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Online Training: Still Virtually Awful?

February 22, 2011

Mary-Beth Carstensen is guest-blogging today! Mary-Beth is a Kronos Education Delivery Team Lead and will take us through the years of Online training…

Fast Fact: In 1996 Internet host computers jump from 1M to 10M and Internet Explorer 3 released

15 years ago, I worked for a company that decided to roll out virtual training but had no idea what they were getting into. Basically they collated workbooks to give to the participants and then setup ”office hours” for them to ask questions of an instructor via e-mail or phone call. The horror about this was that the organizers had no idea what they were doing and randomly asked various office staff to ”man the phones” off hours on the slight chance a student would call with a question. Out of 157 initial participants, all but 2 dropped out of the program. The other 155 demanded refunds. Not a good start.

By 2001, my odyssey placed me at Kronos and I have to admit that their virtual classroom was no better. We only offered a few “virtual classes” and not too many people were signing up. What I remember about these classes was that the instructor would lock herself in a classroom, put on a headset and emerge about an hour and a half later having completed the training.

Fast Fact: In 2003 Next hot technology: VoIP and Skype introduces internet telephony

It wasn’t until 2003 that Kronos’ virtual classroom really started to take off and our ”virtual training team” began to form. Back then, there were two primary instructors teaching all of the classes. I joined the team in 2005, and by 2006 we had a team of five delivering two-2 hour sessions a day, which meant we covered 2 days of traditional classroom instruction over 5 days via our virtual classroom. Still, virtual classes were not as popular as in person instructor led training (ILT) in our Kronos classrooms. Back then we also conducted our virtual training using PowerPoint presentations and the “pass-the-mouse” technique. If our customers could survive ”death by PowerPoint,“ pass-the-mouse allowed each student to have some hands-on practice with the application.

Fast Fact: In 2008 VMware releases VMware Workstation 6.5

In October, 2008 the Kronos Virtual Classroom (KVC) shifted drastically. Instead of offering two-2 hour classes a day, we began offering full day classes so customers could complete their training in the same amount of time they would need to complete an ILT course. KVC classes were now running 2 full days from 9am-5pm. At first, both customers and instructors were furious with this change. Customers wanted ILT back and thought that virtual training would jeopardize their entire implementation. However, as the instructors became more proficient in using white board tools, polling and application sharing, some customers really started to grasp this new way of learning and even commented that they preferred it to traditional, ILT! Still, not everyone was convinced, so we looked to improve our delivery style, and also to create learning materials specifically designed for the KVC environment.

Fast Fact: Cloud computing hot for 2009

Continuing our evolution, in 2009 we completely revamped the curriculum with the virtual classroom in mind and incorporated multiple learning styles to further accommodate the adult learner by:

  • Allowing for greater interaction between the instructor and student
  • Building independent exercises or labs into the learning
  • Including collaborative exercises so students could work together to share learning with one another using examples of student’s own situations

Fast Fact: 2011 – Your own private Idaho

Today, KVC is stronger than ever. In 2010, we introduced a full virtual lab environment so students can have hands on practice in their own private “sandbox.” Our IT team built training database images so every customer in class can work with their own version of Workforce Central to gain that extra hands on experience. Now, many students comment that they feel like they are sitting in the classroom just like an ILT environment. Instructors feel the same way. Now that we have all of these tools to collaborate and offer hands on experience, we can offer just about everything in a virtual environment that we do in an ILT training environment. Finally, we’re providing the learning experience our customers expect… in a virtual environment. The virtual classroom has come a long way, and it continues to evolve and grow as technology allows and customers grow more comfortable. Some students still prefer the in person ILT environment, so we’ll keep working to improve the experience. “Hey Scotty, can you beam my students in?”

What’s your experience with online training?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tobias Jesso permalink
    February 22, 2011 5:00 pm

    Access to excellent opportunities for enhancing your knowledge online is increasing exponentially each year. I follow Google TechTalks, TED and several university programs – all are offered for free.

    Having a variety of time chunks is key to integrating the learning into my everyday activities. There has never been a better time for discursive, divergent learners – you can ADD your way to a successful learning experience. The classroom and traditional learning environments were never very suitable to my learning style.

    Kronos should look to the success of Google’s TechTalks as a model for offering internal training opportunities as well as promoting Workforce Management to the world.

  2. Lorrie Cook permalink
    February 22, 2011 10:25 pm

    Very nice and well written article Mary Beth!

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