January 27, 2021
Engaging Learners in Remote Delivery
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January 27, 2021
Engaging Learners in Remote Delivery
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I have been doing a lot of reading on remote learning since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as my work was affected by it. As the pandemic continued, I was scheduled to deliver lessons online, taking face to face delivery and moving to Live Online. At least, this was the suggestion by the organizations I was working with. So, I decided to educate myself.

What I found was a lot of opinion on the subject. Some pro, some con and then others that fall somewhere in the middle.

While Live Online is fine, and fully asynchronous eLearning is also fine, I think a Blended approach is quite effective with certain programs and courses, especially for Higher Education. I am a big fan of the flipped classroom and have used this previously. I like the interactivity and engagement that it learning allows. Further down this post, I will share some of the readings I have read on how to make online/remote learning better and how to use different resources to engage learners and make it worthwhile. But let us first take a look at the ILT to VILT option. The one that many organizations started with and that still many are continuing with as we continue in the pandemic.

Live Online Option

Probably the best reading I discovered, and it came later in my research, was from the Captivate eLearning Community itself. Specifically an Asha Pandey’s post titled “15 Tips and Strategies to Engage Remote Learners Through High-impact Virtual Training”. Around the same time, I attended a webinar (How To Leverage Microlearning To Build Employee Learning Habits And Drive Continuous Learning) where the presenter was Ms. Pandey. I greatly enjoyed her session, so when I saw this post, I read it right away.

In it she provides information on the challenges associated with the pandemic and trying to learn remotely, with one of her biggest points being the quick reaction to moving to remote delivery and not being able to complete a proper analysis of needs, technology and how best to engage learners, if I may paraphrase her writing. The additional challenge I see with this point is that some organizations have not changed. They have not identified that the long, face on camera sessions are not ideal for online learning. And this is unfortunate for all parties. It could be so much better.

Trying to make it better is what the remainder of her article discusses, and I’m going to focus on the first section of her tips here, dealing with Remote Delivery. 

The first 7 tips she has are:

 – Create manageable milestones

 – Highlight the value of the Virtual Training

 – Learner Interaction

 – Reward Learners

 – Encourage Social Learning

 – Continue the connect with remote learners

 – Take feedback for continuous improvement 

I am not going to rehash what has already been written, but there are a couple points that I believe are very important. I believe Learner Interaction is very important in any setting – ILT, VILT, eLearning. Getting learners into the course, to work with it, learn, and get everything they can out of it. But as is noted, interaction is even more important in remote delivery. Adding more interactive content, group work, quizzes, for example, to encourage participation, interaction, to bring learners into the course/module being delivered. Adobe Captivate is a great resource that can help create this type of interactive content. The content I have seen developed by many on this community, as well as in my experience, has the ability to educated and engage at the same time. It doesn’t have to be the main tool to deliver curriculum, but in the VILT environment, I think it could be a nice addition for students and instructors.

Secondly, Encourage Social Learning. Learners learn from each other, and proving a place to do that is required. We should carve out time in the course to allow learners the space to learn with each other. Providing scheduled time for students/learners to interact can be extremely beneficial to the overall success of our learners. The LMS of the organization is typically a great place to encourage this, especially in the Remote Learning environment. Set up discussion boards, let students interact and learn from each other. Use break out rooms in whatever remote delivery software is being used. Give your students time to interact during class time, or encourage them to interact after class.

I highly encourage you to read the full article referenced here, I think it is a great read.

Finding “The Coach”

During my time researching this subject, I decided to attend some sessions at the virtual Adobe eLearning World Conference in June. One of the sessions I attended was delivered by Connie Malamed – “The eLearning Coach” – and based on that session (Instructional Design Workshop: Design Thinking for Learning Design) I decided to check out her site. There is a wealth of information here for Instructional Designers, eLearning developers and anyone interested in education. I enjoy her style of writing and I agree with a lot of what she has to say. You can check out her site here. 

Best Practices for Blended Learning 

I really enjoyed reading “The Coach’s” recommendations and thoughts on the 10 Best Practices for Designing Blended Learning. There is a lot of great information to review on developing Blended Learning and she outlines the many benefits and options available. Again, I am not going to rehash what has been written, but comment on a couple of the Best Practices that I agree with. 

