Posts Tagged ‘design’

The worst type of classroom training are long PowerPoint presentations with limited interaction.  Transforming this type of training into a webinar because it easy and cheap, doesn’t make it good training.  Adding a few discussion questions or a quick poll might make it more interesting, but does it really make it more effective.  Most of what’s written about webinars relates to choosing technology and various features of different providers.  However, there is very little written on how to turn webinars into great training.  Therefore, I’m going to start a series of posts about instructional design concepts for webinars.

I think the first place to start is to consider what type of training is well suited for webinars and what isn’t.  Audience size and make up can make a big difference.  Hosting a webinar with five or six coworkers can be highly interactive with lively discussions.  A two hundred person public session is very different.  Only a few people will actually ask a question and it’s difficult to let more than a few people talk.  Designing these sessions to be more than a one-way data dump or sales pitch is difficult and requires a lot of creativity.  In general, here’s a quick list of what I think webinars can do well and what they’re not so good at.

Best Uses of Webinars

  1. Kickoff Sessions (Big Picture Overviews of What’s Going to Happen)
  2. PreWork (Substitute for reading assignments or self-study before coming to a class)
  3. Just-in-Time Information and Communication (When there isn’t time for anything else)
  4. Lunch and Learns (Quick overviews of topics in series)
  5. Introductions (Replaces things like department visits)

Worst Uses of Webinars

  1. Skill Building (Anything that requires a lot of practice and feedback)
  2. Action Learning (Anything that requires a lot of people working in teams to discover new ideas and techniques)
  3. Coaching Sessions (Most good coaching is one on one)
  4. Longer Activities (Some activities require an hour or more to complete, a lot of dead time on the phone)
  5. Role Plays and Simulations (Tough with more than a few people)

These aren’t hard and fast rules but general guidelines.  Often logistics and budgets restrictions will lead to more webinars and doing something is often better than doing nothing.  I think webinars can be particularly effective when they are part of a blended learning solution.

In my next post, I’m going to try to dig into the actual design of a webinar and share some best practice ideas.

Photo by DimDim Web Conferencing

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I think one of the starting points for leading a learning organization is to write down a set of learning principles. I define a Learning Principle as something that you believe is absolutely true about how people learn. For example, you might have a principle that states that everyone has a different learning style or people learn by doing.

The list should be about 5 to 10 items and what you believe and not me. This now let’s you communicate to others in the organization and vendors what good training is all about and that anything that doesn’t fit these principles isn’t acceptable. I’d make these formal so you can communicate them easily. This is part of becoming viewed as the learning expert in your organization.

So the question is, Do you have a written set of learning principles? What would you put on the list?

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originally uploaded by Nathan Berry.

Stuffing the Goose is a technical education term. What it refers to is two situations. First, it means adding as much or more content as you can. You don’t want to leave anything out. When you review the design, everyone wants to add things until you have no time to actually work on anything.

Second, it happens when you bring people in for something like three days. The thinking is, “since we have you here, let’s cover everything.” How can we put two weeks of content into one week?

This is a natural tendency. It’s hard to fight. But some of the worst education and training has been stuffed. So focus on your objectives and tell others to stop stuffing the goose.

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I think there is a significant difference between the way people actually learn and the way they are taught.  It’s actually an interesting way to start a session to ask participants to:  Think of something you’re good at.  How did you really learn to become good at that?

There’s a lot of practice, experience, coaching and even a few breakthrough moments where something unique happens.  So the idea would then be to build training that matches these descriptions.  However, the traditional way is to start by thinking about everything you need to know and do and then line up a series of courses starting with building blocks and finally ending with application.  The two paths end up being very different.

 In the design of training, people are pretty good at identifying the “what”, but are less good at determining the “when” and “how.”  The “how” tends to be more around what delivery mechanism to use rather than “how” you actually learn that skill. 

I’m very interested in stories about how people actually learned to do what they do well.  Please add yours to the comments.

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