Rework Online Training Part 2: Outcomes Drive Overall Design

fractalWhen I design any form of training, I ask this question:

What actions do I want people to take after the training?

Do I want to offer principles? A vision of the future? Some possible actions? Maybe a blueprint for the future? How about practice with feedback?

When I want to offer principles or a new future, I choose a webinar. When I want more actions, I choose training.

Webinars offer an Introduction or a Vision of the Future

If I offer a one-hour webinar, I ask people to consider a new future. I might ask people to read more. I might ask them to notice their current habits.

In a single one-hour webinar, I can't ask for much. Very few people can change their actions post-webinar because they need practice with feedback on those actions.

What about a longer webinar? Just as a 90-minute session is too long for people in person, 90 minutes is too long for a webinar, too.

People need a break every 45-60 minutes. (45 minutes is best. They might be able to concentrate for the last 15 minutes.)

Think about how people join a remote meeting:

  • They join at least 5 minutes early. If they think the webinar will be oversubscribed, they join earlier.
  • They are stuck in their chairs for the entire meeting. (If they have a standing desk, that might be okay. The rest of us sit for the entire meeting.)
  • If they're staying hydrated, they really need a bio-break at the 60-minute mark.

And, for a webinar, they're not engaging with anything but the speaker and her slides. Maybe a poll, but that's it. (In my experience, you can have too many polls.)

I can “teach” any number of people in a webinar. A webinar is the same as a conference talk or keynote—with the exception that I have much less interaction during and post-talk. (Sigh. I like the interactions!)

That's why I think of webinars and training as two different solutions.

Online Training Has Different Characteristics than Webinars

If I want people to apply what they learned in the training, I seem to need these characteristics:

  • The training has to span multiple days or weeks. (The interval is different depending on whether I'm offering public or private workshops.)
  • I need to chunk the information so I ask people to do something small enough and complete it in each interval. (In my writing workshops, I ask people to write every day for 15 minutes. I want them to feel what it's like to build that habit. In my agile workshops, I ask people to work as part of a team for an hour every day. I want them to feel the difference inside the guidelines.) Do people do the homework every interval? Of course not. I can use peer pressure to help them see they can do the homework.
  • I offer people the ability to interact with the content in various ways: discussions, interactions via games and simulations, and practice in small groups before the homework.

Those characteristics create different implications for the number of people I can teach.

While I restrict my in-person workshops to somewhere between 16-21 people, I am not comfortable teaching more than 9 people in an online workshop. I restrict the number of people because of my actions:

My teaching actions:

  • Check for comprehension. Some people are reluctant to ask questions, either in-person or online. In person, I can see their faces. Online, I can only see a little box with their face. I still want to see, never mind ask in another way.
  • Create whole-group discussions.
  • Create partial-group discussions or practices.
  • Create interactions or simulations to help people understand the material so they can practice as homework.

Yes, I actually create outcomes for the workshop first. Once I have the outcomes, I can create a design. I use these characteristics in my workshop design.

I've also noticed I often reorder the units in a remote workshop. That's part of how I design the experience.

The series:

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