Training Blog

Getting the Right Mix of E-learning

Cliftons is constantly being asked by clients if we support e-learning. It’s an area of increasing interest and many training courses now promote that they support it.

The answer to the question is of course “Yes”.

Cliftons supports many of the key elements of e-learning that help organizations, trainers, facilitators and project managers build a flexible or blended learning experience.

So what is e-learning?

E-learning covers many different types of online and computer based training types. These then break off into several areas depending whether delivery is fixed, instructor-led or interactive.

E-learning also includes self-paced or scheduled learning, classroom computer training, webinars, online forums, online quizzes, teleconferencing, video demonstrations and the one we all love – those ‘online tests’ we’re all subjected to. Most companies that do online training rely on powerful tool called a learning management system.

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework breaks the different types of learning into three tiers, ranging from low interactivity to high interactivity.

Low interactivity includes those fixed or static types of learning such as PowerPoint presentations, audio sessions and e-books, whereas high interactivity includes chat rooms videoconferencing and more real-time activities including games.

Some of the fixed types of learning include materials supplied on disc or in PDF format through download, basically replacing the old correspondence-type courses, just with less paper involved. There is a general move away from these to include more interactive real time content through the use of webinars. Again these vary in sophistication and delivery skills.

Blending Delivery

The different types of e-learning can be combined to create a training program that is tailored and relevant to learners’ needs. Include this with face-to-face learning and practical on the job training to provide a truly blended learning experience.

Developing a range of materials in varying formats allows trainers to provide this flexible learning environment and is the key to getting the most out of the opportunities offered with e-learning.

How can I use e-learning?

Breaking down training into modules is a perfect way to structure e-learning strategies. Modules using self-pace computer instruction or video instruction and online activities, questionnaires, exams or challenges are the perfect way to allow employees to learn at their own pace but also can allow instructors to monitor progress and understanding on a real-time basis.

An example may be that ACME Mining has upgraded their online management system that now links all their office facilities in the capital cities to its mining operations across Australia.

ACME Mining could provide a webinar using specialists to introduce the system and field questions from staff. Given the right set up, this could happen while employees are at their desks, or in a dedicated computer training facility. The company could also use video conferencing if it was launching the system to the whole organisation and give demonstrations. This may also be complimented by an introductory video that can be viewed at any time for existing and new staff.

Instruction manuals with skills activities and tests can be placed in public areas on the server and a forum or Q&A area could also be utilised to give employees a voice and enable them to ask questions or discuss issues with fellow users.

There are many possible combinations available to produce a flexible learning environment for ongoing skills training or for big and small change projects. With training projects involving lots of learners it is always advisable to consider training facilities that offer infrastructure to facilitate trainer led sessions, which is also a great way to build shared knowledge and experience to use in the workplace.

Watch the case study below on how e-learning has been central to embedding compliance at PricwaterhouseCoopers.

6 Things You Should Ask Your Computer Training Venue Before You Book!

With the growth in technical roll out projects such as SAP and Oracle implementations, many companies are turning to computer training facilities to provide a secure and safe training environment for employees who need to have their skills upgraded on these new platforms.


Computer infrastructure projects are expensive enough without the added worries of not being 100% sure if your staff will be ready to use the network or software once it is commissioned.

Asking a few simple questions to ensure the training venue capabilities equals your training needs can save an enormous amount of effort and money when it comes time to turn the key on your new system.

Try these essential questions and see how the training facilities compare.

Do you have dedicated computer training rooms?

Some venues offering computer training use temporary set ups to meet teaching needs. The constant configuring, disconnecting and reconnecting of computer training equipment can create uncertainty from day to day as to whether learners will have access to the equipment and network needed to complete the training.

Venues that have dedicated computer training rooms, like Cliftons,  will be more reliable when it comes to maximising training outcomes.

Furniture and chairs should be specially designed for computer training. Well-designed furniture will allow learners to be comfortable, have a clear view around the room and reduce glare from monitors and projectors.

How up to date is your software and hardware?

There is nothing worse than turning up to a training venue that has equipment and infrastructure that is older than what you are used to at work. Learners may spend more time trying to work out how to use the equipment than paying attention, and as a result miss out on important learning opportunities and not gain the skills they need.

Always ensure, you can match as closely as possible the feel of equipment you have in the workplace. Of course there may be some cases where operationally your equipment may vary across your company, however if you also plan for these exceptions in the training plans the venue should be able to assist in this area.

