How do you make online training engaging?

people on a video call
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And ‘Boom!’ just like that we were thrown into a world of home working, online meetings, virtual conferences and screen based training… and although we may not have chosen this way of working, we’re gradually finding our way.

So, consider this – you’re faced with around 50 trainees, all eager to learn in real time from the comfort of their home office.  You also have a handful of different trainers – also working from home – ready to share their knowledge and expertise.  How do you make sure, despite the virtual environment, that the learning experience is relevant, useful and engaging?  Just recently we’ve been doing exactly this and have some hints and tips we hope you may find useful…

  1. Firstly, to create engagement you need to prepare, prepare and prepare again.  Unlike a face to face setting, engagement won’t just ‘happen’ in the room.  Instead you’ll need to think about how to generate engagement using the training content, interactive tools and a healthy dose of creativity – so you’ll need to plan for this.
  2. Don’t expect to simply take the slides you’ve used for face-to-face training and deliver them online.  Trainees will be more reliant on the specific content; they may need more or less detail, superior images or embedded videos, as well as interactive activities and games.  So, review your tried and tested slides through an online ‘lens’ well before the training session is due to happen.
  3. Consider your own delivery style – on screen you may need to work that bit harder to convey enthusiasm and interest in your specialism.  You might want to consider slightly exaggerating your usual way of explaining a topic; and remember to move and smile!  This will all help build interest and engagement in the subject matter.
  4. Activities like online quizzes (Kahoot is one that works well), videos, ‘podcast’ style interviews and scenarios for discussion all provide different formats for learning which helps maintain interest.
  5. For larger training cohorts, breakout rooms can be effectively used to split trainees into smaller groups to foster relationship building, more focused discussion and inject variety into the learning experience.
  6. Encourage interaction between the trainees and the trainers – most online meeting platforms have a chat facility which provides a great way to gather questions whilst presenting.  If there are two trainers – share the load – have one present whilst the other monitors and responds to the questions.
  7. Invite other ways of trainees communicating their views – without it disrupting the overall session.  For example, using participants ‘status’ facility is akin to a quick ‘show of hands.’  Don’t be afraid to ask people for their opinion like this!
  8. Strongly encourage or even mandate people to keep their video on unless they have a valid reason not to.  There’s nothing like a lack of visibility to reduce engagement.
  9. Consider using ‘backchannel’ communications on a different platform like WhatsApp – it allows the trainers to talk to each other to rectify any issues or change the presentation plan to suit the mood or address feedback in real time.
  10. Finally – ask for immediate feedback using a polling facility – most of the online meeting platforms have them.  It’s an excellent way of quickly gathering high level feedback on the training session.

So, what are your hints and tips?  Do you have any you’d like to share?  Additional input is always welcome to make sure we keep learning too!

Face to face training may have had to stop for now, but thankfully good learning experiences don’t have to…

Attention please! Lucid is working with Network Rail to develop key non-technical skills in its operational staff…

shallow focus photography of railway during sunset
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Imagine the role of a railway signaller… controlling the routing of a train, operating signals from a signal box or operations centre… the information screens, indicators, warning lights and alarms… all utilising highly technical skills developed through specialist training.  The development of these skills then occurs on the job, alongside experienced supervisors and managers until signallers are deemed sufficiently competent to go it alone.  But, are technical skills alone enough to safely direct trains?

All of the operational staff at Network Rail – including signallers, control room operatives, local operations managers, mobile operations managers – also need a whole range of non-technical skills (NTS).  These are the “social, cognitive and personal skills that can enhance the way…staff carry out technical skills, tasks and procedures” (RSSB, 2020) and include skills in areas like conscientiousness, communication, control under pressure, teamwork, planning and attention management.

Let’s think a little more about attention management.  Signallers may know a control panel like the back of their hand… but if they get even slightly distracted and spend fractionally too long focused on something else… will they notice a light has begun to flash?  Or something else unexpected?  It doesn’t matter how technically good a signaller is at managing their area, if they haven’t noticed a train in a section.  This is why non-technical skills – like attention management – are just as safety critical as the purely technical ones.  

At Lucid we are therefore excited to be working with Network Rail again to design a training programme that supports the development of attention management in its operational staff.  As big fans of a blended learning approach, we plan to design the programme to include a range of different training formats – including e-learning packages, video segments and worksheets.  In our experience, providing training content in different, but complementary styles – such as text, visual, audio or interactive – results in a wider appeal to different types of learners and also helps to embed the learning at a deeper level.  This means all of Network Rail’s operational staff can really benefit from the training programme and develop their skills in maintaining attention when it matters most.

