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A new challenge – designing a course to sell

January 18, 2011

One of my newest clients, a not-for-profit who has a great school-based program has asked me to lead the transition of the face-to-face training to an eLearning format.   The program offers a mini-course each year for kids in several grades, beginning in the middle school years, which expands each year.  The core is the same, but the training matches their stage of development (grade level) and links to their curriculum for health studies.

The focus of the training program is to help youth develop respectful relationships through communication skills, self-esteem and empathy.  I think it is a noble cause and I think it has global potential.  However, in today’s economy where this type of program is not seen as “essential” or “academic”, it is hard to sell a program with such a long commitment and involving so much face to face instruction (which requires travel, costly travel).  But, this is the type of skill that is so critical to human interaction and a strong foundation for learning.

We’re adding an eLearning option to make it easier for people to buy it, and help more youth get access to the skills.

The current model is a train-the-trainer: master trainer, trains local facilitators, who trains/coaches school-based trainers, and graduates of the program become peer-trainers/co-facilitators.  It’s a complex design challenge!

I’m currently completing the first phase, a needs assessment to define what form this new iteration of the program should take.  It’s going to be a fascinating project.  Moving to e-learning (can’t assume it will be online, as rural/remote communities who might really need the training may not have reliable high speed internet access!) is only one facet of the project.  It means examining trade-offs and risks, too.Here are some of my ponderings/questions:

  • Will we use synchronous sessions to help the master trainer coach and support the local trainers deliver the program or will we use primarily asynchronous output?  What if this makes sense for the content, but not the customer?  What then?
  • Will we focus on the local trainers or will we look at training the school-based trainers?
  • Will we create a ton of video resources to support/use in the school-based training?  If so, what issues does this bring up?
  • Will we provide a learning community to connect trainers from around the world together?
  • Will we create an entirely self-paced flash or html based course?
  • Will we (somehow, gulp) create courses for mobile devices?
  • How do we train “soft skills” using eLearning?  Specifically, facilitation skills.  How do you train and evaluate someone’s facilitation abilities from afar?
  • In terms of content: what stays/what goes?
  • Will we track completion?  They don’t have an LMS, do they need one?
  • How can we certify successful course completion?  Currently the master trainer uses personal observation during facilitated exercises to determine if an individual passes the program.  How will we do this without a face to face component?

I’ll also be looking at what type of authoring program is best for this (and other) situation, as I get to dive into development, too.  Wow, I really will be turning it up to ’11 this year…

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