How Do You Convert a Classroom-Based Course for Social, Online Learning? (Part 2)

In a previous post, I highlighted how GovLoop worked with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to convert a two-day Department of Defense (DoD) course entitled, “Performance Management for HR Practitioners.”

In this post, I wanted to share the recommendations that we made to OPM as I think they offer some lessons for other agencies and organizations that are seeking to take steps in the direction of virtual training and events.

Based on participant feedback and direct observations of the course, I’d like to share five of the recommendations that we made to OPM for incorporation in future online training:

1. Schedule the live discussions at a specific time (vs. random participation): In most online courses, the discussion forums are asynchronous, meaning that anyone can participate at any time. What we learned is that online discussions work best if you put a stake in the ground and name a time for everyone to gather and tackle the topic at hand. With this approach, people know what’s expected of them and can budget time in their calendar to join the conversation. Of course, if they can’t make the live discussion, they can always chime in afterward.

2. Use peer reflection to reinforce learning: Participants were paired with a partner from another agency in order to share three things they learned and planned to apply to their job from the week’s content. Participants liked the idea of the weekly peer reflection, but we learned that groups of 4-5 would work better than a pairing of only two people. If one member of the duo does not participate, it’s an ineffective exercise. Multiple people increase the likelihood of at last 2 members of the group participating in a given week.

3. Use blog posts, podcasts and other online content as assigned reading. Most web-based courses point participants to academic article or books. While both of those learning resources are helpful, participants clearly enjoyed the use of GovLoop blogs as required reading – both as valuable content in and of itself, but also because they were able to read the comments of their colleagues as they reacted to what was shared by the bloggers. In many ways, the use of social media provided a 360-degree view of a topic that you might not get in a classroom setting.

4. Send regular communication to participants to increase engagement: GovLoop was intentional in its approach to facilitating course engagement. By sending regular emails, providing the course content in multiple formats, such as ebooks and embedded videos, and reinforcing the weekly rhythm of the course at each touchpoint, the course achieved high participation rates.

5. Include a gaming or comparison element. This course did not include an element in which participants were ranked or compared to each other in terms of participation. Research has shown that something as simple as a weekly “Top 10 Participants” list or a ranking of all participants could improve overall engagement in social learning settings. As a result, we would likely incorporate a gaming element into a future course to determine if that leads to even higher levels of participant activity.

As a result of the success of this pilot, GovLoop looks forward to future opportunities to convert traditional, classroom-based training into online, social learning modules or to create new courses based on emerging requirements in government.

Based on your experience with online learning, what other recommendations would you have for agencies seeking to get started with virtual learning?

: Please join us for a free online training on Thursday, August 8, entitled, “How to Transform Traditional Conferences and Training for Government.” REGISTER HERE.

SPECIAL INVITATION 2: You are cordially invited to join the Government Virtual Engagements Community of Practice to engage in ongoing dialogue about virtual events and training in government.

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Avatar photo Emily Jarvis

I really like the specified time part of this post. I find that structured meetings are always much more productive.