Even for the most experienced learning and development professionals, implementing a new online learning program can be a daunting task. Although every situation is different and no two implementations are the same, there are certain elements of best practice that we can consider to make implementing a new online learning program a more efficient and effective process.
In order to find out more, we turned to our own community of learning and development professionals at EF Connect and asked them a simple question: “What are your 3 top tips for implementing a new online learning program?”
The discussion was interesting and participants shared a wide variety of specific tips. However, there were seven themes that kept coming up in the participants’ suggestions. Each of the themes is an important consideration and together they become a useful set of guidelines for success when implementing a new online learning program.
Senior management buy-in and engagement
Vital for securing a budget for the program in the first place, but also important for showing the participants that this is something they need to take seriously. If you need staff to spend time participating in the online learning program, having their managers see it as a useful part of their development is essential. When staff know their managers are interested in their progress or see it as a performance indicator, they will give it more attention and priority.
Clear goals for the online learning program
Why have you introduced this program? Set goals for the overall outcome of the program in order to justify the time and expense involved in implementing and maintaining it. You can only evaluate the overall success of a program if you have a desired outcome to compare it to.
Clear goals/expectations for the participants
Your overall goals for the program can be used to set individual goals for participants. Whether you use 30-day plans or set longer-term learning outcomes for your learners, they need to know what they are aiming for. It’s also important to make sure learners know how they are going to reach their goals. Making it clear how long they will need to spend studying and which activities they need to complete helps them break their goals down into more manageable chunks.
Make the benefits clear to all participants
While some of the learners might study just for the joy of learning, most need to understand the benefits of reaching their learning goals in order to stay motivated. As well as the benefits of achieving their goals, we need to make the benefits of using the program we are implementing clear to the participants so that they use it fully when studying. A simple way to do this is to take users through all the features of the platform that are relevant to them and showing them how each feature can be used to study more efficiently.
Monitor progress effectively
Once you have set your goals, you can start to measure progress against them. For the program as a whole, this will mean looking at the ultimate goals of the program and evaluating how close you are to meeting them within the time-frame you have set yourself. For the progress of individual learners, it means looking at whether they are meeting the goals set for them in terms of participation, and meeting learning outcomes through assessed activities.
Keep learners accountable
There are a wide range of keeping learners accountable for their learning. Most are a balance of carrot and stick (reward and punishment), however simple transparency can often work well for adult learners. When people can see who is meeting their goals, it gives them someone to look up to. Likewise, nobody wants other staff members to see their name on a ‘red list’ of people who aren’t participating as much as they should be.
Make it fun and social
We’ve looked at gamification and social learning on this blog before and both are valuable motivational tools for adult learners. Boosting engagement in this way is really useful in online learning where participants might not have the natural rapport of being in a physical classroom together.
So, those are our seven top tips for implementing an online learning program. How about you? Do you have any tips of your own that you have found work particularly well? Maybe you have used one of the suggestions in the list above. If so, tweet them to us at @EF_Solutions
Many thanks to all those who contributed to the discussion, especially Juan Varela Herranz at Everis and Ronald Provenzano at DECEA both of whom shared points which we have used for the basis of this article.