Five essential tips for delivering online training
Chances are, you’ve taken some sort of online training in the past year or so. Whether you decide to use containment to develop a new skill, were sent to class by your employer, or just looking to pass the time, online training has exploded in 2020.
The good news for media trainers is that he’s showing no signs of slacking off either, despite the restrictions being lifted. With the huge convenience factor of being able to attend training from the comfort of your own home, online training seems to be here to stay.
Now is the perfect time to develop your own online courses. But before you dive into lesson plans, promoting, and selecting your virtual background, here’s a checklist of essentials to consider before you get started.
Will my online training be live or asynchronous?
To be alive or not to be alive? That is the question. There are pros and cons to either.
Self-directed asynchronous lessons mean that participants are not limited to a fixed time and can learn flexibly at their own pace.
This type of course can also be a great “passive income” product for tutors: once you have created the material there is little input required and no limit on the potential number of participants.
Live lessons provide a great social solution, providing opportunities for group interaction and more direct contact time with the tutor, which participants tend to highly appreciate. This may mean that you can charge higher rates per person.
Tutors also have more control over the learning process during a live session and can provide useful feedback to participants in real time.
It’s also easier to tailor your content and teaching style to the dynamics of the group, creating a more unique and personal learning experience.
In my experience, the best ideas tend to emerge from participants’ Q&A during live sessions, which is why they are my personal preference.
However, sometimes I will make short video recordings of “teacher-led explanatory segments” so that participants who miss a lesson can always catch up afterwards.
Combined or ‘reverse learningThe methods are also very popular online, which combine elements of self-directed individual learning with live group discussions or problem solving.
What activities do I include?
The golden rule of any training is: participants learn through Make. This is the case for face-to-face courses as well as for online courses.
Online “knowledge sharing” events have exploded over the past year, but most still take the form of webinars and conferences (where attendees basically sit down and watch someone speak through their computers).
It’s fine, but it’s not the same as delivering online coaching.
It is essential to plan exercises that the participants can do to facilitate their learning (I have a “cheat sheet” of more than 30 of them in my toolbox, which I invite new tutors to adapt and to use for their own courses).
These activities should be aligned with the skills you want participants to develop.
In my broadcast journalism course, for example, students write and present their own radio report “live” in front of their peers and get constructive feedback.
It’s an activity that we repeat every week, so at the end of the trimester, they can practically do it while they sleep.
Remember: the more you challenge your students, for example, the more practical their “work”, the more important their learning will be.
It also means that they get more value from their participation in your course and are much more likely to recommend it.
If not, they might as well just sit and watch a bunch of TedTalks for an hour instead.
Is my online training accessible and inclusive?
Online training can be of particular interest to participants who would otherwise find it difficult to attend in-person events at a defined location.
I have taken my courses online to students from all over the world (France, Spain and DRC, to name a few).
I have also noticed an increase in the number of students with disabilities enrolling and those with English as an Additional Language (ALA), compared to face-to-face classes before the pandemic.
This is extremely positive for inclusiveness, but can also challenge the trust of the tutors, especially if you are teaching freelance without support.
It is essential to consider the needs of the participants when designing the online training and to make reasonable adjustments if necessary (see advice on Equality Act 2010).
For example, one of my blind students requested that plain text copies of all PowerPoint slides be emailed to her so that she could access them using her screen reader.
Small steps, such as enabling “live captions” on Zoom to make it easier to understand (YouTube can “automatically caption” a prerecorded video) or adding “alt text” to any images you see. you use, can make a huge difference to participants.
Proactively think about whether students might need help with the planned tasks you’ve set, or whether you should modify your activities slightly to be more inclusive.
Be flexible and, when in doubt, seek advice on how best to tailor your training (here are some do and not do to get you started).
Am I making the most of the technological tools available?
There is a whole range of platforms out there, each with their own unique features.
MS Teams allows you to set up ‘channels’ for student discussion, information sharing, Q&A, and more.
Zoom allows you to prepare surveys, organize workshops, share links and documents via the chat bar, and view questions submitted by your participants.
I’ve even seen Facebook and IG Live being used to host some great informal Q&A sessions on various journalism topics.
Taking the time to understand the features available on different platforms can help you maximize the potential of your courses.
It is also important to think about how you will handle communication beyond these live sessions and share resources.
When I was teaching, I received dozens of emails from students asking the same questions. Now we streamline them via a Moodle Q&A forum, anyone can see the answer – and the tutor only has to type it in once.
Not only that, but students often help each other with helpful links and tips.
Dropbox and Zenler are also great for organizing all of your documents and keeping them together in one place for attendees to access.
Did I have a training repetition?
There is nothing worse than wasting 20 precious minutes of your first online training session fixing technical issues, so be sure to check out the technology.
And then check again!
Ask a friend or coworker if they can make a call with you the next time they take a coffee break and cover the basics: “Can you see me? Can you hear me? Can you see the slides? Can you download and open this document? “Etc.
Something as small as a broken link can derail an entire session.
Likewise, there is a risk that participants confuse technical incompetence with the teaching ability or expertise of a tutor.
Put yourself in the participants’ shoes and make it as easy as possible for them:
Small “reminders” clearly describing how and where to access online training are much less boring than looking for that all-important link right before a course goes live.
This does not mean that technical problems are 100% inevitable; it is inevitable that some participants will struggle no matter what you put in place, so try to be patient, empathetic, and calm when they do.
What if everything goes wrong? A little humor does a lot of good.
I often joke that my students would get lost in unfamiliar buildings or get stranded by delays on the metro when I was running face-to-face sessions, so at least with the online training these are just a few nightmares that you no longer need to panic.
Pushing back the start time gives everyone a chance to show up or go for a cup of tea – without worry, they’ll be held up in line at the local cafe.
Dr Holly Powell Jones is a qualified audiovisual journalist and media trainer with many years of experience creating content for television, radio, print media and online news platforms.
Want to learn how to design and sell your own online courses? Reserve a spot for Holly’s 5-week Design and Sell Media Training. The next course starts on October 5, 2021.
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