There is absolutely no doubt that online training courses are seriously HOT right now. It seem like everywhere I look there is another blogger offering entry to their super special training program that promises to convert participants into expert infopreneurs (shout out to the Fizzle boys for the reference).
The popularity of this approach isn’t surprising, in fact the only thing I am surprised about is the amount of time it has taken for it to catch on. Transferring knowledge is one of the simplest ways to provide value to a customer and just about every aspect of marketing these days involves a certain amount of teaching.
Why not formalise the process and slap a price tag on it eh?
Sadly, what most people tend to produce is a media-rich info product that has bulk content and slick video, but no real focus on a learning outcome.
In this article I’m going to show you how to implement an online training approach that focuses on learner outcomes and identifiable changes in the behaviour and actions of your audience.
Lets dive in…
Training courses are not about perceived value
It is really easy to get caught up in the concept of providing valuable information that describes a process and thinking that it is training.
While I’m sure there will be many that disagree, training isn’t about the perceived value of what you offer, or even the level of engagement you have, but instead about the shift in the behaviour of your audience after the fact.
I think the main reason that people get this wrong is because they approach it from a marketing point of view and continue to focus on benefits as an outcome.
Training is subtly different. Understanding the benefit of being able to do something new is great, but without understanding why, how and to what level of ability, you don’t have a complete picture.
True online training courses result in a behavioural change, rather than just a knowledge gain. tweet this
With such a huge focus on content marketing these days, you can’t afford to simply deliver information with benefits. Someone else is already doing it and likely providing far more value.
An effective training course is actionable and requires your audience to assess and make decisions about the subject you are presenting, preferably in a context that is close to their own reality. This forces them to act in a certain way, which can then be assessed and refined over time.
What’s missing from your training
The good news is that it is highly likely that your current content doesn’t suck at all and is perfect for online training. Well presented information is great, video is great, additional tools, tips and resources are great!
Most of the time the missing element isn’t the content, it’s the sequence of delivering that content and the ongoing reinforcement that are lacking.
Why sequencing is important
Training can alter the performance of an individual, either in a positive or negative way. By sequencing your training correctly, you have a far better chance of the outcome being the right one.
Generally there is a logical sequence to all training and often people structure this intuitively, but it doesn’t always work well.
Basic sequencing might involve ordering content from simple concepts to complex processes or actions, but most learning pathways are rarely linear and there is usually a lot of variation in the ability of your audience.
Spending some time thinking about the sequence of your training will really help you identify individual objectives throughout your training course. This approach allows you to introduce aspects as they are required by your audience, not just as they would appear in a particular process.
Sequencing can be used in different ways:
- Order of process – the most common approach, step by step like my mate Ramsay’s webhosting article
- Simple to complex – building a knowledge base by increasing the complexity in stages, like Glen does on his about page
- Prerequisite knowledge – where understanding one concept requires knowledge of another, like the memory system outlined by Tim Ferriss
- Know to unknown – starting at a level that your audience will be comfortable with and building on it with new concepts, like this article on Copyblogger
- Cause and effect – demonstrating the result of an action, like writing good code at Codecademy
A proper sequence will show relationships and patterns that enable each objective to have a definite purpose. The more meaningful the content, the easier it is to learn and, consequently, the more effective the result.
The other benefit to sequencing is that it can be used to cater to individuals at different levels. So an absolute beginner can start from step 1 and work their way through all of the training, while someone with more experience can jump ahead and tackle the remaining gaps in their ability without having to wade through a bunch of stuff they already know.
Reinforcing new skills
I’d have to say that this is simultaneously the most critical and most under-done aspect of any training courses in any setting. You might think that it is the responsibility of your audience to be accountable for their own learning, but you actually play an incredibly important role.
It is absolutely your responsibility to hold your audience to account and it really isn’t as difficult as it sounds. This doesn’t involve scare tactics or strict enforcement, it involves providing them with opportunities to practice and apply their new skill.
Showing your audience something once in a video and expecting them to take detailed notes and pick the key messages is a big ask for anyone. On the other hand, simply handing them everything on a platter will likely be just as ineffective.
Effective learning takes time and requires reinforcement. People only retain 20% of what they learn after 30 days without any follow up, but that number can be greatly increased by providing reinforcement to your audience through the practice and application of new concepts so they have meaning and value.
A good approach in just about all cases is to provide opportunities for your audience to practice what they learn in a setting that is most relevant to them.
Just as creating good habits requires regular practice, effective training requires regular reinforcement.
You hold your audience to account by providing them with resources and opportunities to practice their skills over a period of time and in a relevant setting.
There are endless ways to provide this ongoing development; tools and checklists, workbooks and exercises, Scenarios models and role plays are just some ways that this can be done.
Some really good examples include:
- This free CSS and HTML tutorial by PSDTuts+ that reinforces your learning and helps build new skills one day a week over a whole month (Codecademy have taken this to another level again with Code Year, which is a pretty cool project)
- A really handy resource from the Tropical MBA for hiring and managing employees, with a free Standard Operating Document template to apply in your own setting
- The marketing training run by IttyBiz that has been customised to suit five different industries and make the content more relatable to different readers
These examples are great because they provide resources that can be used while developing a new skill to reinforce what you learn and can also be used at a later point to revise your ability and stay sharp.
Staying sharp is important because skills can get rusty if they aren’t used for a while. In order to give a learned skill a shine every so often, it can be wildly beneficial to have a reinforcement tool to fall back on.
Providing an accountability mechanism like this also leaves a legacy of your training, it gives your audience an opportunity to continue to practice their skill at a later point in time and is also a really simple way to ensure your audience (a.k.a customers) never forget you.
Hopefully this has been useful in at least some way, let me know if it was in the comments below and please share any other struggles you might be having with your online training courses.
Promise to help as much as I can.