Online Training and e-Coaching Tips

3 Tactics to Increase Motivation in Trainees

March 2, 2015 10:05 by
Melting ice on a branch

Photo credit: photophilde, published under CC

We’ll shortly discuss 3 tactics to increase motivation in trainees. But first, let’s take a look at Dieter’s predicament.

Dieter is a product manager in a multinational company. He is responsible for keeping employees up to date on the latest products the company has to offer. Each time a new product is released, he sends out information to sales, operations, and customer service.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many employees who greedily absorb all this new information. Some of them are simply too busy at the moment. But others don’t seem to care at all. So how does Dieter distinguish between the two groups? In other words: how does he measure motivation?

Sure, he could interview thousands of employees. If he had the time and resources available. With that option out of the door, what’s Dieter to do?

Dieter is actually looking for a proxy-variable for measuring learner motivation. Because measuring it directly would be too time consuming (and very hard anyway). Here are two ways of indirectly measuring motivation:

Dewy branch

Photo credit: liz west, published under CC

‘In a face-to-face environment [that is, in class and not online], try a few sessions that, by design, end early; allow the learners to stay and work on what was covered, share info with others, or mingle with staff. in other words, are the learners excited/interested enough to forego the “free” time and stay to learn more even if in a casual setting.” (Here, we assume that learners who stay are motivated, while others are not.)’ – A tip from Neil, in a LinkedIn discussion.

Another way is to create a number of facultative (i.e. optional, non-obligatory) courses in a wide variety of topics. For employees who never ever sign up for these trainings we can assume they are not motivated to learn.

Much the same can be done by making the educational content available online through multiple channels: videos, text, podcasts (i.e. interviews), pop quizzes. Send out emails (or sms text messages) whenever you add new material. Liberally disseminating this information (at least inside the company) is a good idea anyway, but it also allows you to track who’s interested in learning more.

As a minor detail: the only requirement is that people are logged in (e.g. on the corporate website), in order to track them. Here, again, if somebody never pays a visit to these sources (the aforementioned videos, texts, podcasts), you can assume they’re not motivated.

Drops on Branch

Photo credit: Alden Chadwick, published under CC

Of course, this system can be ‘gamed’. If it becomes well known within the company that this is the way you measure motivation, it can be easily faked by simply visiting the corporate learning site every once in a while. On the other hand, if people complete your pop quiz only to ‘game’ the system, they’ll still actually learn something if you provide feedback after each quiz item!

Now that we know how to measure motivation, how do we actually increase motivation? Here are 3 tactics:

  • Ask employees what they want to master. Tell them “I need your help in figuring out what the training should contain.”
  • Measure their progress and report it back to them, both in terms of what they should do and compared to the rest of the group.
  • “Set your training up so there are intermediate goals that have to be reached before the achievement of the end goal with rewards at each level to make it competitive. The rewards themselves should relate back to reinforcing the training received to that point, but don’t have to be of great value, just fun. The competition itself, if presented correctly, will pretty much make identifying the levels of motivation for each student easy to assess.” – Brent, in a Linkedin discussion.

If you’re in the same spot as Dieter, let me know in the comments section if these tactics helped you out!

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You Will Be Moved to Tears (Maybe)

February 2, 2015 10:25 by
Partially Unrolled Fern

Photo credit: Randy Robertson, published under CC

Accountants are stern people who keep their emotions in check, right? So why did they start stammering and shaking when they were shown something on a computer screen back in the 1980’s? Why did some of them even break down and cry when confronted with a piece of software?

Well, the piece of software would change their professional life forever. The software application was called Visicalc and it was the very first spreadsheet program ever. One of the inventors of Visicalc, Dan Bricklin, attended a business class where the professor was creating a financial model. In other words, he was writing numbers in rows and columns on a blackboard. When the professor found out he had made a rounding error, he had to recalculate all the other numbers in the row. And then he had to recalculate the totals in the columns too.

