Working in the higher education arena as a technical trainer and Instructional Designer can be challenging. Working in the Information Resources and Technology division pressures me to quickly master all new technologies adopted by the university. I must then be able to create communications, training materials, and training sessions to help the University community to quickly and easily learn the technologies and incorporate them into their workdays. I have also been tasked to convert our face-to-face training to “online” training. This generic term incorporates all the latest trends in Instructional Design and training, without much understanding of best practices or what it takes to actually create these different methods. You would think that being in the business of education we would inherently understand how to create “online” curricula, keeping in mind relevant learning theories, adapting to different learning styles and selecting the best methods for each individual project. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of hearing about a new trend and thinking it will be easy to fit all future projects into the same mold.

With all this being said, the past three years have been exciting and challenging. We started off kind of slow and clunky, but have steadily increased our knowledge and understanding of these different formats of training. One of the main insights I have had is that inherent in adult education is the need for adults to know why they are learning. Taking it back to the basics of Knowles’ theory of andragogy, when creating my courses, I need to make the relevance to their jobs clear, why they need to take time away from their busy schedules to complete the training, how they can use their past experiences to master it and allow for sufficient self-directed learning (Knowles, 1970.) The methods of learning may be evolving, but the theories and motivations are still relevant.

Here is a quick synopsis of what we have accomplished so far:

Video-Based Learning

  • This type of training has been dubbed “the hottest mode of training right now” (DN, 2018.) This seemed like the easiest way to transition from face-to-face to online, but we have definitely come a long way in our conceptualization and implementation.
  • Initially, we recorded face-to-face sessions and uploaded to Kaltura, the media site video platform we use at the university.
  • If someone could not attend a live session, we kept a link of the video on our website, together with any training aids or exercises that were used with the class.
  • They were recorded as one long video (usually a two-hour class,) with no closed captioning or interaction.
  • We next began to create video demonstrations and screen captures using Adobe Captivate.
  • Still one long video, but we could edit, incorporate Microsoft PowerPoint slides, add features like arrows and text boxes and improve the audio.
  • Still uploaded to Kaltura (no closed captioning yet) and included the link with any training materials on the website.

Microlearning

We began to explore the concept of microlearning. We saw the value in “chunking” the videos into smaller, objective specific clips (DN, 2018.)

  • We created slides/video demonstrations/screen captures and chunked into small, separate videos.
  • We used both Adobe Captivate and Final Cut Pro to edit the videos, record and refine audio, add assets and features.
  • We uploaded to Kaltura but made channels instead of one long video. That way, the trainees can view specific, object-based parts of the video channel, or watch the entire thing in sequence.

Blended Learning

I began to conceptualize a blended-learning course. We were being directed to offer less face-to-face instruction and convert what we had to online learning. We were told to start to utilize other online materials, like the university-wide subscription to Lynda.com, to allow the trainees to engage in more self-directed learning. There were courses we were teaching that could also be converted to video. We needed a way to make the training both self-directed and interactive, but offering face-to-face training for the learners to come in and apply the concepts and skills they had learned on their own.

  • We created a blended course that focused on the concept of data, rather than how to use one particular software application.
  • We worked with supervisors for three groups in the University to develop pilot courses.
  • We utilized Google Classroom to house the course and gave the trainees access as students.
  • The objectives of the course were to identify where their data was housed, how they could access it, how they could manipulate and report on it, and how they could utilize it to make data-driven decisions.
  • One module of the course was how to access their data in Cognos. My co-worker created short videos (using Captivate and Kaltura) and activities in Google Classroom explaining what Cognos was, how they could request access, directed them to get access and the basics of running reports. They were required to complete this portion of the course in a self-directed manner prior to the face-to-face session.
  • I created a module in Google Classroom that explained Lynda.com, the university subscription, and how they could access it. They were, then, directed to watch sections of videos (the videos were long) on PivotTables and other Microsoft Excel features. I built some activities in the Classroom course to test their knowledge of the concepts. They were required to complete this portion of the course on their own, prior to the face-to-face training.
  • For the face-to-face session, we had two realistic scenarios for each group to work on. They, then, needed to go into Cognos and run a report, export it to Excel, and then apply the tools they learned about in Excel to manipulate the data and allow them to make data-driven decisions to solve the scenarios. The session was one hour, and the self-directed portion could take up to three hours.
  • We had 3 pilot classes and learned a lot. This is a labor-intensive course, with much of the prep work involving the supervisors of a specific department to identify the reports/data needed and the scenarios. The length of the Lynda.com videos was a problem since many did not want to spend hours outside of the class watching videos. Also, the self-directed portion of the course could have benefited with more interaction with the instructors and the other trainees. But it was an excellent learning experience, and we will be revisiting this concept/course in the future.

Interactive Video/Learning

Some of the issues we have encountered so far with the examples above have been the lack of interaction/engagement of the trainees. Having them watch a video, and then just answer questions showing they had memorized or understood certain concepts, limits the effectiveness of our online trainings. We now want to build in exercises that allow the trainees to demonstrate they have learned a skill.

  • We decided to convert our Banner Finance training series into an online series.
  • We had found Google Classroom limited, so we decided to use Blackboard LMS.
  • The face-to-face series consists of three two-hour sessions. We will be converting the sessions consisting of the introduction to Banner 9 Administrative Pages and navigating the system, requisitions, receiving, budgets and other important forms.
  • I am in the process of creating the first module in the series, Introduction to Banner Administrative Pages Finance. There are no prerequisites to this module. It will be used as the prerequisite to the other modules once they are complete.
  • The module contains six lessons. Each lesson has a short video, a knowledge check and/or an activity.
  • I created the videos in Adobe Captivate. We do not have an eLearning server yet, so I cannot make the Captivate videos interactive, but I was able to upload the videos into Kaltura and then import them as an object into Blackboard. I, then, utilized the test feature in Blackboard to create different types of interactive knowledge checks/activities.
  • I have multiple-choice activities for knowledge checks to ensure the trainees understand terms and concepts before moving on, hotspot activities so the trainees can demonstrate they know where to locate certain things when the system and a rank order activity to place one of the described procedures into the correct order.
  • I have set up an adaptive release, so the lessons will only display once the previous one has been reviewed/completed.
  • Once the trainee has completed each lesson, they will be able to access a certificate and a badge.
  • I will be piloting the Introduction module with new and experienced trainees in the next few weeks.
  • The other modules will be much more intensive and we are pricing out software to allow trainees to customize their training experience.
  • For the near future, we will be using the Introduction video as a prerequisite/blended component of our face-to-face classes. Once the other modules are designed and complete, we will maneuver away from face-to-face.

Converting our training program to a fully online one may not come to fruition for quite some time; in fact, as we progress, we may decide that some aspects of the training are better served with some form of trainer interaction, be it face-to-face, webinar, chat rooms or other options. But as long as we keep the focus of the training on how best to convey the training objectives to the learners, we should continue to have a successful program. We are definitely in for an exciting learning experience.

References:

  • DN, S. (2018, October 16). 8 Top eLearning Trends for 2019. Retrieved from eLearning Industry: https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-trends-for-2019-8-top
  • Knowles, M. S. (1970). The Modern Practice of Adult Education: Andragogy to pedagogy. New York: The Associated Press.