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How to move your courses online without sacrificing quality (and personality!)

In 2020, education, training and coaching organisations were forced to grind to a halt due to the Coronavirus restrictions. But in a time where many work teams are struggling with engagement and productivity, when organisations have to be more agile than ever before and students continue to need education, the skills you have as an educator are critical.

For many organisations, being faced with the reality of transitioning online has brought about significant questions. What do we need to start offering eLearning? How quickly can we offer our courses online? What differences are there in creating content for eLearning? Many individuals in organisations also wonder how they can continue to deliver their personal teaching through a screen and still offer the same hands on approach that face-to-face offers. 

With this many questions and concerns in mind, it’s unsurprising that the task of moving learning online has been daunting. The good news though is that if you are looking to transition to online learning, there is no need to sacrifice the quality of your content and there’s certainly no need to lose personality in the process. By following these tips, you can create eLearning that is meaningful to your learners, still engaging and just as unique.

To illustrate, we’ll show you how we worked together with All of You to develop a program for Sydney Opera House

All of You have a suite of face-to-face programs in areas such as positive outlook, resilience and focus, which are delivered to leaders and their teams. ChangeFit connects mental, physical and emotional fitness to ensure the success of the business and individuals.

In recent years, All of You Managing Director Vanessa Porter delivered a number of face-to-face programs and executive coaching to Sydney Opera House. The organisation is facing significant change and saw the benefit in making a change program accessible to more people in the organisation. All of You and Guroo Producer worked together to develop the ChangeFit blended learning program to allow their teams to embrace and thrive through change. 

Find the right mix of delivery modes

As we transition into ‘the new normal’, many organisations are considering whether what is traditionally face-to-face learning needs to be taught in the same way. Opening up the way learning is offered can have significant benefits - a student who does not need to attend campus as frequently may have the freedom to take on industry related work, an employee can complete learning through micro-credentials and minimise their time away from the office while organisations may be able to organise international training programs regardless of timezones. 

This is not to say face-to-face learning is dead, just that organisations can begin to use a mix of learning delivery modes that are right for each individual program and for learners themselves. For example, one-on-one learning could be done over video, group activities can be adjusted to work in virtual breakout rooms, and class exercises can be set up as social learning tasks. In many cases, this more fluid approach can lead to higher rates of engagement, as each piece of learning can be examined individually and the approach optimised for your outcome. 

For the ChangeFit program for the Sydney Opera House, we chose a combination of digital learning experiences, webinars, online tasks and small group coaching sessions conducted via Zoom. This offered a good balance of self-guided study, personal reflection, and group learning. While this delivery mix is right for the Sydney Opera House, it is also easily modified for a face-to-face or 100% online alternative depending on what each organisation requires.

Create a plan

Many organisations realise they need to come up with a plan to support the development of their eLearning, but what about an ongoing plan for your learners?

Consider your course schedule and what tasks learners will need to complete for your course, both on a weekly basis as well as important assignments. If possible, you should group similar tasks together so learners know what is expected of them. For example, all discussion board posts should be due on a Tuesday, while learning journals should be complete on a Friday. Your learners may also benefit from receiving all the course information at once, instead of on a weekly basis to give them more flexibility. Setting out these expectations from the start will allow your learners to more effectively plan their time commitments and help you identify individuals who are falling behind. 

Many educators also choose to create a series of messages that can be sent to your learners. These will often be functional - for example, reminding them of an assignment due date in advance, but they still represent a chance to show off your own personality. This is even more true of welcome messages and anything you choose to post at the end of a course where you will have even more flexibility in how you approach things. 

When learners accessed the ChangeFit program for the first time via Academy, they received onboarding. This was designed to give a brief overview of the program and learning platform as well as introduction videos to introduce them to the facilitators.

Design with personalisation in mind

One of the greatest advantages of face-to-face learning is that as an educator, you can switch up your style of teaching to meet the various needs of your learners. While this is possible with eLearning, it can be a little harder to do without planning.

However, one of the easiest ways to ensure some personalisation is to consider the variety of media you have to get information and ideas across to your learners. How you choose to do this will depend on the content of the course as well as your individual style of teaching. Some educators might be happy to focus on videos, while others would prefer to focus more on written content - this is all okay, but your decisions should also be guided by what best suits your learners.

Mixing up your delivery to make use of live sessions, video, audio, reflective exercises and social learning can help sustain engagement and drive learning, while also ensuring that you are catering to the different learning styles of your learners. In many cases, it is also worth considering how you can also incorporate networking or other social interactions from your face-to-face programs. Look for ways to bring this into an online format, through collaborative virtual workshops, virtual events and social learning opportunities.

The Sydney Opera House ChangeFit program included a series of collaborative small group coaching sessions. In addition, learners were encouraged to engage with each other through the online Academy community.

Build and maintain rapport

The relationship between an educator and their learner is an important one, but the truth is, being online is no barrier to building meaningful relationships. Get to know your learners early – this might be through an introductory webinar or social learning activity. While seemingly a small thing, it can go a long way to ensuring your learners know there is a person behind the learning! Allow them to get to know you as well - consider how you currently do this and if it can be modified to work online. 

It is also crucial that you are available to answer questions and engage with learners on their journey. With less face-to-face contact, learners might be more reluctant to reach out and ask for help if they are falling behind or struggling with course subjects. Using data analytics from learners’ online engagement can also help you understand where they need assistance and provide necessary support.


In the ChangeFit program for Sydney Opera House, the facilitators Vanessa Porter and Chris Wilson built rapport upfront through an introductory webinar. Throughout the program, they made themselves available to answer questions and engage with learners in Academy, Guroo Producer’s online platform. By checking in on learner dashboards, they were able to identify if any learners were struggling to progress, and provide additional support.

Keep learners engaged

Engaging learners in an online format is very different to face-to-face. Think about the example of training organisations who frequently run one-day sessions. This day is naturally broken up by the topics that are covered, time to practice skills and of course a lunch break! It can’t simply be turned into an 8 hour webinar if you want your engagement levels to stay the same.

When you are planning eLearning, it is even more essential that you consider how to break your course up into chunks that are more manageable in an online format. Consider that your learners are likely to be juggling multiple responsibilities and short, quick lessons are more appropriate. You should also consider the method in which you are presenting your information and the ways your learners are likely to engage with the content. While webinars are fantastic for creating a personal connection with your learners, they will often be a larger commitment than say a short video that can be watched at any time during the day. 

The ChangeFit program uses a variety of webinars, coaching sessions, videos, reflective exercises and group activities to keep learners interested in the program. By staggering the learning over a six-week period, learners were able to balance the learning with their job demands. To keep them engaged over this period, we included regular learning activities and online discussion to sustain momentum.

 

Donna Hanson-Squires
31 October 2020 6 Min Read

How does this look in action?
ChangeFit was successfully delivered in a blended format to 54 employees at the Sydney Opera House, including leaders and their teams. If you’re interested in a ChangeFit program for your own organisation, find out more here.

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