Can I duplicate my workplace using your facilities?

A good computer training venue will allow you to mirror your server and system information on a secure network with connections allowing learners to train in a virtual workplace.

The ability to physically operate terminals as if in the workplace greatly enhances the learning experience and ensures employees can easily apply their skills immediately when returning to work.

For security reasons, rooms should be isolated from each other and external environments such as unsecured internet access.

Can we access our own workplace network?

Real time access to your workplace network can greatly enhance learning and also ensure training is targeted, specific and relevant. A real-time live experience can be invaluable to ensure your participants have access to cases or examples that they may have questions about in their day-to-day situations or you simply want to ensure that the content has business-wide credibility.

Speak to the training venue to see if this is possible. They should have a high-bandwidth, symmetrical, business grade internet service with sufficient capacity to manage the additional data load that encrypting your data often requires.

From a technical viewpoint, be cautious of how the available bandwidth is communicated. Symmetrical services mean that the up-load and down-load speeds are consistent – very important when you will be communicating back and forth with your network for avoiding the dreaded ‘type and wait’ latency issues that are experienced when up-load speeds are low.

Some venues will quote that they have a 100mb bandwidth capacity – this is normally the download speed with upload speeds as low as 512kb on inferior services.

How do you secure your network?

If the training venue is hosting your information, this also comes with responsibility. To ensure data integrity and security, the facility needs to manage a secure network and dedicated connections from the PCs in your room through all network appliances, the internet or public web to your network.

Your organisation is likely to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and have security standards such as IPsec or HMAC-SHA1 – be sure that the infrastructure available at the venue has the capacity to be able to deal with these standards or other data encryption standards such as Triple DES or AES.

Do they you have dedicated IT/Network staff?

This may be an obvious question but your selected venue should have sufficient trained, knowledgeable, experienced and dedicated support staff on-site and available before, during and after the training. You don’t want to be left at the front of a classroom with a minor technical glitch that leaves you and your clients or participants waiting while the venue calls in technical support to get your course started.

Which Delivery Method is Best for Me?

In previous posts we have explored some of the key elements that make up a successful training experience.

We have had a few questions on different delivery techniques and how they can best be utilised to enhance the learners’ ability to understand and retain knowledge.

Trainers need to answer a few questions themselves to gauge which methods might work best. The first decision might be “Do I deliver the training in groups, individually, on the job or off site?” This will depend upon a number of factors including the individual’s needs, what skills you are trying to impart, and the ability to bring groups together.

Whatever method or methods you decide are most appropriate, we always see an advantage in groups coming together for training as they share a common link through the experience that can support skills transfer as a team and build enthusiasm back in the workplace. This is something that doesn’t always get created within other types of training.

Interactive training

The best trainers use interactive methods to break up sessions and get across different ideas and techniques. Role plays, demonstrations, case studies, trigger films, brainstorming, group projects, workplace activities and simulations are a few ways you can achieve this.

Getting groups to research a subject outside the learning environment and present findings to the group works well also. The benefit of these techniques is that the trainer can observe participants, allowing them to gauge understanding and skills transfer, and tailor their session accordingly.

Face to face

Face to face training is probably the most common type of training used, however this has been changing rapidly with technological advances in computer training, video conferencing, and connectivity across the country and the globe.

Well planned face to face training opens up myriad possibilities and activities that can be used concurrently to create a variety in delivery that some other mediums don’t have. Trainers and facilitators can use a combination of lectures, presentations and interactive techniques to add variety to the learning experience.

Lecturing on its own is generally best used to transfer knowledge or messages to larger groups. This will only work well if the learners are self-directed and can take key concepts away for further investigation.

Click Here to read ‘Online vs Face-to-Face Training’.

Energising

Not many people want to sit and listen to one person talking at them over a period of time. ‘Energisers’ are a great way to break up periods of sitting and listening with activities designed to get the people out of their seats, moving around and interacting. Try to use energisers that also create learning opportunities.

There are plenty of places to get these on the web. A search for “icebreakers and energisers for effective training” will provide lots of ideas.

Webinars and video conferencing

This is one area of training that has certainly gained momentum over the last few years. Webinars and video conferencing are a great way to deliver content when you can’t get all of the learners together at a single venue.

If the information you need to get across also relies on demonstration of more complex tasks, or there needs to be extensive group discussion, then video conferencing is probably a better tool to use.

