Since 2011, money spent on e-learning has doubled, and as of 2014, over 41.7%
of global Fortune 500 companies have used some form of educational technology
to instruct employees. It seems employers are catching on to the multitude of
benefits online training can offer.
Online training is a tool, and a tool is only as good as
the person wielding it. Whether it’s an architectural firm deploying a project
management MOOC or a manufacturing company rolling out a leadership e-course,
employers should be fastidious in preparing for online training to ensure a smooth
and effective training experience.
Here is a pre-deployment checklist for online training.
1. Establish Goals
When employers decide to use online training, they can
pursue one of two strategies: collaborate with an online course developer like SweetRush to create a custom training
program, or use a service like Udemy for Business to identify the optimal
training program from a pre-existing collection.
“Having clear goals upfront is absolutely key,” said Paul
Sebastien, vice president and general manager at Udemy. “What do you want out
of this? What don’t you want out of this? What are the pain points?”
Goal-setting helps online training providers like Udemy
create the most effective training experience.
Sebastien said establishing goals, particularly those that are
measurable, is also essential when it comes time to assess the training’s
Innovations in analytics have made it possible to
determine the return on investment of nearly every type of online training.
This means that goal-setting requires more nuance than simply wanting to
improve employee performance or increase revenue. Companies need to dig deeper.
If improving employee performance is the overarching
goal, what aspect of employee performance specifically needs improving?
Productivity? Accuracy? Quality? Is the goal of the online training to reduce
the learning curve for a specific task or role? Is it to boost team
If revenue growth is the overarching goal, are there
specific sales goals that need to be met? What is the root cause of the
inadequate revenue? Poor customer service? Poor salesmanship? Is it a marketing
issue? A PR issue?
Defining and quantifying your goals prior to training
deployment will result in a more targeted training experience, and make it
easier to measure the training outcomes and effectiveness.
2. Evaluate Prior
For many companies, online training is only the latest in
a series of training initiatives. If your company is switching from a physical
training model to a virtual training model, or shifting from one online
training provider to another, be sure to conduct a thorough evaluation of any
prior training programs. By identifying where the prior programs fell short,
you can circumvent similar issues in the new program.
For example, imagine that a prior SEO training program
failed to fully engage employees. Investigating the matter might reveal that
the participating employees maintained varying levels of expertise in SEO, and
those who did not fully engage found the courses to be too slow, which resulted
in boredom and ambivalence.
Armed with this insight, you can ensure the new online
training program comes with a contingency plan for this exact scenario.
Consider choosing a program that offers a proficiency test to determine course
placement, or a program that enables employees to skip, or place out of,
certain course levels.
3. Technical Requirements
To provide an optimal training deployment and maintain a
positive training experience, companies must ensure the technical requirements
of the training program align with the company’s technical capabilities.
For example, some e-learning programs are not formatted
for mobile devices. Does your company have enough computers for each employee,
or were you partially relying on tablets and smartphones?
Is your company equipped with disability-friendly
technology? Can you accommodate employees with hearing disabilities or motor
How many people are typically online at once? Will the
training require an unprecedented number of simultaneous online events? If so,
does your company have enough bandwidth? Slow connection speeds can adversely
affect the training experience.
4. Prepare Employees
An employee’s attitude toward a training event can affect
how they learn, and how well. Therefore, it’s important for companies to
sufficiently prepare their employees for online training by setting
expectations, building excitement, and fostering a positive learning
“Ideally, you want employees to be curious, open-minded,
and even eager to gain knowledge and learn skills,” said Andrei Hedstrom, CEO
Hedstrom suggests companies craft thoughtful
communications before the start of a training program to put employees in the
right frame of mind.
“A video trailer, a series of email announcements, even
posters in the hallway, done right, can build anticipation and increase
motivation and attention,” he said.
Hedstrom also emphasizes how important it is to show
employees you value their time. Unfortunately, not everyone will automatically
appreciate an upcoming training event, and may see it as a fool’s errand or a
patronizing initiative. Failing to set goals, learn from previous training
experiences, and meet technical requirements might be construed as
disrespectful, and can internalize these doubts even further.
Providing high-quality, engaging online training “is the
most critical thing you can do to ensure your employees will be open to and
eager for the training courses you will want them to take over time,” Hedstrom
5. Change How You Think
For companies transitioning from the classroom to the
computer, a change of thinking is advised. Hedstrom describes this change in
thinking as “a shift from an assembly line to an ecosystem, like a rain forest.
You have to continually look for connections between the various parts of your
curriculum in the multiple layers of the curriculum canopy.”
Compared to a traditional classroom setting, virtual
learning is a much more dynamic system, and presents a myriad of new tools and
tactics such as virtual instructors, games, and support apps.
Hedstrom says that envisioning this kind of dynamic
system “can help open companies up to the possibilities, and avoid challenges
that come from minimizing the effort involved.”
It helps to understand that online training is not linear
like classroom training. Participating employees will advance at different
tempos, and some online courses have multiple navigation paths, meaning that
each employee’s learning experience will differ.
What’s more, observing your employees as a teacher would
observe a classroom doesn’t translate. To evaluate progress and effectiveness,
companies must rely on analytics and employee feedback. The independent nature
of online training also requires employers to relinquish a certain amount of
control and trust that their employees are committing to the process.
Online training is a wholly different animal than its
traditional counterpart. Understanding those differences helps companies better
prepare for training deployment, and proper preparation can lead to long-term
success. Remember to establish specific goals and evaluate any prior training
programs to prevent similar issues. Make sure that all technical requirements are
met and prepare employees for training by creating a positive and respectful