I will start wth the first one: Design to meet learning outcomes, not to use specific technologies. My opinion on this is that we should start with what you are trying to achieve and what you expect learners to take from a course. This is the same way courses are developed when technology does not factor in, such as face to face. In most of these situations, the technology doesn’t matter. In fact, you might not even need it. It’s face to face. I have done plenty of training sessions with printed books and pens. So, just because you have eLearning Authoring software in your tool box, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Even though it can do some really cool stuff.

Next, point 5: Design from scratch rather than redesign an existing course or curriculum. I am a firm believer that it is much harder to revamp, revise, or adjust a course than it is to develop a new one. And sometimes what is already there just doesn’t work for what you are trying to do now. When faced with reworking a course, I think the best thing you can do is take it down the studs and build up from there. 

Suggestions to Engage

There are some things we can do to help take face to face learning and move to remote delivery without a lot of heavy lifting. We don’t need to think completely out of the box to engage learners with remote delivery. One of the things I would suggest, I have already discussed, providing time in the design for Social Learning. But to go along with this one, I am going to reference a blog post I recently read from HRDQ, a company whose resources I have used in the past. You can read their post here. In this article they discuss Icebreakers, Case Studies and Role Play as engagement tools. 

Icebreakers are a staple in training and are also popular in higher ed. So why would we want to stop using an icebreaker when we move to remote learning? It is probably more important to include them in remote delivery? Introductions, conversations, polls, all great suggestions identified in the article. I am big fan of games as icebreakers, but the game has to relate to the material. So create a game based on the content you are teaching for the day. Bring the learner in with something fun. My gift to you, should you choose to take it.

Secondly, Case Studies are great in education. I love using them, for activities and evaluations. It is a versatile tool that translates well to remote learning. Break up the class into smaller groups with breakout rooms, provide an interesting topic/article, think up some insightful questions, and let them go off for part 1 of a social learning session. Then bring the group back to discuss and debate to solidify material. Role Play is different and my view is they have to be used with the right content. Sales training, interpersonal communication, dealing with challenging personalities, etc. The key in remote learning is to find the right topic, place participants in breakout rooms and then bring them back to act it out for the group. These can take longer, but can provide valuable feedback while getting practice with the techniques presented in the course.

The Wish List

What would I like to see? I would like to see students provided with valuable, engaging content to learn the theory, to think about application and then enter the Remote Classroom ready to discuss, apply, and interact rather than trying to absorb.

This is where tools like Captivate can help Remote Learning. I believe using e-learning tools to create engaging content delivery, in the right places, would be extremely valuable. It would be great to see more elearning/microlearning modules created to help students learn on their own and then come into the “classroom” and apply what they have learned using the time to run experiments, have group interactions and break outs, work on projects and activities, make it more “real-world” than classroom. Enhancing the learning is a great way to use Captivate eLearning modules.

In Summary

Flip it. Mix it up. Make it different. Use effective tools to pass information and spend the face to face time to interact and discuss and apply. That is what I would like to see.

Thanks for reading.

2 Comments
2021-01-27 13:43:42
2021-01-27 13:43:42

As I was reading the portion about “finding the coach”, I was reminded of a keynote presentation I did about 10 years ago. It was titled “Coaching in a Virtual Environment”. As I think back on that experience, it amazes me how much the environment has changed. Perhaps more interesting is the thought that very little about the needs of the learner have changed.

One of the key takeaways from my presentation was that it is all about the relationships. I think about all the teachers I can remember long after I have forgotten anything about the class itself.

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Greg Stager
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2021-01-27 15:50:25
2021-01-27 15:50:25
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Greg Stager
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Thanks for your comment Greg.

I think you are right. Relationships drive most things we do. And they are so important.

I still remember the teachers that had some kind of impact on me in the past. Good or bad. But I did learn something from each of them. The ones I have no memory of the ones that did not have any impact in my life.

Finding new people to learn from is very important to me as I am sure it is to others as well. I love to learn, which is why I am here, why I work in education and why I spend so much of my time taking on new things and trying to become better. Having others that can assist in my learning is great. And there are a lot of people on the community that I have had the great pleasure to learn from. The ones I mention in my post are just a couple of them.

Thanks again for your comment.

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