Great online training: when technology enables human connection

At Write, we’ve learned from experience what makes live online workshops really work. We’ve run online training since 2014, seen platforms come and go, and changed with the times. And in this post, we share our experience and research so you and your teams can get the most out of online training.

Online training has gone from dull to compelling

Online learning has been around for more than 20 years, according to Josh Bersin, global HR and technology consultant. It evolved along with technology — colour, quizzes, and interactive videos all appeared. Still, training developers struggled against boredom and indifference. It felt like the professional world was resigned to slightly dull online training — until COVID-19 happened.

Read A New Paradigm for Corporate Training: Learning in the Flow of Work by Josh Bersin on the Josh Bersin Company’s website

With global lockdowns, live online workshops became the main way for trainers (including us at Write) and their clients to connect. Standards for good online workshops soared. After nearly 2 intense years of research and practice, here’s what we’ve found.

Live trainers and real interaction engage learners

People like people. Would you rather spend an hour clicking through an online quiz or discussing an issue with a skilled trainer? The same things that help us learn in person — discussing, taking notes, and doing activities — also help us learn online. A live trainer guiding us through activities keeps us engaged and accountable.

Micro-learning supports and reinforces the learning experience

But I don’t mean to say that online quizzes are useless! Reading a text followed by a quiz, or watching a short video, can be great ways to learn at your own pace. These short bursts of learning are known as micro-learning. People who may be stressed at taking a day or two away from work for training are often more empowered doing micro-learning at their own pace.

We find that micro-learning brilliantly complements live online workshops. Before a session with a trainer, micro-learning can introduce ideas so that the training itself becomes a chance to practise and master them. After live online workshops, micro-learning reminds and refreshes people. It also allows us to add new information and tips to the structures and practices we use.

Read The Brain Science of Microlearning: Why It Works on the Training Industry website

4 people on a video conference call

Remote teams can connect. Image by Anna Shvets / Pexels licence

Online learning builds up teams

We also like how live online workshops bring remote teams together. When done well, remote teams renew their ties and work together on what matters to them. We often have participants saying that time has gone quickly, even when we’ve spent a full day on Zoom.

We alternate presentations with discussions and creative activities. Live online workshops can include team brainstorming and problem-solving sessions — and these can easily be recorded.

Learners remember content that relates to them

People remember and use the information that most relates to their interests and solves their problems. We find the best learning happens when we work closely with our clients to plan live online workshops that use scenarios and examples from their work.

If you’re running online workshops, customise your material! And if you’re buying online workshops, ask how your provider will create a compelling experience focused on what your people need.

‘These qualities aren’t qualities of good online courses. They are qualities of good courses, period.’ — George Veletsianos, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology, Royal Roads University

So, in summary, great online training uses technology to help skilled trainers connect with their clients in different ways, and over time. Technology doesn’t replace the human connection: it enables and enhances it.

This was a collaboration between Colleen Trolove and Emily Cotlier

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.