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Online learning formats: how to choose the right form for the best result

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In online training every element is important: choosing the right platform, thinking about the structure of the training, preparing the listener to receive the knowledge, motivation and tracking the group dynamics.

Allen Rast, an essay writer from the Writemypaper, outlines how to choose an online course format that will be interesting for participants and effective from a teacher’s point of view.

How important is this? Let’s look at an example of a poorly chosen format.

English training course. A block of practice speaking.

The cheapest and easiest way from the point of view of the organisation is to ask the student to record his speech. The tutor listens to the speech and gives written recommendations.

Will it be effective? No!

The student won’t get “here-and-now” feedback and won’t be able to immediately correct his mistake, will be at a loss as to whether he is speaking correctly.

A more correct format is a 30-minute session with the teacher.

Suppose we have a situation: we have a lot of students and not enough teachers for all (this is temporary and we will fix it, but we need to solve the problem now). Then we organise the communication between the teacher and a group of 3-4 people. One will speak, and the others will evaluate the correctness and suggest the right way after his speech. In this way we can “kill two birds with one stone”: students train not only to speak but also to notice mistakes (and learn from them).

So, choosing the right training format is doubly important:

  1. We make learning more effective
  2. We make the learning process easier to organise

Let’s talk about some of the formats you can use for your online courses:

  1. Video Lesson

Can take several forms:

– ‘Talking head’: you film the lecturer in the studio, do editing, overlay infographics, presentation, etc. A cheaper format – recording the lecturer in the office or at home, pre-setting the light, and providing good sound. It is appropriate when the lecturer should be introduced to the audience and gain their confidence. Or in cases when visual content is needed, e.g. if the topic is connected with style, makeup, drawing, modeling, etc., when the video plays an important role

– Screencast: presentation + voice-over. Suitable for topics where you want to convey information in a very structured, lightweight way

Advantages of the video format:

– Compact and concise. The maximum amount of information can be conveyed in a short time

– In some cases, it is possible to listen on fast forward

– Visibility (infographics, photos, diagrams)

Disadvantages:

– Quality video is expensive

– The information may be out of date, then it is necessary to redo the content

– The expert is not always a good speaker able to present the material in a captivating way and stay in front of the camera

  1. Webinars

A live online presentation where the lecturer and listeners are in a webinar room at the same time. Refers to the asynchronous way of learning, as opposed to asynchronous video lessons, which participants watch at their convenience.

Advantages:

– Interactive format: it is possible to take surveys online and discuss the results immediately

– Audience participates in the chat and the lecturer receives feedback instantly

– Minimal financial costs

– Builds trust – listeners see the speaker

Disadvantages:

– Listeners can be easily distracted

– Lecturer plays the main role in the learning, listeners take a passive position, react with very limited tools (chat, polling)

– Possible disconnection (technical glitches)

  1. Longreads1

Longreads are “long reads,” a learning format in which the material consists of a lot of text, pictures, and infographics. It is interesting and easy to read. Reading time is 5-7 minutes.

Advantages:

– The format is convenient, you can read longreads at any time from any device

– Usually contain stories, examples, i.e. are engaging

Disadvantages:

– Lack of interactivity (solved by including a questionnaire or test after reading)

– Readers absorb the information but do not use it in any way (unless they include a task or test in the long read)

  1. Audio materials, podcasts

A format for conveying information in which the listener perceives only voice or music, with no visuals.

Advantages:

– Mobile: convenient to listen to on the go

– Good for content that needs to be repeated regularly (meditations, exercises)

Disadvantages:

– No interactivity

– You need special equipment for quality sound recording and in some cases, you need to rent a studio

  1. Chats or forums

An accompanying format for interaction between participants. Although there are known cases when online courses were organised exclusively in chat rooms: with the daily posting of lessons, questions, and answers in asynchronous mode.