Bricklin realized he could create a computer program to do the same thing much easier and faster. And in doing so, he revolutionized the entire accounting industry. Accountants were now able to do the work of weeks of manual calculation in mere seconds. The implications were huge because accountants could picture a world with, well, no accountants left, only computers. Or, instead, they would picture a world where they take on more clients and concentrate on advising them better instead of just doing calculations. Of course, the latter is what has come to pass.

I am here to tell you that the training industry is very nearly in the same situation as the accounting industry in the 1980’s. So here’s a warning: you may start to cry (tears of joy, hopefully) sometime soon when you realize how your business is about to change forever.

3 Signs of A Landslide Change in The Training Industry

Full Scale Implementation of LMSs

No, a learning management system (or lms for short) is not a new technology. Many corporate training and development departments are already using an lms. But how many independent professional trainers do you know who use an lms? Actually, we’re seeing an sharp uptake in lms usage among precisely this group.


Photo credit: gbohne, published under CC

How will this change the training industry? An lms allows trainers to:

  • productize their training services, creating an independent source of revenue;
  • deliver more training in the same amount of time because you can offload the theory to the lms;
  • facilitate the holy grail of training and development: transfer of training, meaning that skills and knowledge acquired during the training can now be actively encouraged for use in the workplace.

In short, an lms can be, and is, used by trainers to increase their efficiency and revenue.

The Continued Globalization

Many economists believe in the concept of ‘creative destruction‘ (which can be summarized as ‘the old world must make way for the new’ happening very fast). The continued globalization accelerates creative destruction: if somebody else in an offshore country can do your job for less, you’re sure to be replaced.

This means employees must continually work on their skills and knowledge, to ensure they cannot easily be replaced – or, if they are replaced, to find a new source of income.

How does this impact the training industry? Well, who do you think is going to train these employees? Trainers of course!

The Digital World Meets The Real World

Have you seen Microsoft’s Hololens yet? At the time of writing, it hasn’t hit the stores yet, but the Hololens promises to blend the digital world with the real world. The Hololens is a headset that lets you see holograms: it projects computer images on top of real objects. As a trainer using Skype, you can also watch along with your trainees who are wearing a Hololens headset. And from your tablet or PC you can draw instructions that appear as holograms in their world, as Microsoft puts it. Their promo video illustrates the whole thing perfectly. I know, it’s a commercial.  But computer industry pundits are all raving about the concept. So it’s not just me and Microsoft calling this a great thing.

And by the way, it’s not just this product that’s very interesting. There’s also a virtual reality solution from Samsung, as well as Facebook’s Oculus Rift (also a virtual reality headset).

Fern Opening

Photo credit: Sean McMenemy, published under CC

How does this affect you as a trainer? I don’t even know where to start. Okay, here’s a shot: virtual reality will provide simulated environments for your training to take place in. Virtual reality also promises to morph abstract concepts – say, team communication patterns – into visible 3D objects you can position, move around and almost touch. Almost.

The most important thing is to think of these changes not as a threat, but a promise. Remember that even accountants were creative enough to survive their landslide change.

With an apology to all my accountant friends (and even an odd family member) for suggesting they might not be especially creative. I know some of you have found, and even exploited, great loopholes to help out with tax deductions.




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Dirty Little Secret: Online Training Costs Way Too Much

October 1, 2014 9:09 by

Picture by tim, published under cc

Online training is often presented as a way to save costs on training. But as we are about to reveal, the costs behind producing and offering online training are staggering. Compared to ‘traditional’ training, you won’t save a dime. Here, we’ll uncover how you can save on the costs of online training. Hint: trainers don’t have to start from scratch.

We’ll even give you a link to a cost savings calculator, at the bottom of this article. Before we do that however, let’s get a grip on what online training is.

What Is Online Training Anyway?

Online training is training supported by online tools, or taking place through a website or a mobile application (you know, an app on your smartphone). Online training comes in two flavors:

  • Synchronous online training: trainees and trainer are present at the same time, just not in the same place (think of a video conference or a webinar).
  • Asynchronous online training: trainees and trainer only meet each other in an online discussion forum.

In asynchronous online training the trainer has more of guiding role in what is essentially a ‘self paced’ training. Trainees can take the training on their own time, e.g. from home.

