There’s no doubt that eLearning has completely transformed the world of corporate training. It’s not just the unique flexibility it offers, it’s also the fact that it drastically reduces costs and there is far less need for direct face-to-face training. But there’s one more step to reach the Holy Grail of eLearning excellence: entirely autonomous, interactive self-paced learning.
On the face of it, self-paced online training should be perfect: It provides an always-there, personalized learning experience that can be completed on the learner’s own time and at their own pace. Add the interactive elements, and you have something where the trainer is almost invisible.
However, some may object that they need to work to training deadlines, or that trainees may not be able to set an effective learning schedule for themselves.
At the same time, adult learners, particularly in a corporate environment, crave autonomy in learning, but may not currently have the aptitude to use a system that fosters independence. Let’s have a look at the reasons why interactive self-paced online courses are a great idea for your organization and how you can implement them.
The advantages of interactive self-paced training
The greatest benefit that self-paced training offers is almost complete learner autonomy. An independent learner will decide what he or she wants to learn and when. But it’s this independence that training managers and many trainers can be wary of because it fundamentally alters the relationship between trainer and trainee. There is very little or no interaction between the two in interactive self-paced eLearning, even though learner independence is an ideal to aim for.
It should also be pointed out that self-paced training fosters and enhances the very skills set that are necessary for success in a corporate environment – independence, inquiry, critical thinking, and the capacity to set one’s own pace, to name just a few.
Asynchronous learning may seem challenging, but it has significant advantages. Instead of being there throughout the entire process of the course and determining when a module is delivered, you need to plan carefully and let the process look after itself. Using interactive learning tools in this process not only helps trainees adapt to self-paced learning, it also helps you to create that autonomous environment.
Interactive learning tools are crucial to the success of self-paced courses because they actively involve the learner in his or her training, rather than passively receive it. Although more traditional slides, video, and audio still have their place, interactive elements such as avatars, virtual reality environments, simulations and even AI boost the levels of engagement that successful self-paced training needs.
Designing a self-paced course: points to consider
When you’re designing your interactive self-paced online course, there are three key areas to bear in mind. Two of them – Usability and User Needs – will already be recognizable: the third – pace-setting – may not be so familiar.
One of the first things to consider when developing interactive online courses is just how usable they are. There’s nothing more frustrating to a trainee than materials that are hard to find or take too long to complete, or tasks that are frustrating and confusing. Feature any of these issues in your interactive self-paced online courses, and people will be all too ready to give up altogether.
A successfully designed self-paced course will have:
- Easy-to-find materials and modules, with clear links between different parts.
- A clearly signposted completion time – and no one part should be too long
- Tasks that are clearly defined, with good access to advice if trainees do get stuck.
An interactive self-paced online training course needs to be virtually self-sustaining. To help usability, you’ll need interactive elements that are user-facing: avatars and guides that can direct, advise and suggest where necessary. These can be in the shape of simple video or audio pop-ups, or right up to AI-embedded programs that learn and interpret the way users respond to the environment as they progress.
The second thing to be taken into consideration are the user’s needs. Deploying learner-centred methodologies while developing your materials is crucial to creating successful self-paced online courses. For this, you’ll need to get input from your employees right from the start. Create interactive user surveys – that is, questionnaires that provide alternative questions according to the answers users give. Also, test the usability of potential materials and modules on targeted user groups.
From the insights you receive, you’ll be able to decide what interactive elements are most likely to be successful. You’ll have to bear in mind, of course, that different trainees will react in different ways to self-paced learning. For example, while employees of the Millennial generation may be at ease with autonomous learning, someone from an older generation may not be, and so you can develop tools that support their journey through a self-paced learning system.
Interactive elements help with the pace at which different users learn. With Artificial Intelligence becoming more and more viable in the Corporate training world, you’ll find that courses will be able to measure a trainee’s progress autonomously and alter course pace and complexity to suit the individual.
One of the largest issues that training managers have with self-paced eLearning is that trainees may not be able to set their own pace. It’s true that learners in a self-paced learning environment need to have a more proactive attitude, but including interactive elements helps.
The key is to ensure that your interactive self-paced online courses are seen as part and parcel of your employees’ working world, rather than something additional – so your training programs are not merely relevant to what happens at work, but are integral to the working day.
One way to do this is to embed a personalized training calendar into your courses and modules. By focusing attention on when during the day an employee has time available to do training, they are more likely to be engaged with the process. Gamification is a great interactive method for pace setting and goal tracking. Just like sports apps that track personal fitness targets, gamification allows users to set their own learning goals, measure their achievements – and even get rewards!
Embedding review and recall elements
One of more challenging parts of developing interactive self-paced online courses is including effective review and recall points within it. As these courses are autonomous, there is very little opportunity for feedback from an instructor. It’s down to the course design to ensure that learners can demonstrate that they have learned, retained and mastered the new knowledge. The simplest way to do this, of course, is through the use of quizzes and tests, but for more complex learning tasks this may not be enough.
Instead, embed interactive scenarios and simulations into the course design. Try including VR-based simulations, where trainees can demonstrate their understanding and skills in a risk-free environment. This kind of hands-on testing is not only more effective in testing the trainee’s knowledge, it also facilitates greater engagement – and this leads to greater willingness to use self-paced eLearning.
On The Road To Interactive Self-Paced Online Courses
Finally, here are the five key points to consider when developing interactive self-paced online courses:
- Flexibility – The course content should have a fluid, easy-to-navigate system that enables seamless movement from one learning target to the next, allowing the user to create their own learning pathway. Use avatars to guide the learner.
- Availability – A self-paced eLearning course should be available anytime, anywhere and on any device, from desktop to smartphone. True interactivity relies on physical availability.
- Relevance – Course content should be relevant to the individual user’s needs. AI software identifies precise user needs and abilities as they interact with the content.
- Usability – Course content should be easy to find, easy to navigate, not too long and sufficiently challenging without being frustratingly difficult. Again, interactive avatars help direct trainees but also use embedded mini-challenges and refresher modules to give assistance.
- Engagement – Use a variety of interactive techniques (simulations, videos, quizzes etc) to maximize engagement.
A truly great interactive self-paced course takes considerable investment and planning initially, but the returns – in terms of ROI, economy and learner satisfaction – are potentially enormous. And if your trainees are learning independently, which gives you more time to develop even more self-paced eLearning courses!