What do I need to know to customize my online training courses?
Responding is Ryan Dunlap, technical support manager and software trainer, Health & Safety Institute, Summit Training Source, Grand Rapids, MI.
Thanks to advances in technology and software, customizing online training courses, including using text, video, images and more, has become accessible and popular. Many organizations are opting to create or customize training programs (through an online platform) that are more personalized rather than generic or role-based. This gives organizations greater control over their learning, such as the ability to highlight specific information, match work environment, and be flexible enough to accommodate discussions and facilitate problem solving. Even if you’re on board with this type of training method, it can be daunting to think about how to implement it. Here are a few things you should consider when deciding to customize your online training:
Know when to customize. Customization comes in handy when you have specific goals that your training needs to meet. For example, your organization may have specific guidelines or standard operating procedures, such as an emergency action plan, that should be communicated through your training program. For some training topics, your employees may benefit from a specific image or visual reference (for example, an image of the actual machine guards at your site). Questions to consider:
- For each training topic, are there visual references that would enhance the learning gain for your employees?
- Do you have specific policies, procedures or recent updates that should be included in your training?
- Should any specific statewide or local government regulations be added to your training?
Know your audience. Understanding your audience’s needs will help greatly in determining if customizing your online training is right for you. These training plans can take into account not only the role the individual is training for but also the individual’s future goals and any gaps in that person’s skill set. Questions to consider:
- Is customizing my online training going to enhance the subject matter, as well as student learning and knowledge retention of material?
- Can you convert existing training materials into a course to help students transition to using an online platform (e.g., PowerPoint, handbooks, etc.)?
Know the material. This is especially important when creating a course from scratch. You do not need to be a subject matter expert, but you should know enough about the material to create a clear, concise course, and it is a good idea to break the material down into modules, chapters or lessons for easier organization of material presented. Additionally, creating a course based on adult learning theory will provide problem-based and collaborative learning rather than a more didactic approach. Moving away from an “active versus passive” or “teacher teaches, student merely listens” model is especially important for adult learners to foster interest and build the motivation to learn.
Test-drive the software you want to use. Look for software that is flexible enough to include all of the elements you want for your training, including tools such as video, images, games or interactions to help keep the student engaged. Often, a demo or free trial can provide all of the information you need in choosing customizable online learning software.
Customized training has the potential to be a cost-effective, convenient way to improve worker skill levels. By considering all of these factors, hopefully you have more insight into what it takes to successfully customize training in a way that works best for you.
Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.