SiteSentinel for EMR

February 2020

East Midlands Railway adopts SiteSentinel for 3 depots

We would like to welcome EMR to the SiteSentinel community. EMR have commissioned Lucid to develop SiteSentinel inductions for their Etches Park, Eastcroft, and Neville Hill depots.

East Midlands Railway, based in Derby, provides services across the East Midlands, and run services between the east midlands and London.

The SiteSentinel platform provides an online induction, test and administration interface. The system is designed to consistently deliver relevant, high-quality information using text, photos, video and illustrations. SiteSentinel provides an audit trail of site inductions for staff, visitors, and contractors.

The Digital Depot II

internal depot

A few months back we blogged about the headway we, as well as the likes of Zonegreen and Alcumus Sypol, are making in the area of digitising the train depot… Our online worksite safety induction solution Site Sentinel allows depot visitors to complete an induction before they arrive on site, meaning they arrive equipped and ready for work.  What better way to optimise the digital technology available to us?

However, what if visitors first language isn’t English?  To date, we’ve always run Site Sentinel in English, however, more and more site visitors need the worksite induction in their native language to ensure safety critical details are not ‘lost in translation’.

This development is unsurprising, the range of skills required in a train depot is vast… there are train engineers, construction workers, electricians, safety managers and administrative staff, not to mention a whole heap of specialist rail contractors and visitors who enter the depot each day.  We can’t expect each one of these people to have a high standard of English literacy – but neither can we afford for them to misunderstand or misinterpret the safety induction briefing.

So, what do we do?  Well if you decide to translate your induction, you’ll need technical language support and a good deal of technical proofreading.  Google Translate – albeit a great way to quickly and cheaply translate big pieces of text – won’t suffice – it could lead to unintelligible or, worse still, misleading statements.  The devil is in the detail and technical accuracy is key.

Once you’ve had the site induction translated, a little user testing wouldn’t go amiss either… the text may make sense to you, but it needs to be trialled with different people to ensure the testing is sufficiently robust.

But… once this is all in place, there’s no reason why Site Sentinel can’t be rolled out in a whole variety of different languages.  You could even give people the choice to read it in more than one language – just for good measure!

Have you translated safety materials into different languages?  What challenges have you faced?

Why Use Voiceover, Graphics and Text Content in E-learning?

text on shelf
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At Lucid HQ we often find ourselves creating e-learning content combining graphical, auditory and text-based content – and please let’s bust any myths right here and right now – doing it this way isn’t straightforward!

We certainly don’t do it to ‘pad out’ the learning material or reduce the time spent writing technical text.  In fact, it makes the process of content creation more complex as we gather information from different sources and in different formats.  This is time consuming, and can also be costly, so it’s not something we would readily opt for!

However, recently a big customer asked us “Can we remove the voiceover and graphics from our e-learning and just stick with the text?”.  In responding to the client, it made us carefully consider exactly why we do this…

You might be familiar with the “cognitive load” concept… we’ve certainly highlighted it in other blogs because it’s key in the world of training.  It’s the notion that when we learn new information it must be stored in our working memories until it’s fully processed and passes into our long-term memory.  However, our working memory is a crowded place, and if too much information is presented we run the risk of losing it altogether.

However, there’s a little trick termed the “modality effect” – which means if information is presented in different formats or ‘modes’, then our working memory can hold on to more – because it reserves a separate space for processing visual data and another space for auditory data.  So, by using both visual and auditory stimuli in e-learning packages, we improve the trainee’s chance of avoiding cognitive overload and embedding new learning.

Building on the scientific basis, let’s face it, people also just have different learning preferences and by presenting information using a variety of mediums it keeps people’s interest throughout.

And finally, we live in a fast-paced world.  With around 40% of consumers not willing to wait more than three seconds for a web page to render before abandoning the site, societal patience levels are at an all time low.  But rushing can cause people to miss critical information.  This is the last thing we want in a training scenario.  So, delivering e-learning using a range of formats forces people to slow down and take the time to steadily digest all the new information.

So, can you see why we take the harder path when developing e-learning content for our customers?!  It may be a longer process for us – but ultimately it helps to improve the learning outcomes for our clients.