Analysis from Product Focus has uncovered the common mistakes businesses are making when it comes to not only creating, but maintaining online training courses. The leading provider of product management courses in Europe is sharing their learnings so that other training providers can avoid the pitfalls and ensure their online training courses remain successful.
Prior to March 2020, Product Focus delivered exclusively classroom-based training courses to delegates all over the world. However, when the pandemic hit, like many they were forced to pivot their business model and move all their classes online. Realising early on that simply presenting their slides on zoom wasn’t going to work, and pre-recorded videos wouldn’t hold delegate’s attention, they conducted extensive research and user review panels to ensure customers got the same world class experience they received on their face-to-face training.
The key takeaway they uncovered is that regular interaction is absolutely vital to ensure delegates get the best possible live training experience. However, you have to be inventive to do this successfully online. One tip they share is to regularly call delegates by their name and ask them for their experiences with a specific point or issue in the training. This keeps learners on their toes, ready to share their thoughts and learn from the experiences of their peers.
Founding Director of Product Focus, Ian Lunn is an industry leader with over 25 years’ experience in product management roles. He started Product Focus in 2006, with fellow Director Andrew Dickenson, to help companies achieve high-quality product management, through teaching the skills and providing the tools they need to excel. The team works with a wide range of companies, from start-ups to huge multinationals, delivering online and face-to-face training courses across the world.
On refining their online course delivery model, Ian said: “We recognized early that a large part of our training’s value comes from interacting with product management experts and sharing questions and anecdotes with other delegates. We made sure to find the best way to keep this interaction going in order to make our online training as engaging as possible. Regularly conducting user panels with different groups of delegates and stakeholders provided invaluable insight and enabled us to keep refining our delivery from course-to-course.
“Our view is that when it comes to face-to-face courses versus online training, one is not better or worse. Is a home-cooked meal better than a meal in a fancy restaurant? It depends on what you want at the time, what’s most convenient and what’s available. However, it’s undeniable that the convenience and flexibility of online training will remain important to delegates in a post-pandemic, hybrid-working world.”
Product Focus are now offering both live online and face-to-face training courses.
What does great online training look like?
Here, Ian shares eight ways training providers can ensure their online courses are engaging and successful for learners:
- Build in lots of opportunities for different types of interaction – regular interaction with learners every few minutes, using a range of methods, is vital to keep people engaged and not drifting off into other work.
- Deliver good content in an engaging way – video calls have a tendency to flatten your voice, so you need to put more effort into the vocal performance. Storytelling throughout is important to help bring theory to life and will have more impact when supported with visuals that keep the screen moving.
- A good course structure, including breaks, is key – there needs to be clarity on how the material is organised and then broken up so that people aren’t stuck at their screens for hours at a time. We found a good target to be 55 minutes delivery, including activities, followed by a 10 minute break. If you run much longer than that, people will struggle to stay focused.
- Keep groups small – to keep interaction high and enable active engagement with learners, the groups must remain small. When going online, there is a temptation to pack loads more people in a session because the physical constraints aren’t there. Resist this urge so you can engage with people on an individual basis.
- Appoint two instructors per course – have one act as the lead trainer and one as a facilitator. Having someone running the technology and dealing with any issues helps the instructor as they can then purely focus on delivery and interaction. The facilitator can also provide insights and one-to-one interactions with delegates using chat windows. Alternating who delivers each module gives the audience a change of voice and the instructors a bit of a break. Finally, if one of the instructor’s broadband goes down, the other can pick up the delivery without huge disruption to learners.
- Ensure you have a stable, high-quality technical set-up – there are many tools out there but they are by no means created equal. After much research, we opted for Adobe Connect to provide the best control for us and the richest experience for the learners. It’s not without its compromises, though, as it takes more effort to maintain and change the course, but with the effort comes a better outcome for learners.
- Carry out a pre-course ‘tech check’ with delegates – always try to carry out a ‘tech check’ with each delegate before the course starts to let them familiarise themselves with the tool. Making sure their tech set-up works reduces the risk of delays at the beginning of the training.
- Use blended learning for deeper understanding – online is one thing, but there is only so much you can do with the time you have in an online session. Providing materials for delegates to look at before and after sessions allows learners to deepen their understanding.