Online participants are not the only ones who many need support when it comes to online training. As an instructor, you might be asked to facilitate an online course for the first time, and you might wonder about any new skills or training you might need. The GO research identified that training in effective online facilitation, content development and the use of online learning platforms and technologies is an important factor in the introduction of online learning. For more detailed information about each of these topics, please see the following modules: Online Facilitation, Online Content and Technology.
It should comes as no surprise that the key to successful online training is not the technology but the content. While computer applications allow content to be presented in new and sometimes radically different ways than you might be used to, it is important that the learning continues to be about the content, not about how it is delivered. Ensuring that content is current, well-written and relevant goes a long way towards the successful introduction and the ultimate outcomes of online learning.
Before you decide that your organization should offer some type of online training, you need to assess whether it has the capacity and ability to do so. It is important to ensure that you have enough staff as well as access to the necessary technology before embarking on an online learning project. Are you able to support participants in your training? Once you have determined this, you also need to think about whether or not you can maintain an online course. The need for ongoing maintenance is one reason that many smaller organizations chose to use a self-study modular approach.
An additional important factor to consider when introducing online learning is the needs of your target audience. Are they looking for accredited training? Will be they be able to commit to a longer course that lasts a few months or are they likely to prefer a few shorter sessions? Do they have the technology available to participate in synchronous sessions incorporating audio and/or video feed or is their existing hardware and software better suited to an asynchronous course that doesn’t require additional software to be downloaded? Do they work in organizations that have sophisticated firewalls set up that block some software and even some Web 2.0 applications?
Finally, before committing to delivering an online course, take the time to do some research and plan. This can help you address not only the questions of capacity and the needs of your potential audience, but it can also help you identify factors such as how your proposed online learning can provide new or better ways of offering training, how you might effectively transition from previous methods of training to online (if this is a concern), the type(s) of technology you might use and concerns around effective content development and online facilitation.