Advantages:

– Chatting among participants promotes informal interaction. However, chat rooms require a moderator to maintain a positive atmosphere and keep conflicts at bay

– For the course organiser, the chat is a great way to keep track of the mood of the group, the emotional background, and motivation of the participants, to get information about missing content, and add it to the programme in time

Disadvantages:

– As a rule, chat rooms lack structure, communication is chaotic, several conversations may be going on at the same time

  1. Creative Assignments2

A format of online learning in which students are asked to complete an assignment with a very high degree of freedom. Options: essay or journaling.

Advantages:

– The format involves the activation of creative processes, so it is important when you need to connect the information you receive with your own experiences (e.g. storytelling techniques) or better integrate information in terms of applicability and diversify your repertoire of activities (e.g. think of 25 ways to do a pre-training warm-up)

– Creative assignments allow for a better grasp of the topic

Disadvantages:

– Creativity doesn’t come on a schedule, so the trainee may experience a temporary lack of ‘muse’

  1. Cases

A great format for integrating the knowledge students gain into a skill. Or vice versa, for organising learning “from the problem.” For example, your task is to teach conflict coping skills. You could give a theory first and then a case that describes a problem situation and asks how to get out of it.

Or you can give a case first (before learning the theory), collect the options, and then give the ‘right answers.’ In this case, participants become more motivated to study the theory to fill the gaps in their knowledge.

Discuss cases better in a chat or a group during a live presentation (webinar, conference). In this way, listeners will not only show their own opinion but also hear other points of view.

Advantages:

– High percentage of information assimilation

– It is possible to understand mistakes and avoid them in the future

Disadvantages:

– Rather, not a disadvantage, but a specific feature: in group discussions of cases, the moderator should make sure that all participants are active and no one is ‘lagging’, otherwise only active participants will be the most useful

  1. Interactive formats

Formats that involve the interaction of the learning system with the participant (without a teacher):

– For example, a long read can contain an active infographic. Clicking on certain elements unfolds detailed information that can be explored in more detail

– A dialog simulator or quest. A participant chooses their response-reaction variants and receives instant feedback on the correctness of their actions

– Online simulation. The goal is to achieve a certain goal, such as building a successful company in a certain amount of time or getting out of the ‘rat race’

The advantages are obvious

– Maximum realism

Disadvantage one, but big

– Difficult to develop any significant financial investment. Most often used for corporate training

  1. Options for test formats

So you’ve chosen your learning formats. What about test activities? Decide what you want to test. If knowledge, introduce testing with correct answers. If it’s the assimilation of information, make a case study. Also popular is project defence when a student has to create a presentation of a solution or action plan and defend it in front of peers and a jury. If you want to test skill, choose interactive formats or simulations. For example, a sales skill will manifest itself in a role-playing game where the participant plays the role of the Seller and his fellow student plays the role of the Customer. There is also a supervisor (teacher), who gives evaluations and comments on the student’s actions.

  1. Formats for getting feedback

During and after the training, the facilitator and instructors need to get feedback from the students. What do we want to know?

– How well did the expectations of the course match the reality?

– What was most useful?

– What section of the course (module, block) was most practically applicable?

– Which of the teachers did you like the most and why?

The most popular format is a questionnaire. But often it is difficult for a student to clearly formulate an answer, and then he prefers not to answer the questionnaire. A more complicated format for organising and processing information is calling participants, recording answers in a file, and then analysing it. This allows you to hear a discrepancy between words and reality. For example, a student reports that he or she liked everything, yet his or her voice sounds sad. Just one clarifying question will bring out the conversation and reveal things that a humble student would not have written on the questionnaire.

So, if you’re clear on your online course objectives, choose instructional formats that reinforce and test knowledge and gather feedback.

Get creative! Maybe you’ll find an idea of how to combine formats and develop your unique style of online courses.

Allen Rust, managing a restaurant before the pandemic and essay writer now. He believes that all the changes in our life happen for the better. He is always happy to share his insights with a wide audience, so don’t miss the chance to expand your horizons

 

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