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Leveraging Best Practices in Distance Learning with High Quality Training and Development

The EvoLLLution | Leveraging Best Practices in Distance Learning with High Quality Training and Development
As innovations in the online and adult learning space come fast and furious, why are these best practices not being applied to institutional professional development?

Our institutions offer individualized, high quality distance learning courses for students to increase expertise and understanding. Employees should have personalized learning experiences tailored to their needs as well.

Ongoing training and career development are consistently listed as one of the top nonfinancial motivators for employees. Over half of employees claim training and development contributes to their overall job satisfaction. Additionally, poor training and development, beginning with onboarding, is linked to employee turnover.

If employee training and development is so critical to an organization, how can we bring it to the forefront and create trainings employees want to take?

To begin, you must understand your faculty and staff training needs and desires.  You can accomplish this through analyzing your data: course evaluations, onboarding results, department and employee satisfaction surveys. Secondly, create a collaborative culture with leaders within the college; what training areas within their department can we automate, streamline or improve? It’s hard to reach an end goal without truly knowing where your organization currently stands.

Before organizational changes are implemented, employee buy-in should occur. Our team implemented a college-wide digital newsletter to create employee buy-in and introduce training and development to the organization. Within our newsletter, employees are individually highlighted and share their personal professional development insights. The culture of training and development began from within before it became a formal establishment. Within this monthly newsletter, we also included positive student comments from course evaluations, friendly reminders, highlighted alumni in action and shared encouraging college-wide growth. It’s often said, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” As a fully online institution, our employees are based across the United States. Creating college connections and celebrating employee success became synonymous with our training and development department before a training was ever presented to employees. We care about employees, their development and the end result of their ongoing training, which directly impacts our students.

Online learning is continuing to grow amongst today’s student population. If our faculty and staff are going to be efficient and effective in their online roles, we need to equip and empower them. As is the case with many extracurricular activities, time is the largest roadblock for employees in completing training and development. High quality learning opportunities are succinct, delivered in an engaging format and are application based. All our training opportunities are housed within our learning management system (LMS), are self-register and self-paced so our faculty can complete trainings at anytime from anywhere. Upon successful completion, our employees are awarded a digital badge and certificate which they can share on almost any social media site. Who doesn’t love recognition? The positive feedback we have received from employees regarding digital badges led us to utilize them with our student population as well.

Our training opportunities are autonomous and take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour to complete. Our onboard training takes one week to complete and equips all faculty, from those new to online learning to digital natives, to be successful in our online student-facing courses.  Our employee training opportunities are engaging and interactive to encourage active participation and long-term retention. For example, our Understanding Diversity and Inclusion training, employees share personal resources they’ve found beneficial through virtual sticky notes on our digital bulletin board and participate in cross-college discussions on “What would you do?” scenarios. In our Manager training, employees participate in gamification activities where they are presented with employee scenarios and earn points for applying knowledge learned in the training. Our faculty onboarding helps new employees become comfortable and confident in our online learning practices by having them apply information they’ve learned from the new hire orientation into a mock course within our LMS.

Employees only have 10 minutes to dedicate to training and development? Great! Create quick, internally developed microlearning opportunities for your employees. Microlearning training opportunities are on the rise as employee time is limited. Microlearning opportunities range in topics from ways employees can make their meetings more engaging to how employees request IT support. With the implementation of quick, microlearning tutorials and trainings, you allow employees to engage and take ownership of their learning without an extensive time commitment.

What is exciting about our training and development model is that it can be implemented at any institution.  Specifically, you do not need a large training and development department or even a grand budget to build out a training team within your organization. We started our department with a party of one and are now up to three team members, two years later. We build all our training opportunities within our department to meet the individual needs of our institution. High quality, internal training opportunities provide employees with the tools and knowledge needed to make a difference within their organization.

Rather than outsourcing training opportunities, you can build trainings for exactly what your team needs. Creating a collaborative, company-wide culture around high quality training and development is a worthwhile investment which can lead to a significant organizational impact. Begin with your data and end with employee growth impacting student success.

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