Since manufacturing company rolling out a leadership e-course, employers

Since 2011, money spent on e-learning has doubled, and as of 2014, over 41.7%of global Fortune 500 companies have used some form of educational technologyto instruct employees. It seems employers are catching on to the multitude ofbenefits online training can offer.Online training is a tool, and a tool is only as good asthe person wielding it. Whether it’s an architectural firm deploying a projectmanagement MOOC or a manufacturing company rolling out a leadership e-course,employers should be fastidious in preparing for online training to ensure a smoothand effective training experience.Here is a pre-deployment checklist for online training.1. Establish GoalsWhen employers decide to use online training, they canpursue one of two strategies: collaborate with an online course developer like SweetRush to create a custom trainingprogram, or use a service like Udemy for Business to identify the optimaltraining program from a pre-existing collection.

“Having clear goals upfront is absolutely key,” said PaulSebastien, vice president and general manager at Udemy. “What do you want outof this? What don’t you want out of this? What are the pain points?”Goal-setting helps online training providers like Udemycreate the most effective training experience. Sebastien said establishing goals, particularly those that aremeasurable, is also essential when it comes time to assess the training’seffectiveness.

Innovations in analytics have made it possible todetermine the return on investment of nearly every type of online training.This means that goal-setting requires more nuance than simply wanting toimprove employee performance or increase revenue. Companies need to dig deeper.If improving employee performance is the overarchinggoal, what aspect of employee performance specifically needs improving?Productivity? Accuracy? Quality? Is the goal of the online training to reducethe learning curve for a specific task or role? Is it to boost teamcooperation?If revenue growth is the overarching goal, are therespecific sales goals that need to be met? What is the root cause of theinadequate revenue? Poor customer service? Poor salesmanship? Is it a marketingissue? A PR issue?Defining and quantifying your goals prior to trainingdeployment will result in a more targeted training experience, and make iteasier to measure the training outcomes and effectiveness.2. Evaluate PriorTraining ProgramsFor many companies, online training is only the latest ina series of training initiatives.

If your company is switching from a physicaltraining model to a virtual training model, or shifting from one onlinetraining provider to another, be sure to conduct a thorough evaluation of anyprior training programs. By identifying where the prior programs fell short,you can circumvent similar issues in the new program.For example, imagine that a prior SEO training programfailed to fully engage employees. Investigating the matter might reveal thatthe participating employees maintained varying levels of expertise in SEO, andthose who did not fully engage found the courses to be too slow, which resultedin boredom and ambivalence.

Armed with this insight, you can ensure the new onlinetraining program comes with a contingency plan for this exact scenario.Consider choosing a program that offers a proficiency test to determine courseplacement, or a program that enables employees to skip, or place out of,certain course levels.3.

Technical RequirementsTo provide an optimal training deployment and maintain apositive training experience, companies must ensure the technical requirementsof the training program align with the company’s technical capabilities.For example, some e-learning programs are not formattedfor mobile devices. Does your company have enough computers for each employee,or were you partially relying on tablets and smartphones?Is your company equipped with disability-friendlytechnology? Can you accommodate employees with hearing disabilities or motorimpairments?How many people are typically online at once? Will thetraining require an unprecedented number of simultaneous online events? If so,does your company have enough bandwidth? Slow connection speeds can adverselyaffect the training experience.

4. Prepare EmployeesAn employee’s attitude toward a training event can affecthow they learn, and how well. Therefore, it’s important for companies tosufficiently prepare their employees for online training by settingexpectations, building excitement, and fostering a positive learningenvironment.”Ideally, you want employees to be curious, open-minded,and even eager to gain knowledge and learn skills,” said Andrei Hedstrom, CEOof SweetRush.

Hedstrom suggests companies craft thoughtfulcommunications before the start of a training program to put employees in theright frame of mind.”A video trailer, a series of email announcements, evenposters in the hallway, done right, can build anticipation and increasemotivation and attention,” he said.Hedstrom also emphasizes how important it is to showemployees you value their time. Unfortunately, not everyone will automaticallyappreciate an upcoming training event, and may see it as a fool’s errand or apatronizing initiative.

Failing to set goals, learn from previous trainingexperiences, and meet technical requirements might be construed asdisrespectful, and can internalize these doubts even further.Providing high-quality, engaging online training “is themost critical thing you can do to ensure your employees will be open to andeager for the training courses you will want them to take over time,” Hedstromsaid.5. Change How You ThinkAbout TrainingFor companies transitioning from the classroom to thecomputer, a change of thinking is advised. Hedstrom describes this change inthinking as “a shift from an assembly line to an ecosystem, like a rain forest.You have to continually look for connections between the various parts of yourcurriculum in the multiple layers of the curriculum canopy.

“Compared to a traditional classroom setting, virtuallearning is a much more dynamic system, and presents a myriad of new tools andtactics such as virtual instructors, games, and support apps.Hedstrom says that envisioning this kind of dynamicsystem “can help open companies up to the possibilities, and avoid challengesthat come from minimizing the effort involved.”It helps to understand that online training is not linearlike classroom training. Participating employees will advance at differenttempos, and some online courses have multiple navigation paths, meaning thateach employee’s learning experience will differ.

What’s more, observing your employees as a teacher wouldobserve a classroom doesn’t translate. To evaluate progress and effectiveness,companies must rely on analytics and employee feedback. The independent natureof online training also requires employers to relinquish a certain amount ofcontrol and trust that their employees are committing to the process.ConclusionOnline training is a wholly different animal than itstraditional counterpart.

Understanding those differences helps companies betterprepare for training deployment, and proper preparation can lead to long-termsuccess. Remember to establish specific goals and evaluate any prior trainingprograms to prevent similar issues. Make sure that all technical requirements aremet and prepare employees for training by creating a positive and respectfullearning environment