Is online training poised to make face-to-face training sessions obsolete? To answer that question, let’s take a look at two types of online training first: synchronous and asynchronous online training.
Asynchronous Online Training
During an asynchronous online training, the trainee and the trainer are not necessarily present at the same time. How is that even possible? Simple: think correspondence studies. Of course, a training is usually more engaging. It’s hard to imagine a training taking place ‘by correspondence’.
However, modern technology is (much) more engaging than correspondence could ever be. As a trainer using asynchronous online training, you have the option to create:
- Adaptive tests: if the trainee does really well, have them automatically skip to the end fast. If, on the other hand, the trainee scores pretty bad, provide additional explanations and test again.
- Integrated videos: in between tests, show instructional videos. This works especially well for behavioral training.
- Reinforcements of the training long after the fact: send out emails, text messages or even mini training videos, to improve transfer of training to the work floor.
An additional huge benefit is peer to peer communication. Trainees nowadays have the option to lend their ear to peers, share their training experience and support each other through forums, email, and other online collaborative instruments.
Synchronous Online Training
In this type of online training, everybody’s present at the same time, just not in the same place. In a teleconference, teleseminar or webinar, the trainer not only ‘broadcasts’ the training, but also responds to questions or remarks at the spot. Of course, because everybody’s using a computer, things like live polls are an option as well.
Live online training usually entails having a video stream of the trainer or a computer screen (containing, for instance, a Powerpoint presentation). If recorded, the online training can be used for an indefinite time afterwards as well.
For very specific purposes, a live online training session may be extremely effective. For instance, it may be used to replace the traditional ‘language learning labs’, where the language trainer (usually a native speaker) listens in on the students practicing their pronunciation.
Adding Value to Face-to-Face Sessions Through Online Training
I think it’s clear that online training is not going to replace face-to-face training any time soon. The physical presence of the trainer is just too important.
However, online training can definitely add value before, during and after the face-to-face training.
Before the face-to-face sessions, you might want to use asynchronous online training to:
- Establish thresholds or prerequisites: “meet these requirements or you’re not allowed to do the training”.
- Gather data for “remedial” training: find out which skills the trainees are lacking beforehand, and adjust your training accordingly.
- Introductions: have everyone post a little biographical information. Of course, this is no substitute for an actual introduction, but it does provide a little more background on everybody.
- Use the online training software to count heads (presence list).
- Broadcast the training to everybody who couldn’t be present physically and take questions online (synchronous online training).
- Reduce the face-to-face training time: everybody’s already taken the theoretical part through online training, so there’s no need to reiterate that.
Use online training software, such as a Learning Management System (or LMS for short), to keep in touch with the trainees.
- Have everybody evaluate the training, through an online evaluation.
- If the subject of the training consists of very specific skills or knowledge, conduct tests online.
- Automatically send out reminders of the topics of the training, maybe in the shape of scenarios or cases.
To conclude, I would say that trainers who ignore online training options are also ignoring an ever increasing demand of their customers. As the new generations take their place on the work floor, employees will increasingly expect to be supported by their electronic devices (not just computers, but also tablets and smartphones) while training.