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What to consider when designing an online training

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According to this LinkedIn report, 57% of Training and Development professionals expect to increase spending on online training in 2020. This survey was done before the current COVID-19 pandemic, so this figure is probably much higher now that remote work and social distancing are the new normal worldwide. It’s fair to say that online training has never been so important.

Because of the pandemic, online learning has become the main way for companies to continue investing in human capital and promote ongoing growth, productivity and competitiveness. After all, this is what they depend on to survive and stay relevant, right?

As online learning is still a relatively new field, there are some inconsistencies in the training initiatives carried out by certain organizations.

Due to the mad dash to make training 100% virtual since the pandemic began in March, many managers and even T&D pros have simply “converted” face-to-face content into online activities. It turns out that this swap isn’t always viable.

To be effective and generate real results, online trainings must have their own logic (and even their own language). They should be designed from the ground up, according to the characteristics of the virtual world.

That’s why it’s not enough to just record some instructional content and share it online; both the information and the experience must be customized for the learning environment. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind when designing an online training program. It’s paramount that online trainings go beyond their informative nature and truly engage and inspire the participants.

1. Rich visual elements that facilitate understanding.

Much of the success of an online training depends on how you will capture the participants’ attention. Visual resources that facilitate understanding are essential, including images, infographics, tables, illustrations and diagrams. The more intentional you are about aesthetics, color palette, fonts, and the overall visual language of the program, the greater your chance for success.

2. Positive, natural, accessible language.

Pay attention to the program’s “tone of voice”: choose language that mirrors how the participants communicate on a daily basis so they identify with the content. Using familiar, encouraging language helps participants feel included, absorb information and feel satisfied with the training. Remember to send the message that the company is always by their side.

3. Interactive elements combined with practical activities.

Interactivity is the heart of online training. People want to get involved and interact with the material they receive. Therefore, make sure you develop thought-provoking content that encourages practical changes through interactivity. Additionally, interactive elements create breaks in the training rhythm which are important to stop minds from wandering, recapture participants’ attention, and keep them engaged throughout the learning process. The more interaction, the more information is retained and, consequently, the better it is applied in practice. Be careful not to overdose on interactivity, though. Too much interactive content can backfire and cause participants to lose interest. Interactivity is not an end in itself. It should serve the main purpose of the training and help engage participants.

4. Cohesive structure and clear learning objectives.

The best online trainings are cohesive and have a well-defined goal that is clearly stated to participants. Communicate expectations and objectives at the start of the course to ensure training content flows in a logical and organic way. Be as specific as possible when explaining practices, policies and procedures.

5. Simple, focused content.

Determine the most important content for participants to access, then link activities in an objective and straightforward manner. This content chain should reflect the logic behind participants’ daily workflows so that it is meaningful and easy to understand. 

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