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Build Effective Online Training by Starting with an Activity

Effective online training goes beyond content presentation. This post explores a few simple ideas for engaging the learner in an activity first.

5 min read
Tom Kuhlman blog post

Effective training isn’t about content

It’s about performance and skills competency

As we’ve mentioned throughout this blog, the default for many e-learning courses is to focus exclusively (or mostly) on content presentation. This is fine for some courses, but effective online training requires that the content is wrapped around some performance expectations and corresponding activity where the learner can practice and demonstrate competency.

Provide effective e-learning with a 3-step mode: hands-on activity, provide advice, and present content.

In previous posts we looked at two approaches to the Tell, Show, and Do model:

The HAT training model

In today’s post, we’re going to kind of flip the process and present an activity first and then build from there. I call this the HAT model (because training people like acronyms).

  • Hands-on activity: Before you dive too deep into the details of the instruction, create an activity. It’s a great way to assess where they’re at. Even if you don’t use it as a formal assessment, it helps the learner see where they’re at. It also assists in clarifying objectives as they work through an activity to solve some problem. If you want to create an adaptive process, you can use the activity as a way to filter beginners from tenured learners.
  • Advice: During the activity you provide advice in response to the decisions the learner makes. You can also collate the decisions and results of the activity and then provide advice as an option to progress. For example: do the activity, offer advice, review the activity, and then final decisions. The advice is a way to fill in the gaps that may be exposed during the activity since they haven’t gotten all of the content upfront.
  • Tell: Complete the activity. Provide feedback as required during a debrief and then go into tell mode where you can present more structured content and add additional detail.

Why the HAT model works

I like this approach because it engages the learner at the front end. It does require more forethought in the analysis and design phase than just slapping together screen after screen of content. And sometimes it can be a hard sell to customers because they expect more linear type presentation where every possible bullet point is exposed.

Regardless of the model or technique you using in constructing courses, the most important part is getting the learner to apply and practice doing what they need to do. This provides opportunities for feedback and a means to evaluate their understanding of the content. It also helps you move the courses away from linear presentations to something more dynamic and effective.

5 min read

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