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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Is Haste Making On-Line Waste?

easy on-line development doesn't guarantee quality

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Your on-line courses can sit out there, on the Internet or on your in-house corporate intranet, presenting your best practices to employees (or clients) around the clock. Without any interaction with you, participants enroll, learn, are tested, and then (hopefully) apply what they've learned to their work.

That sounds efficient and convenient. But efficient, convenient, round-the-clock delivery of a message is a good thing only if the message itself is good. If your courses are hard to follow, if the content doesn't make sense, you've just "hired" a tireless agent to constantly bring this somewhat embarrassing material to employees or clients.

In other words, if your course is truly useful and effective, the ease of delivery make it possible for lots of people to benefit from it. And if your course is mediocre, or worse, that delivery system also makes sure that lots of people know it . . . and that they shy away from the next thing you put on-line, or, if it is required, get through it as quickly as possible without taking it seriously for a moment.

There are many reasons an on-line course might not be as good as you like, but I see the following five problems below cropping up again and again:

  1. Poor course material. Changing the delivery mode doesn't change the basic quality of the course. If your course wouldn't be any good live, it won't be any good on-line.
  2. Over-reliance on on-line delivery. Often a much more powerful experience could be provided with a combination of on-line, classroom, phone or teleconference, one-on-one, print, audio, and other formats. One size rarely fits all when you are matching training to the needs of both the company and the participants.
  3. Putting less time, money, and thought into the design of the course because it is easy, and even fun, to build the on-line materials. Because that final step of actually creating the course pages is so much easier now, people overlook the thinking that should go into the course before the formatting starts. It's like working a long time to get the fonts, colors, and heading sizes just right in your word-processed document, and then thinking of something useful to say in the time you have left.
  4. Lack of revision. There's a tendency to stamp "done" on a course once it is uploaded to a server someplace. Somehow you just never find the time to examine feedback, review the course in detail, and change it to make it better.
  5. Lack of support. Taking an on-line course can actually be quite isolating, especially when people end up taking it on their own time (as they often do). Discussion, real-time role plays, and a variety of other live interactions can enormously enhance the impact of an on-line course, but it takes some effort, and some management, to recruit and maintain that support for the participants.

You can get a course on-line in a fraction of the time required a few years ago. But if that's all you think about, how quickly you could move your training to the Internet or your intranet, there's a good chance that you'll put something out there that will do just as much harm as good.

© 2010 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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