Top Ten Tips
The biggest challenge of online learning is engaging participants and demonstrating its value compared with existing face-to-face programmes. This can be achieved through effective implementation planning. Here are 10 top tips that will help you develop a successful implementation strategy:
Know your audience
While you may have to deliver a standard level of training to staff or students, it is important to recognise that they all may have very different learning styles. Some may be very receptive to online learning others may require a blend of face-to-face and online. Before implementing the courses you should consider conducting a learning needs analysis that will identify:
- How much time they have available for training (online)
- Do they have the equipment/resources to learn online?
- Do they have an interest in what you are offering?
You may also consider running some pilot usability tests to see how well they navigate through the courses and understand the content. This will also provide useful feedback on whether you need to tweak your technical delivery.
Provide incentives for learning
You will find that some staff or students are self-motivated and enthusiastic about online learning. They typically have a desire to learn and develop their skills. However, others require convincing of the value of e-learning. Therefore, you may need to provide a form of incentive in order to engage them. Whether you mandate the courses or make them optional for staff or students, they are likely to ask the following questions:
- What’s in it for them?
- What will they achieve as a result of taking the online courses?
- What will they be able to do better as a result?
- Who is asking them to do this?
You can incentivise participation through embedding the courses into an accredited CPD scheme or you can link completion of the courses to promotion.
It is important to promote the courses using a variety of communication methods. As well as communicating what the courses are about it is also important to emphasise the key benefits to the end user (as identified in tip 2). You should consider finding a key influential figure within your institution to back your message. Launch events (at lunchtime) are a great way of getting people enthusiastic about the courses. Epigeum can help support you with this.
Maximise use of the VLE
Epigeum courses are compatible with Virtual Learning Environments such as Moodle and Blackboard. The advantage of using VLEs is you can track user progress and have the flexibility to design a whole course or programme online. Epigeum courses have been designed to be engaging and transformative. However, the structure of VLEs can be very dull and linear. You can make the learning environment more engaging through embedding your own introductory videos/text and sandwiching the Epigeum courses with your own resources, links and activities to enrich the learning experience. See our videos section for a guide on how you might do this.
Embed into a structured learning programme
Most effective use of our courses comes from when they are embedded into a formal structured CPD or learning programme with clear learning objectives. This provides participants with a clear direction and understanding of why they are being asked to take the courses and what they will achieve as a result (linked to tip 2). This approach also demonstrates that your institution values online learning as part of their development.
It can take up to 3 years to reach a state of ‘perfect implementation’. Therefore, it is important to set regular milestones to review the performance of the courses that will provide you with feedback and information to help you tweak your implementation. VLEs are very useful for providing quantitative information such as time spent, quiz performance, number of attempts etc. With this information you may decide to:
- Disaggregate the courses
- Add your own content
- Create several versions of the course/programme e.g. (fully online, blended, time release, condensed/refresher versions)
- Modularise the content
If you would like help evaluating the performance of your courses or require support with tweaking your implementation, please contact our Senior Learning Technologist.
Find a project champion
Participants will often question why they are being asked to do online training but also ‘Who’ is asking them to do it. You may find it helpful to find a project champion – a key influential figure in your organisation who can endorse the courses and encourage staff/students to take the courses. In addition, you should consider including them within your implementation project group as they will gain a greater understanding of how the courses can augment your training delivery and give you the resources and support you need to help mandate, incentivise and promote the courses.
To gain their buy-in it is important to involve them from the outset. Outline your implementation strategy and get them to review and provide feedback. Have regular implementation project meetings that they can attend. If they are time poor, send them the minutes so they are still a part of the process.
Finally get them really involved – use their name or video as an introduction to the courses.
Get a team behind you
Implementing online courses is a project in itself, therefore the bigger your project team the easier it will be. Within your team you should look to include:
- Learning technologist – to upload, disseminate and monitor the courses
- Project champion – to endorse and support the delivery of the courses
- Course administrator – to monitor user progress, provide course access and support course design
- Marketing department – outsource marketing and promotion to the experts for maximum coverage
- Mentors, trainers and supervisors who will use the courses to supplement their face-to-face delivery (where appropriate).
- It is important that each member of the team is made aware of their responsibilities and deliverables from the outset.
For many staff and students, online learning may be new to them. You may find that they encounter several barriers such as technical difficulties, understanding the pedagogy or grasping the content. Therefore, it might be helpful to have a basic level of support to address any basic issues in the first instance and then look longer term to involving online tutors who can answer questions, lead discussions and facilitate online assessment.
Online learning can happen at any time, anywhere. However, online learning works best when it is available at a time that is most relevant and most needed by the target audience. Therefore you should consider time-releasing the courses through your VLE when most needed. Similarly, you should structure any promotional activities in the same regard e.g. during induction periods for new staff students, upon appointment of staff to leadership/management roles etc.