Jannes Pockele

Picture by Jannes Pockele, published under cc

These flavors can also be mixed, of course. You could set a date for a video conference for instance, while adding the requirement that everybody complete an online test (quiz) first. Most online training platforms support setting such a requirement. The platform simply checks whether you’ve got your test completed before allowing you inside the video conference. By the way, an online training platform is usually called an LMS, which stands for learning management system.

Cost of Synchronous Online Training

Basically, the cost of synchronous online training is predictable and relatively cheap. You need video conferencing software, or webinar software, and that software is your main cost. A webinar is you talking live on video (presented through a website) while your trainees are listening and typing in comments or questions. To start with webinars or video conferencing, it’s probably cheaper to not own the actual software (and the required servers or internet computers) – unless you’re a really big company.

Instead, look at services such as GoToWebinar and WebinarJam which start at $468 and $497 a year, respectively (GoToWebinar has restrictions on the number of attendees and presenters, but also offers a monthly subscription of $49).

Picture by Natesh Ramasamy, published under cc.

Picture by Natesh Ramasamy, published under cc.

In addition to the software purchase, you need to factor in the costs of preparing the webinar just like any other ‘live’ (or face-to-face) training session. This does not deviate too much from your usual preparation time, for a training session. One estimate for an hour long Instructor-Led Training (ILT) comes down to 34 hours of preparation. Next, we present the cost components of an 8 hour synchronous online training session, e.g. a webinar, for 20 trainees and one trainer – as compared to ‘traditional’ training (which includes travel expenses, etc).

As a side note: an 8 hour webinar would be way too long, but this makes it easier to compare the costs with a traditional training session, which usually lasts 4 – 8 hours.

Cost Components: Synchronous Training & ‘Traditional’
A. Trainer Cost: Hourly Wage $50
B. Hours of Development & Preparation for One Hour of Training 34
C. Webinar Software Cost (simplified) $50
D. # Trainees 20
E. Trainees’ Hourly Wage $25
F. Lost Productivity / Trainee / Hour $50
G. Travel Expenses / Trainee (Rental Car & Airfare) $300
H. Overnight Stay / Trainee (Meals & Hotel) $150
I. Training Materials / Trainee (Handouts, Binders, etc) $20
J. Training Duration (Hours) 8

How does this all add up?

Costs of 8 Hours Synchronous Online Training
‘Traditional’ Synchronous
Trainer Cost: J x A $400 $400
Training Development Cost: J x B x A $13,600 $13,600
Cost of Lost Productivity: J x D x F $8000 $8000
Employees in Training: J x D x E $4000 $4000
Software N/A $50
Logistics: D x (G + H + I) = 20 x $470 $9400 N/A
Total: $35,400 $26,050

Great, you can save more than $9000 ($35,400 – $26,050 = $9,350) on traveling expenses and such, with the aid of synchronous online training. This means synchronous online training represents an actual saving compared to a ‘traditional’ training session. Now let’s take a look at the other flavor of online training.

Asynchronous Online Training Costs

With asynchronous online training, such as a self paced online training module, the upfront costs are much higher, but the delivery costs should be lower. As a matter of fact, if trainees can be persuaded to take the training on their own time, the delivery costs are practically zero. (If you’re a trainer and you’re worried about this, see the blog post Cut Your Training Session by Half to find out how you can use online training to your advantage).

Picture by Andrea Schaffer, published under cc.

Picture by Andrea Schaffer, published under cc.

In addition, online training materials can double as documentation, reference guides and check lists. There are even more benefits to this kind of online training, but for the cost estimation we’ll try to keep it simple and ignore these.

