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Why Online Training May Not Be Right For Your Organization

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Online training can be a great way to scale staff training, but is it all it’s cracked up to be?

With program budgets constantly being trimmed and fee-for-service payment systems driving decisions about how staff can spend their work hours, more and more human services programs are looking towards online and web-based training  to meet their training needs. Online training is cheap, staff can access it whenever and wherever they want, there’s no travel needed, and it can reach a lot of people at one time. But how effective is it?

The Evidence For Online Training

A recent study conducted by the Department of Education found that students who participated in online coursework did as well, or better, than those who attended classes, and those who participated in ‘blended learning’, a combination of live and online training, did significantly (Department of Education, 2009).  However, online learning isn’t the right fit for everyone.  Online learning requires a level of self-direction, motivation and independence. It has been shown to be inappropriate for dependent learners, those with literacy issues, poor time management skills, or low motivation (Illinois Online Network, n.d.).

When choosing whether online training is right for your non-profit organization, consider the pros and cons

When choosing whether online training is right for your non-profit organization, consider the pros and cons

All Online Training Is Not Created Equally

Content, learning principles, and training activities are critical factors in the amount of ‘takeaway’ learning students will gain from the course.  If you’re considering developing or accessing online training for your staff, keep in mind the following potential weaknesses in online training:

1.  Computer Access and Computer Literacy Levels

Access to computers and the internet is not equal. Moving to online training may pose an unfair disadvantage to those who cannot access training in their homes.  A level of computer literacy and comfort in the use of computers is necessary if students are to feel confident and ready to learn.

2.  Tech Support to Address Inevitable Failures

Computers do not always work.  Internet connections may fail. More importantly, many of your staff members may not have the technical skills to fix even basic computer compatibility or software issues.  If this computer issues arise, do you have available tech support staff to troubleshoot problems that will inevitably interrupt the training experience?

3.  Appropriately Trained Facilitators and Trainers

Online training is different from live training and requires specific skills in content development and online methodology.  Watching a recording of a live training session is not the same experience as participating in a training designed for online learning.

4.  Synergy

Synergy refers to the exchange between learners in a class or training.  The greater the number of opportunities for dialog about learning content, the greater the retention of the content.  What methods are in place to foster dialog among learners?  Message boards, chat rooms, and web-based conferences are some strategies for taking the learning deeper.

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Online training can make professional development opportunities affordable and available to a large number of people, but care must be taken to ensure that the experience is engaging, relevant and results in the change you seek in your staff.

Weaknesses of Online Learning – Illinois OnLine Network http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/tutorials/overview/weaknesses.asp

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