Webinars are great for short bursts of information delivered by a lecturer accompanied by tools such as PowerPoint to get the message across. Webinars are probably not suited to training that requires extensive detail, skills assessment or sustained interaction with the facilitator.

Computer based learning

There are different types of computer based training. This type of training can be used as a tool for distance learning and with modern technology and connectivity, has all but replaced the old style correspondence courses. Learning, modules and examination can be built into online training modules. This can work well in conjunction with webinars and video conferencing as discussed above for distance learners.

There is another type of computer based training; training for organisations that may need to upskill employees for software and hardware upgrades or implementations. This is best carried out at dedicated facilities that mirror workplaces so learners can concentrate on the tasks at hand without the usual distractions.

Panels

Expert panels can be a good way of presenting varied points of view to learners and to promote discussion among larger groups. The best panels are well planned, moderated by an expert to ensure they stay on subject, and allow for broader discussion based on points raised.

Panels do create expectations that opinions and techniques offered by a panel will equal at least the latest industry thinking. Better still you may be able to attract the leading thinkers and innovators.

Whichever method you decide to use for your particular training session, make sure you take into account your learners’ needs, skills and desired training outcomes.

How to Organise Training to Achieve Excellent Results

Cliftons staff are constantly being asked “how do I ensure my training sessions will run smoothly while achieving the best results for the learners and my company?”

Queries like this have prompted us to start this talent management news training blog to share the knowledge and experience we have gained over the past 15 years as a training venue provider.

Of course there is no single answer to this question and many factors go into delivering the perfect training session however there are common trait all good trainers and seminar organisers display to ensure training delivery = desired training outcome.

We will be exploring techniques of successful training and sharing ways in which you can increase the effectiveness of sessions you may be planning.

Planning is the key

Although it may look like great trainers and facilitators can stand up and deliver off the cuff, in reality they have put a lot of planning into every aspect of the delivery and logistics. Whether the training is a short half day session or delivered over a number of days, you need to plan your time, key messages, delivery methods, training mediums & select the right venue.

Be clear about your message

This may seem an obvious point, but do you truly have a handle on what you need to get across to your learners? You should always start with a list of core things you want the training to achieve. These can include key learning outcomes, specific messages or pieces of information, or even skills and techniques.

Clarifying these aspects in the planning stage will help with the preparation and decisions with the points that follow.

Choose the best medium

There are a number of ways to deliver training in the modern world. Getting across what you have to say successfully can depend on who you are training and the type of tools you use. Training is not just about getting a group of people in a room, talking to a PowerPoint slide and hoping to get the information across.

There are many options open to you these days to deliver training, such as face to face in a training room, seminars and conferences, video conferencing, webinars and computer based training, just to name a few. Think about using one or a combination of these.

Have a look at this video about 8 ways to improve your presentations!

 Know your learners

Understanding who you are training is critical in choosing the way you will get your message across. Some learners respond to listening and reading, others need visuals or a more practical approach. Varying your style, speed and activity level greatly increases understanding and retention of information.

Learners’ backgrounds, levels of knowledge, geographic location and preferred learning methods are also crucial points to understand.

Don’t be too restricted by one delivery method

We all learn in different ways, and getting the key points across to a group can depend on how we choose to deliver the message. Good trainers vary their delivery to emphasise different messages, ensure variety and cater to varied learners needs.

Role playing, demonstrations, case studies, panel discussions, videos, and group activities are all ways to vary your delivery and the learners will appreciate the variety. If you have access to break out areas (see pictures below) use them to your fullest advantage to alter the physical learning environment.

Pick the most appropriate venue

Not all training venues are equal. Training outcomes can be hugely influenced by the physical surroundings in which a learner is placed. Most of us will have attended training or seminar in a hotel where the lighting was poor and we sat at banquet tables more suited to a wedding.

The best dedicated training venues will offer a blend of natural and regulated lighting in their rooms, ergonomically designed chairs and tables, access to the latest technology and support tools to assist the facilitators and trainers. As discussed earlier, large and comfortable break out rooms are a must to vary the environment during the day.

Also look for a venue that has healthy food options best suited to helping learners stay fuelled and alert all day.

Always ask for feedback

You can’t improve if you don’t know where you were off the mark or went wrong. Embrace other people’s opinions and strive to improve every time you deliver or organise training, seminars or conferences, and soon people will think you are delivering it off the cuff.

COPYRIGHT 2010 CLIFTONS
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