Kids aren’t the only ones going back to school over the next few weeks; most employees need training too. And choosing the right training path for your employees can mean the difference between keeping them engaged or having them zone out without retaining any information.
Now is a great time to update and refresh your employee training resources, but the training options out there can seem confusing at first. From virtual to eLearning to in-person training, the choices can be overwhelming - which is the right one for you and your company?
What Are the Differences Among Various Types of Training?
Thanks to improvements in technology, a broad need for accessible (online) training during the pandemic, and an increasing shift toward remote work, the methods to deliver employee training are changing. As an employer, you must now decide which training is right for you and your employees. Let’s look at what sets three primary means of training apart.
eLearning generally involves content that can be accessed by an employee without the need for a live presenter. This makes it an easy choice for situations where it is just impossible to get a room full of your employees together at the same time and same place. eLearning can be accessed via a variety of mechanisms, such as a laptop or a smartphone, and it enables employers to provide consistency with content and delivery across an organization.
eLearning is a proven way to introduce concepts and communicate basic knowledge on regulations, operating procedures, or administrative topics. Content can be available in multiple languages to target diverse employee populations. The level of interactivity can be customized to increase a learner’s engagement with the content, to increase retention of new concepts, or even to engage critical employee decision-making skills. Generally, some type of interactivity is beneficial to further engage the employee.
However, eLearning can quickly become an expensive training option. In addition to generating training content, an instructional designer will need to format content via an eLearning software or training platform, develop and add in appropriate interactivity, record a script, sync voiceover, arrange for translation (if needed) and add knowledge checks – these steps can quickly add up. More complex and interactive eLearning courses also require a learning management system or other suitable platform to host content, which adds to overall costs.
Virtual training allows employees to learn from and engage with a live training provider via a virtual platform, such as through Teams, Zoom, or some other video conference platform. Virtual classes usually include some interaction between presenters and learners to keep things interesting and can also include a live feedback mechanism (polls, pop quizzes, and solicitation for instant learner feedback) built into the host platform.
If your course content would benefit from (or is by regulation required to have) a live Question-and-Answer session, virtual training is a great way to include that feature. Virtual trainings can also be recorded for later playback, which is a great one-off option as new employees are onboarded at an organization, but it’s important to keep in mind that you will lose the benefit of live instructor interaction. Virtual training is a cost-effective way to deliver required employee training, especially because you can provide it to multiple locations simultaneously.
It is imperative to have an engaging trainer that understands principles for leading virtual encounters. Employees will have more opportunities for distractions, so it is recommended that cameras be turned on and the trainer keeps the individual interactions high.
This may be what comes to mind when we first think of training: in-person presentations from a subject matter expert presenting course material to a group of learners. In-person training is good for complex topics or concepts that require hands-on skill learning. This works well for a skill that a learner should understand and demonstrate they know how to do before leaving the training, such as CPR, or performing multiple steps in a safety process such as lock-out tag-out. To further engage learners, instructors may also incorporate some type of live interaction (games, group activities, etc.).
One of the benefits of in-person training is that you can make it a whole day long or break it out over the course of a few days. Since the instructor and learners are together, activities like group meetings and games can keep people engaged longer than when they’re completing training via an online platform.
Drawbacks to the Different Types of Training
eLearning: The Cons
- It can get pricey – Costs go up proportionally to course length, complexity and level of interactivity. Animations, voice talent, and aesthetically pleasing custom visuals that align with your company brand all cost money to develop; eLearning development costs can be a large upfront expense with the ROI realized over time. Cost-effective “off-the-shelf" options are available through many training providers, but an employer’s ability to customize content to meet business-specific needs may be severely limited.
- It usually needs some type of Learning Management System – Your eLearning training program needs a place to live. Some basic eLearning courses can live on an internal platform such as SharePoint, but not all eLearning course types function well here and require the support of a Learning Management System (LMS). If your company does not already have an LMS, you will need to get one in place or contract with an external hosting provider. Those costs add up over time since annual maintenance of the system is required; there may also be fees per user, set up costs, and more. You will also need someone (or a team) to manage back-end administration.
- All day online is HARD for adults – eLearning courses need to be designed with the learner in mind. That includes breaking longer course content into well-paced modules and offering the ability to save, walk away, and pick it up again later.
Virtual Training: The Cons
- Scheduling headaches – Since the instructor and learners are generally online together for the live presentation, scheduling issues can easily arise in this form of training.
- Not all instructors are made equally – Not only do you need an instructor that’s familiar with the subject matter, but you need one that can engage with the learners and keep them interested. Reading the virtual space can be difficult for many people, so finding an instructor who presents well and has the expertise to answer questions on the fly can be challenging.
- Limitations in learner interactivity – There is only so much interaction the learners and the presenter can do virtually, which is something to keep in mind depending on complexity (or possibly dry nature) of the subject matter.
In-Person Training: The Cons
- Scheduling issues (again) – Scheduling the learners and the instructor can be even more difficult with in-person training. Costs can also increase around availability of a suitable training venue (if you do not have one in-house), and there can be limitations on travel windows and increased travel expenses.
- Think of training space and your audience – Companies need to think about the space they are using for training. Does it work for training? Is the AC on in a hot climate? Is there a language barrier between the instructor and the learners? All these things play into engagement and the amount of information learners successfully walk away with.
- More multi-faceted skills are needed – A good instructor online may not make a good instructor for in-person training. It’s important to think of a subject matter expert that not only can teach the material, but that feels comfortable in front of a crowd and knows how to keep a live audience engaged and interested.
What about Microlearning?
There is another type of training taking off, and that is short-format content. Even before TikTok, there was Microlearning. And whether you prefer TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube, this just-in-time training delivery method works for any short topic you want your employees to learn about, without the hassle of developing an entire course. Microlearning is a visually engaging snippet about a singular topic – it may be cerebral; it may be funny – but it sends a precise and powerful message in a short format.
This should only be used for short, specific, targeted content that has the “WOW” to get the learner’s attention and keep it during a tiny time frame. This is uncomplicated content that can fit into a short window of time in a busy employee’s day. Specialty platforms are also available to break down larger bodies of training content in Microlearning format, complete with quizzes built in. This provides easily digestible portions of content over a scheduled timeframe.
What Do I need for an Effective Training Program?
No matter what type of training program you decide on, the main things to focus on when developing a program include:
- Who are my learners? Do I have a well-defined target learner (generally identified through some type of needs assessment)?
- What do I need to teach them and how do I best engage them? How should the training be provided, and do I have the appropriately skilled trainers and/or appropriate training vehicles in place?
- Do I have the right subject matter experts (SMEs) to support each step of the process?
By thinking through these starting points, you will help to set your employees up for a positive start to an improved learning experience. Remember, kids aren’t the only ones who need a strong, comfortable learning environment. The more well-rounded your training approach is, the more your employees will learn, retain, and recall that content when their work depends on it.
To learn more about training, reach out to Antea Group’s EHS training services team.
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