Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Best Practices for Synchronous E-Learning

Here's another topic I've been researching for a client. They use primarily classroom delivery today, but are needing to move to a synchronous model using WebEx. They are a software company and this is primarily for product training for customers.

Here's what I've come up with so far.

Best practices for using tools such as WebEx are still evolving in the training industry. But experts and practitioners agree that (compared to classroom training) “live e-learning” demands different strategies and tactics to effectively engage learners and produce results.
  • Research shows that effective live e-learning sessions run no longer than 90 minutes maximum, with a one-hour maximum preferred.

  • Since instructors cannot gauge participant attention by facial expressions or body language, they should request feedback frequently. One guideline recommends requiring some participant interaction every 3 to 5 minutes.

  • Methods for making the virtual classroom interactive include:

    · Use chat and polling functions (available in WebEx)

    · Allow participants to take control of the session, for example to drive an application demo

    · For practice exercises that are done between sessions, provide a simple web form for entering answers and submitting them to the instructor

  • The WebEx Training Center platform provides additional specialized tools, such as a whiteboard, breakout sessions and access to remote lab computers.

Now, all of these methods require that the curriculum design be modified for online delivery, and that instructors learn and practice the new delivery tools and techniques. Achieving the best results would be an iterative process.

My current recommendation to the client: The degree to which you need to investigate these best practices depends on the learning goals. If simply presenting the current curriculum via WebEx proves sufficient, that is certainly the easiest route. However, if this proves insufficient for effectively training customers, then these other approaches need to be explored.

Agree? Disagree? Other best practices to share?