“Online training enables large organizations to roll out new skills across diverse geographies. You no longer have to fly in people, or send out trainers, to teach the same skills to the entire workforce - you just need video eLearning authoring creation softwareeLearning authoring creation software".
Vitalsmarts is a leadership training company with over 20 years of experience, specializing in corporate training courses that fundamentally change employees’ behavior. By changing employees’ behavior, courses can help an organization achieve and sustain much higher levels of performance.
We at uQualio® fully understand the importance of corporate training and are naturally delighted to have had the opportunity to discuss this topic with a company that creates training courses, how they go on ensuring the biggest impact from corporate training programs, and how to take these training programs online.
Enough introductions let’s jump into the interview!
Hello and thank you for joining us today! Can you tell us a little bit about what you believe are the secrets behind your success?
VitalSmarts was built on the principles of sound theory and practical application. Those were two of the values we focused on very early in our development. They're still foundational today. We also chose to base the company on the values of mission, margin, and fun.
We knew then, as we know now, that if what we are doing isn't helping us achieve a noble mission, the effort would be vapid. Also, if we grew the top line, without a margin, we'd have a short existence. And finally, if what we did wasn't fun, neither of the other two would be enough. We also knew that if our employees didn't find meaning and purpose in their work and if the company didn't walk its talk, then we'd fall short of our vision.
You do live training, but you also have on-demand online video training. When and why did you decide you wanted to bring your corporate training online? How big of a growth channel has this been for you?
Our goal in creating and delivering online training is to better share our skills with the "modern learner." This is someone who likes to learn at their own pace rather than attend traditional training which forces all attendees to learn at the same pace. The modern learner also likes to learn during flexible times, like during a commute, or before going to sleep at night.
They prefer to learn in small chunks rather than focus for hours at a time. As we learned and observed these modern learners, we wanted to deliver a training experience that would work for them. The result is that more and more organizations are able to expand their rollout of our skills to audiences that they weren't even considering before – audiences that cannot take two full days away from their responsibilities to attend a live classroom course.
Online training also enables large organizations to roll out new skills across diverse geographies. You no longer have to fly in people, or farm out trainers, to teach the same skills to the entire workforce.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your production workflow when bringing your offline courses online? How did you go about planning and organizing your offline material and then re-working it to fit well in the digital world?
We take the lessons and principles from our live course and structure the online course to cover the very same topics. Then, we list all of the possible features and tools we could use to teach the same skills in an online experience (video, articles, discussion feeds, quizzes, etc.) and start building a flow.
We actually do this with physical pieces of paper in our "war room"—the room where our development happens. We write down ideas on pieces of paper and then hang them on the walls in the order we want them to go to the online platform. We work with paper and pen for as long as it takes until we feel like we have the optimal learning flow. Throughout the process, we try to create a compelling flow that engages the learner to DO a lot. Most lessons follow a similar outline: hear the idea, learn the skill, apply the skill, complete the lesson, and want more.
When you were producing your online courses, what were the biggest hurdles you needed to overcome when transitioning from offline to online learning? How did you overcome those obstacles?
Practice – it is vital to us that we only teach concepts the participants will have time to practice and apply. For example, with Crucial Conversations, our big challenge was how do we transfer the triad practices (where learners get feedback from a coach in the moment) from the classroom to the online experience?
We were able to harness group discussion feeds and quizzes to accomplish this exercise online. In some cases, the practices are even better in the online course. In an exercise, we might propose a scenario and then ask them to share in the discussion feed how they would begin a crucial conversation with the person in the scenario. We invite them to use the skill we are teaching them in the lesson to initiate a crucial conversation. The cool part about the online modality is that if you are in the online class with dozens of other people, you can see dozens of different ways to use the skill for that given scenario. We've observed that the sharing of best practices and the discussion about skill application is very rich and insightful.
What major lessons did you learn about putting together your online courses, and how will you structure course production differently in the future as you continue to add more eLearning to your catalog?
We learned that people like to learn in even smaller chunks online than they do in a face-to-face, live class. As a result, we've capped the length of lessons/principles so that it's easy to finish a lesson in a typical, short online session.
Lastly, what three pieces of parting advice would you give to eLearning instructors looking to impact their learners in the most meaningful ways possible?
1. Mix things up. Use as many of the bells, whistles, and features of the online platform as you can. Don't just share article page after article page. Be aware that people will experience reading burnout, especially on a screen.
2. Change up the modality of learning every 5 to 7 minutes. Go from video to article to discussion to quiz to video to journaling...etc, etc.
3. Use more videos. The modern learner loves poignant video that teaches and inspires.
Thanks for joining us today. We truly appreciate you taking the time to chat with our eLearning blog readers about your experience running VitalSmarts.