Online Training Done Right29 Oct 2010
When I ask people that take classes online what they are missing the most from a regular class or lecture, the first thing they tell me interactivity. In this case they miss being able to not just hear from the professor but ask questions, interact with him etc.
Rule #1: They need to be interactive
Most online classes are dull and boring text based or powerpoint presentations that require you to read more than if you just picked up a book on the subject. Most schools take advantage of this because it’s the cheapest route and allow the professors to monitor the classroom activities but most don’t go through the trouble of making their classes any better. Most schools and other organizations are focused on the content more than the student’s experience and therefore may not spend much if any time on presentation. Whether it’s HTML5, Flash or any other form of interactive system, you can choose to do so much more than the norm in planning your class. The problem is that the professors and teachers are usually left to put together the course content and with most having little to no technical experience, they do what they can do best, type. We need a new crop of teachers that can do more than make a powerpoint on a subject, they can create audio friendly, interactive classes that will allow the students to click and drag through their studies and trully utilize their learning potential. We need tech savy course creators.
Rule #2: They need a way to measure student participation
Most online courses now have online testing and quizzes which is important in measuring student participation, but intead of focusing on standardized testing only for a course, there should be a testing of the way a student is learning. Online classes need to be more intiuative so that the software can better interact with the student and really get their attention. I hate online courses that depend only on a chatroom session and a bunch of reading material, if we pay for an online classroom then the experience should be just as good if not better than the in class experience, most of the reading I can get from a book so why not make the content on the class more interactive.
Rule #3: They need valid reference material
Many schools in general get this wrong when deciding the textbooks they need to use for a class, in many cases the textbook information is out of date or the online class rely’s so much on the textbook that it resembles more a class syllabus than an online classroom. There needs to be available during the class and during the training that is either more valuable or different then the reference material and it has to be valid and produce benefit for the student otherwise it’s worthless and shouldn’t be there. Many scoff at the idea of using Wikipedia in online classrooms for referencing material but in fact that is a great tool to give your students an idea of outside information that may increase their knowledge and understanding, just because you don’t want to link to it doesn’t mean that your students aren’t already referencing it.
Rule #4: They need to be readily available and convenient
There is a rush online to provide training from colleges wanting you to take their online courses to companies helping you train or try out their software products in a classroom setting. The problem I find is that in many cases as a student or a potential buyer, I have to sign up for an inconvienient webinar and schedule an appointment to meet up with an actual human being before taking the class or product. Companies like Citrix have come up with products like GoToTraining and GoToWebinar to help people more easily do these live training events but that isn’t always what the customer wants.
The purpose behind doing a Webinar from a companies standpoint is to allow a salesman to talk with the tester or client and potentially sell them the product, the reason to do it from a school’s perspective is to allow a professor to meet with a student and allow them to ask questions. Yet as a student of many of these kind of classes, I can tell you that convenience and not always presence is on the top of list for most that take classes online. If you take the time to make your training more interactive, then you will solve the problem that most classes have of needing a teacher or professor to run the seminar or lecture.
Rule #5: They need to be Inexpensive
Companies Like Element K and others do a great job at providing interactivity and all of the above, but in many cases I want to take a class but don’t want to spend over $200 to do it. They price classes this way because that is the general amount that we think about when we take classes at a community college or learning annex. There is nothing wrong with charging so much for a class if you are simply trying to recoup your initial costs, but in the end the economics of free mean that your class has more than paid for itself and in order for a customer like myself and others to feel the need to take your course the price has to be reasonable. I would only take an online class that’s in the $100 or more range for two reasons; first if the class provided me a certification that was worth something, second if I absolutely needed that class and had no other option. In most cases people when confronted with such an expensive proposition will opt to do the research themselves or use wikipedia.com. Keeping your prices between the $10 to $40 range will allow that even the most hesitant of students will consider taking the course and all the other factors we discussed will make your online course even more appealing.