Photo by: Lauren Mancke via Unsplash
Constraints. Every instructional designer must deal with them. Our Product Development team here at Langevin was faced with several challenging constraints when we were tasked with converting one of our longest running traditional instructor-led training (ILT) programs to a virtual classroom workshop.
The global pandemic surrounding COVID-19 meant clients wanting to register for any of our highly attended in-person workshops had to put their training needs on hold, unless we offered a virtual option that would allow them to attend online. This meant we needed to act quickly to convert some of our core workshops, like The Successful Training Manager, to the virtual classroom. It also meant we needed to deal with constraints.
We were faced with a double whammy when it came to our time constraints. Due to high client demand, we needed to reduce our typical design time to get the workshop to market as quickly as possible. And given that our target audience was training managers, we wanted to make sure the workshop did not require a major time commitment on their part. So how did we deal with this constraint?
We started by reviewing surveys completed by former participants of The Successful Training Manager workshop (in which they identify which course objectives are their highest priorities). We also conducted interviews with our facilitation team who shed light on which parts of the course content, and which presentation and application methods, past attendees valued the most from the ILT program.
Our directive from upper management was to try to limit the online sessions to three days and, per best practices, that meant we’d have 2-2.5 hours per session. Based on our prioritization of the course content, we planned to cover the highest priority objectives in the three online sessions. We modified some of the presentation and application methods as required, and carefully chose the accompanying virtual platform tools (i.e. breakout rooms, chat, polls, etc.) to ensure the timing required to present or practice each objective fit within our time constraints.
Unfortunately, the three online sessions didn’t come together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. We discovered early on that some of the content we had earmarked for the online sessions just wouldn’t fit. Luckily, we were able to repurpose an existing e-learning module that covered the entire process related to one of the objectives. For one of the other key objectives, we designed an interactive reading assignment with built-in knowledge checks using Articulate Rise. By covering this content through intersession assignments, minimal time was required during the subsequent online sessions for brief reviews.
Some of the lower priority objectives from the ILT program had some great job aids that past clients loved. Rather than cover the content in the online sessions, we created two separate infographics and a supplemental handbook that learners downloaded during the workshop.
One of the intangible benefits of the ILT version of The Successful Training Manager workshop is the networking that occurs between participants before and after the workshop, on break, and during small group activities. Despite the highly engaging environment that is created in all Langevin workshops, we knew it would be tough to replicate the same kind of networking opportunities in the virtual classroom,
especially given our time constraints. Our workaround was twofold. We set slightly longer time limits for breakout room activities to allow for further discussion. And after each online session, we offered an optional 30-minute forum that participants could attend to ask questions, seek clarification, or discuss ways of incorporating the course content with their peers and the Langevin facilitation team.
Constraints may not always be ideal, but with a little creativity and outside-the-box thinking, you can often find solutions that make for a highly engaging, blended learning solution. We hope the training managers who attend the live, online version of this workshop will be inspired to help their instructional design teams come up with equally creative blended learning solutions.
How has a blended learning solution helped you overcome some challenging design constraints? We look forward to hearing your stories!