Online Training? Before you hit “sign up”, read this…

PersephoneDemeter20q@72From November 2013 I started on My Crazy Year when I was sure I wanted to start a business. The year actually lasted until I started a new job in January 2015 where I can feel myself once again settle. All along, all I really wanted to do was come out as a writer. But somehow, that was not easily accommodated without upending every other aspect of my life.

During My Crazy Year, I did a lot of online entrepreneur training. I mean A LOT. This is actually my third blog on the topic. The first blog was about how darned addictive signing up for on-line training is and the second (as a recovering training addict) to provide some guidance about when online training is useful; and when it isn’t. You know, if you can’t be a good example, be a horrible warning. This blog asks you to consider four things before you sign up

1. The clever marketing is often an end in itself

So much of the online training available is cleverly marketed to appeal to your pain points, and offer the right solution. If you are a solution-focused person like myself, this marketing ploy will work like a charm. All too often however, the actual transaction that is being offered is a sale, not transfer of knowledge. Once you have been suckered in by the marketing, clicked the “Get instant access” button  to buy the training, that may be the end of the relationship between you and the trainer.  You may never even access or download one megabyte of information and no-one will ever contact you to ask you why and where is your excuse note. It would be hard to track the data, but the attrition rate of online training must be absolutely staggering in terms of money spent versus actual knowledge gained.

Back in the day when I was signing up madly for training, I wanted to find out what was at the end of the rainbow, or perhaps like Demeter, I wanted to enter Hades and reclaim Persephone and bring Spring back into the world. So down into Hades I went, following the trail of the excellent marketing copy for the many training programs that promised all my business solutions were at the end of a click. I so wanted this to be true! After an inordinately long time in Hades I have only recently re-emerged with a somewhat peeved Persephone in tow who wondered when in the hell I was going to complete her release from the Underworld of online sales. I’m back. Really, truly recovered now! I really get it that there is no magic, quick fix; just a focus on one thing at a time, develop your skills and in time it may all come together in a profitable business or in a successful creative project. But it takes time and lots of patience. Not a quick Get Instant Access button.

2. Most online training is done by people who know lots about their subject but didley-squat about adult learning principles

I can’t count the number of hours I have spent listening and reading material, filling in pdfs etc. How often my heart has sunk and the knowledge the  next audio is 1.5 hours and must be listened to at some point, possibly to extract about 20 minutes of actual learning. Whose learning style is that working for exactly? Nobody’s I suspect – it is just the trainer wanted to share all their knowledge in a massive download that swamps but doesn’t necessarily help you to master a new skill. Most people may be familiar with the concept of learning styles – the most commonly discussed learning styles are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. This relatively simplistic approach to learning styles has been somewhat superseded a more complex learning style matrix by Felder and Silverman. I found a great Mindtools article on Felder Silverman earning Styles that references  the four learning continuums: Active/Reflective, Sensory/ Intuitive, Visual/Verbal and Sequential/Global.  The article even has a link to a questionnaire that gives instant feedback on what your learning preferences are. (Strongly intuitive, moderately active and global, slap bang in the middle for visual/ verbal, if you wanted to know). The point is, as an on-line trainer, you are going to have all learning style combinations you can think of. You need to mix it up if you are going to be able to engage everyone on the internet, and give them the opportunity to gain something from their time with your online course.

3. Quality will win out

About three months ago I stumbled across on-line training enthusiast Dr Kelly Edmonds who has 20 years’ experience and numerous qualifications in adult learning. She notes “to truly teach you need to ensure your students learn, not that you delivered a lesson.” The email that sent me towards Dr Kelly’s website noted the plethora of poorly designed online training and mentoring courses. I thought back to my time in Hades and the many online courses I bought and how few of them really ensured that the students were learning. Just imagine how it would change the space of on-line training if well-designed courses were the norm? What if, say, people in the online entrepreneur space reported on how many people had signed up to their recent courses, how many had completed, and crucially, how many had implemented? It would cause sales to plummet I suspect.

4. Online training still rocks

But despite these cautionary tales, on-line training is something I really do believe in both as student and teacher. The convenience of being able to access training from the comfort of your own home is wonderful; as is the more affordable price tag that is often attached to online training. The technology of the internet creates some exciting opportunities to present material; and the opportunities for those of us who really want to create wonderful quality seem very positive. And of course, online training is completely flexible and ideally suited to be adapted to any and all learning styles.

So… online training is neither good nor bad, but procrastination makes it so. A finished online course where you have taken action on the course contents can be awesome. It’s just a little bit rare…

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