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gauri Our guest blogger, Gauri Reyes, is a Principal Learning Strategist & CEO at Triple Point Advisors. The publication of this blog was facilitated by Mindflash.

eLearning has numerous benefits. However, a desirable aspect of classroom training is that it’s personal.  There’s a human element. You can see the instructor or facilitator. You can see your fellow learners. You can reach out to people and continue discussions. You can gauge the expressions and reactions of other people when you ask questions or provide input. You can create relationships so you know who to go to in the future when you have a specific workplace issue or question.

So, how do you ensure that your eLearning program is not simply one-way communication—computer/device to human? How do you incorporate human interaction into your courses on your LMS and make it personal?

Start the Buzz before Training Begins

Who says that learning can’t start before the course officially begins? Create anticipation by:

  • Ensuring that your stakeholders have bought into the program, so learners show up ready and willing to learn.
  • Advertising the program to all potential learners (employees, partners and/or customers).
  • Send out pre-course surveys or quizzes, to both advertise anticipated course content and gauge base-level knowledge of participants.
  • Give pre-work, which could include self-assessments, assignments, or field trips.

Most importantly, get your participants to share their thoughts, questions and ideas with each other before the course starts. For example, share the results of quizzes and surveys with your learners. Ask learners to share what they’ve learned during pre-work with each other. These activities not only set the context for focused learning, but facilitate relationship-building before the eLearning course begins.

Bussiness Discussion

Talk During Classes

Contrary to what your teacher may have told you in school, it’s okay to talk during class. Encourage learners to talk about the course and its content, help each other be more productive, and find specific workplace applications for course material. Heck, you can even ask them what they think of the powerpoint graphics you used. Anything to keep engagement.

Create learning-focused conversations in eLearning by:

  • Creating “cohorts” of eLearners that complete set eLearning courses during a common time frame.
  • Encourage self-paced learning, but hold regularly scheduled lectures, discussions or reviews (either in-person on virtually).
  • Building in forced stopping points in the eLearning course, where learners are asked to do “homework” at their desk or to conduct research before returning to the course.
  • Creating discussion boards. According to a survey from LMS recommendation site Software Advice, 24% of LMS users (the majority) prefer social networking in the form of discussion boards.
  • Asking learners to submit videos on a training-related topic, or complete scavenger hunts, quests or other social learning games.
  • Incorporating microblogging in training.
  • Implementing “call a co-worker lifeline” options during learning or quizzes. Directing learners to SMEs during learning can encourage a mentoring relationship.

Find creative ways to encourage talking during class, to inject the human factor into eLearning.

After the Dismissal Bell Rings

Have you ever experienced the feeling during a training class where, when you’re in the moment, you feel that the information you learned in class will be life-changing and will solve every critical business issue known to man? Then you return to your desk and the day-to-day fires force you to throw all your newfound epiphanies in the trash? Learners tend to forget 70% of formal training content with 24-48 hours. And what is not forgotten is not always applied. Extending learning after the course increases information retention.

Extend the conversation by:

  • Setting up performance support systems to bring learning to the workplace.
  • For those learners who excelled in the course, consider asking them to create training modules of their own to share with others. Creating microlearning content rather than longer online training courses can reduce pressure on these new “professors.”
  • Ask eLearning graduates if they’d serve as “ambassadors” to others, effectively becoming the marketers for your eLearning program.
  • Facilitate discussion groups or book clubs to create communities that constantly innovate ways to apply information.
  • Continue the momentum by immediately starting the buzz for the next course in the series.

Keeping learning alive beyond the confines of a “course” helps to create an organizational culture of learning.

Continuing the Conversation

How do you encourage collaboration, communication, and conversation in your eLearning programs? What works? What should we avoid? Please share your tips and experiences in the comments below.

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