it a more flexible option, particularly for motivated adult learners.

2.Adding the necessary information

Replace the “Nice-to-Know” with the “Need-to-Know”. A lot of instructor-based training on-site training can be rather mundane for employees to follow. Many inhouse training programmes seem to get caught up in extensive voluminous documentation and endless detail. For effective transitioning, this material needs to be reviewed thoroughly and segmented for easier bite-sized delivery. It needs to be structured in a hierarchical manner linking different data streams, such as video, documents, or interactive learning tools. This will allow users to get an overview of the material with easy options to delve deeper when additional detail is required. Having an effective co-ordinator to plan and co-ordinate such material and learning objects and activities, allows organisations to plan for content material accessibility to that which is actually needed by different people within the organisation. This will help to reduce training time and development costs whilst improving the effectiveness of the training delivery.  

3.Designing Training to work on multiple channels  

Unlike instructor based learning, which is usually delivered using a projector/monitor and the instructor themselves, online learning content needs to be designed in such a way that allows for multiple mediums to be used. This includes tablets, desktops and increasingly smartphones. The latter is particularly important as within some demographic groups, mobile phones have become the most common device for internet access. It is essential for organisations to take this into consideration when transitioning this material to ensure optimal engagement with the different user groups.  

4.Allowing for blended learning

Prior to fully transitioning the learning process online, organisations should assess their current training delivery to determine what additional elements are required to allow for conversion to full online delivery. Some learning objects and deliveries used in on-site training are difficult or impossible to provide online, and conversely some online learning tools are not available for on-site training. Through careful planning, modern elearning tools can be integrated with the traditional training materials to complement current materials and improve the overall effectiveness of the online training programmes. eLearning allows for what is referred to as blended learning, that is integrating self-learning with collaborative learning. These may be carried out online or on premises. In this way, pre-recorded audio video presentations can be compbined with live “Masterclass workshop sessions” held online or onsite. Not all people learn in the same way, and having this blended-learning system in place can allow for a “best-of-both worlds” scenario.  

eBusiness Systems is now offering support in the transitioning of learning materials online, as well as providing train-the-trainer support programmes. We are pleased to inform clients that we have expanded our team, bringing on-board a professional elearning co-ordinator that can take on the responsibility of co-ordination of the transition process. His involvement will be based on an assessment of the training materials in hand, a definition of supplementary elearning content to be developed and the development and implementation of an action plan to implement the required development and commissioning of the required training content. The co-ordinator will provide assistance and support at each step, from digitization of current material, setting-up the necessary protocols and policies within the organisation for optimal online training, and crucially, to setting-up train-the-trainer sessions. These sessions are important as they ensure that the internal training personnel are proficient in the use of online systems, allowing for a smoother transition from on-site to online and a effective use of the online learning on a daily basis.