Cost Components: Asynchronous Training & ‘Traditional’
‘Traditional’ Asynchronous
A. Trainer Cost: Hourly Wage $50 $100
B. Hours of Development & Preparation for One Hour of Training 34 220
C. Software Cost / Trainee (simplified) N/A $5
D. # Trainees 20 20
E. Trainees’ Hourly Wage $25 $25
F. Lost Productivity / Trainee / Hour $50 $50
G. Travel Expenses / Trainee (Rental Car & Airfare) $300 N/A
H. Overnight Stay / Trainee (Meals & Hotel) $150 N/A
I. Training Materials / Trainee (handouts, binders, etc) $20 N/A
J. Training Duration (Hours) 8 8

In this table, the difference between the hourly rate for ‘traditional’ trainers and ‘asynchronous online trainers’ (i.e. instructional designers) is striking. And again, the difference between the development time for 1 hour of traditional training versus 1 hour of asynchronous online training is very significant.

Let’s run the numbers and what this means for the bottom line.

Costs of 8 Hours Asynchronous Online Training
‘Traditional’ Asynchronous
Trainer Cost: J x A $400 N/A
Training Development Cost: J x B x A $13,600 $176,000
Cost of Lost Productivity: J x D x F $8000 $8000
Employees in Training: J x D x E $4000 $4000
Software: C x D N/A $100
Logistics: D x (G + H + I) = 20 x $470 $9400 N/A
Total: $35,400 $188,100

Wait, isn’t online training supposed to save costs? Yes, and it does, provided that:

  • trainees take the online training on their own time;
  • you can spread out the development costs over a large number of trainees
  • the online training is used over a longer period of time (reused)

But what if you could drastically lower the costs of asynchronous online training? What if your online training would cost the same to develop as ‘traditional’ training?

Let The Trainers Run The Show

Picture by Jannes Pockele, published under cc.

Picture by Jannes Pockele, published under cc.

I believe that trainers are highly professional people, capable of developing their own online training. Let me rephrase that: I know this for a fact because I have seen them do it. So let the trainers take over the role of instructional designers, the folks who used to run the online training show.

I also know you don’t need an entire production team to shoot videos and create interactive activities. Nowadays, you should be able to produce 1 hour of online training using the same resources as when developing 1 hour of  traditional training. Just buy a decent camera, microphone and an lms subscription (learning management system – your online training platform) and you’ve covered most of the upfront production and delivery costs.

And finally, trainers also have the advantage that they don’t have to start from scratch, when developing online training. They already have their ‘traditional’ training materials. For instance, as a trainer, you can turn your powerpoints into videos with a voice-over. (You can do so much more with online training, but it’s a start).

This is how it looks in numbers when trainers create their own online training:

Cost Parity Between Asynchronous – & Traditional Training
‘Traditional’ Asynchronous
A. Trainer Cost: Hourly Wage $50 $50
B. Hours of Development & Preparation for One Hour of Training 34 34
C. Software Cost / Trainee (simplified) N/A $5
D. # Trainees 20 20
E. Trainees’ Hourly Wage $25 $25
F. Lost Productivity / Trainee / Hour $50 $50
G. Travel Expenses / Trainee (Rental Car & Airfare) $300 N/A
H. Overnight Stay / Trainee (Meals & Hotel) $150 N/A
I. Training Materials / Trainee (handouts, binders, etc) $20 N/A
J. Training Duration (Hours) 8 8

Alright, let’s see how this adds up.

Trainers Run The Online Training Show
‘Traditional’ Asynchronous
Trainer Cost: J x A $400 N/A
Training Development Cost: J x B x A $13,600 $13,600
Cost of Lost Productivity: J x D x F $8000 $8000
Employees in Training: J x D x E $4000 $4000
Software: C x D N/A $100
Logistics: D x (G + H + I) = 20 x $470 $9400 N/A
Total: $35,400 $25,700
Picture by Vinoth Chandar, published under cc.

Picture by Vinoth Chandar, published under cc.

This saves you almost $10,000. If employees take the online training on their own time, savings get even more spectacular: more than $21,000 ($35,400 − $13,700 = $21,700).

To summarize, online training can be a cost real saver if you keep development time to a minimum. Nowadays, you can do that by using high quality, yet affordable hardware (such as recent cameras and microphones) as well easy to use software, such as a learning management system (lms) which is specifically catered to trainers. Using these tools, you can take your existing training materials to create an engaging online training experience.


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