Just a few months ago Covid-19 swept in like a hurricane, bringing with it a wave of forced digital transformation and social distancing. It’s highly likely that the pandemic will have long-term consequences, one of which could be the permanency of virtual contact replacing traditional in-person meetups. In this case, companies will need to look at rapidly transitioning from the conventional learning model to low-contact online learning. But how? Where do you start to move your classroom PLM training online?
Simply substituting your existing classroom course for some PowerPoints of endless slides of bulleted information, with no engaging activities or social interaction, really won’t cut it. Disengaged learners won’t retain most of what you try to teach them. So putting some time and effort into this changeover could mean the success or failure of your initiative.
Think “transform” not “transfer.”
In this post we’re going to walk you through the 4 steps to move your outdated, in-person PLM training online. Creating an engaging, efficient e-learning experience that is both interactive and social is possible, and we’re going to help you do it!
1. Define Your Learning Objectives
The first and most important step is to create well-defined learning objectives for your PLM training online program. These will be the foundation and roadmap that will guide you through this conversion process. Keep in mind that learning objectives aren’t an agenda but rather a reflection of what the learner needs to know or be able to do in the real world after completing the training. To write effective learning objectives you need to ask yourself:
- What skills should my learners have after this training?
- What do they need to learn how to do?
- Which behaviours should change?
Successful training has outcome-oriented learning objectives that are both achievable and meaningful to the audience. This means they have the time, skill level and drive to achieve these goals because they are relevant to the learner’s day-to-day work and position. Instead of saying “After this training my team will know our PLM system.”, your objectives should be “After this training my team will know how to make X, do Y, and complete Z.”
2. “Bite Size” Your Training
Once you have your plan of learning objectives laid out, it’s time to create bite-sized learning modules. Each lesson should have a distinct learning objective that characterizes the purpose of that experience and its outcome. It’s important to have only a few or just one learning objective per module. This will increase the likelihood that the learner meets your goals.
When transforming your in-person training, you must be aware of the fact that what works in a live environment doesn’t always translate to an online setting. Moreover, one minute of classroom time does not equal one minute of virtual time, so “bite sizing” the material is crucial. Online classes should be a maximum of 60-90 minutes to avoid screen fatigue and distraction issues that come with being online.
There are two approaches to breaking down your training into bite-sized sections: a webinar series approach or a blended learning approach.
Approach 1: Webinar Series
In this approach you’ll break down your classroom training hours into a webinar series, which you can spread over weeks. With all e-learning, including webinars, it’s important to maintain a social component so learners don’t feel bored, lost or alone. To do this you can use features like:
- Ice breaker activities – You can ask participants to type in the webinar chat what their favorite series or books are right now, etc.
- Polls – Test sporadically throughout the webinar to see if your learners are understanding the content and retaining it.
- Breakout rooms – Break your learners into smaller groups in different online “rooms” where they will work on an assignment as teams. Then everyone regroups in one chat room to discuss their answers with the whole group.
Some pros to this approach are that it’s fast and easy, so it can facilitate a quick transition.
Approach 2: Blended Learning
In a blended learning approach you will combine different live and self-paced activities. This could include live webinars, followed by an e-learning course and a final post-class assignment. For example, an 8-hour workshop could be broken down into 3 webinars spread over different weeks, giving the learner time to complete assigned activities and an online course on their own to prepare for the live sessions. These assignments are not just complement, they can be a substitute for webinars.
Take an online course for example. This is the perfect tool to bring your learners up to speed fast, which you can use instead of a webinar to save you even more time and money in the long run. eCourses can be quickly and easily updated as things change over time. Best of all you can incorporate system simulations that will teach your learners real-world tasks in your PLM system with step-by-step instructions, built-in assessments to test knowledge after lessons, plus video, audio, and infographics.
Some pros of this approach are that the program is way more in-depth, you save time by having your users study on their own, and users can experience your system firsthand and practice real-world tasks.
3. Design Activities for Practical On-the-Job Application
After you’ve decided which approach would best suit your material and learners, you can start designing engaging content by creating activities that will integrate their knowledge and motivate their learning. When you’re considering what can be turned into a live session or self-paced assignment, reference your learning objectives for guidance. Let’s look at how to transform your in-person content.
The process of selecting activities is very similar to designing a traditional training class. The difference will be in the tools available to you within the technical platform: chat, polling, file transfers, annotating, and so on.
Some activities in a traditional training classroom easily translate into the live online environment. For example, a classroom-paired discussion activity could become an online-paired chat activity. A classroom question-answer competition between teams could become an online competition using the polling feature. And a ‘live’ demonstration could become a virtual demonstration through screen sharing capabilities.
Be resourceful when designing activities for the live online classroom. Your use of technological tools is only limited by your imagination and creativity.
The best assignments are those designed to teach your learner something that will benefit them in the real world and that has significant relevance to the learner’s work. As mentioned earlier, consider social learning options where it’s a collaborative effort to complete the task, similar to real life on the job. As an example, your team could have an assignment that involves delegating responsibilities and coordinating among roles and departments.
Another example could incorporate peer feedback as a follow-up assignment, where teammates can assess each other and learn from each other. Not only would that mean less work for you, but an activity like that would also reinforce independent teamwork and self-governance that you’d want to see in their daily work.
Follow these three guidelines to help ensure the quality of your assignments:
- Provide opportunities for immediate practice or application of concepts.
- Give users clearly-stated instructions or a clear process for completion.
- Include well-defined standards of expected quality.
4. Curate, Convert, and Create Content
Although it may seem like you will need to come up with a lot of new content on your own, that’s not necessarily true! If you do a mix of curating and converting with a bit of creating content, not all of the work of developing training materials will fall on you.
As they say, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. Use the plethora of resources already available to you online, like LinkedIn Learning, articles, podcasts, infographics, etc. You could assign one of these resources and have your learners prepare to discuss it in the next live webinar.
Look at what you currently have in your classroom training materials and convert it into your e-learning program. For example, if you have a recorded past webinar that’s still relevant, you could edit it down into a 10-minute clip that is used in one of your self-paced exercises. Do you have a useful PowerPoint already made? Record your screen and give a more engaging explanation of the content by walking the user through it.
Of course finally, if you don’t have the exact material on hand that you need for your online PLM training, you may have to create some things. You could quickly put together some short videos by just recording yourself on your webcam or smartphone which could provide a personal touch and better explanation to your users. Get creative – the sky’s the limit!
In conclusion, with a little effort and consideration, moving your classroom PLM training online can be a manageable process that greatly benefits your organization and team. Remember that not all that works in a live environment will translate to an online setting. Define, structure, plan, and most importantly, focus on what your learners need to become more efficient with your system and at their jobs.
If you’d like to transform your PLM training into an effective, socially-distanced e-learning solution but don’t want to do the work yourself, schedule a call with us! We can do all the heavy lifting for you.
Thanks for reading!