I also work as an instructional designer creating online training. I’ve stayed out of this thread because it’s not my AMA, but it seems like this is developing into a discussion about online training, so I’ll contribute and then if we want to break this off into its own separate thread, I’d definitely be interested.
I design online training for a big corporation. Due to a lot of limitations of that company’s software, security requirements, needing to verify that people took classes for their job requirements, and time restrictions, we tend to make a lot of slide based training. For the more sales oriented courses, or the higher level product launches, we add a lot of videos - both animated and with people demoing products or discussing them.
I am also developing courses for my own company, and in that case I have had the freedom to explore a lot more options for how we deliver courses, and also interviewed a lot of people about the benefit to them of online training.
Here are the benefits I have heard:
- A lot of people would rather not travel, or cannot travel. Travel is expensive, and a lot of people would prefer to spend the money they would have spend on air fare and hotels on another course. Many people have little kids or family situations that prevent them from traveling. There’s a lot of people who have social anxiety or just don’t enjoy travel, too.
- People have schedules/family obligations that make it hard for them to get away for a whole weekend for a workshop, or to a class that is during the day. They want to take the classes when it’s convenient for them.
- Some people have learning disabilities or are not native English speakers. Videos that they can start and stop work better for them than a live lecture.
- Then there’s the opportunity to study with a teacher who otherwise is not available to you.
Because my own company is yoga and healing based, I’m really exploring ways to create as much community and sense of connection as I can in my courses, and a lot of the corporate issues of verifying that people attend are just not as big of a deal for these courses.
What I’ve learned from my conversations is:
- Zoom videoconference is by far the closest thing to being in person with someone. However, for people who live in other time zones, this gets into some of the same issues as live classes, that people need to be able to be on at a certain time. Yes, you can watch the replay, but it’s not the same as a live call.
- People like Facebook groups and online forums for group interaction.
The drop out rate from online courses is very high - something like 80% of courses are never completed.
One thing that keeps people involved is paying a lot of money for the course, and also having a Facebook group or community component to it.
Here’s some articles about this issue:
One of the best designed communities that revolves around online learning is this one, WPElevation, which teaches people to become professional WordPress developers. In this video, they discuss the tech that is involved in this system. It is super clever and thought through to create community and engagement through rewards and emails. This kind of thing is rarely thought through - people throw the content up and do not think about followup and delivery.
I’m current in an online “coaching program” and I am super impressed with how they run this program. It is not technically very advanced - mostly just documents thrown up in Google Docs and Zoom videoconference calls + a Facebook group - by the teachers are very high touch; constantly checking in, reaching out by Facebook messenger to see how they can help, they just gave me an extra $1000 bonus of coaching (this is like 1 hour call - these coaches tend to massively inflate the value of their work in order to get paid a reasonable amount) - so it’s not always about the tech but also can be about personally getting out there and checking in. If you watch this video all the way through, you’ll see that this company was doing something similar at first, then as they grew they automated some of the personal touch elements.