Optimizing Learning through Distance Training Programs
By Holly Zoba Senior VP of Sales - Hospitality, Signature Worldwide | December 11, 2011
At least once a week someone asks me if online learning is as effective as onsite training. I generally respond by posing a question to them – which is better for you, red wine or red grapes? Just like training, both options have some value, but the experiences vary widely. Of course the material covered has an impact on the effectiveness of the method. Some research has shown that technical materials are learned better online than onsite, but generally the soft skills still lean heavily to onsite, in-person training.
Regardless of the topic, adult learners need to participate in the learning process and if you engage your audience, the delivery vehicle becomes less important.
For many hotel management companies, hotels are scattered from one side of the country to the other and sometimes they are scattered from one side of the world to the other. This can make holding a single onsite training class cost prohibitive. There are several options: sometimes a train the trainer session is held and one person is brought in to learn onsite and then sent back to train the others who were unable to attend. A second option is some form of online training – either self-driven, facilitator-driven or a webinar. In each alternative to onsite training, effectiveness of the training can be heightened as long as the participation level remains high.
For example, with a self-driven online tutorial, in addition to frequent knowledge checks or quizzes, the learner can watch a video, respond in-role either in written or verbal form and the audio files can be used later for live or phone coaching. Learning management systems have incorporated exciting games into the knowledge check portion and as long as the game rules are simple to follow, engagement can be elevated.
In the case of facilitator-driven web classrooms, the participant groups must be kept small – 10 to 12 participants at the most. Any larger and only two or three of the participants will be engaged. The others will check email, mute the audio so they can have conversations, generally capture about 10% of the information delivered while the two or three engaged participants will carry the weight of the engagement.
To avoid the 80/20 rule (20% of the group provides 80% of the participation), the web facilitator needs to keep track of who is participating and who is not. We generally do introductions and ice breakers at the beginning of our web sessions and as the participants say their name, we create a fictional seating chart. As people participate, we are able to make a notation which makes it easy at a glance to see who is engaged and who has likely checked out. Bringing the others into the session is a priority, but the tactics used must be more subtle than simply calling on them. Just as in a live class, some participants are paying attention, they are simply less vocal than others, less quick to answer or share an opinion. Chat boxes are great to get these folks involved, they don't have to speak, they can just type in their answers along with others.