Training community workers and leaders
Planning effective online training
Online training such as webinars can help you share information both in real time and to a wider group after the training through an archived recording of the webinar. Here are some things to keep in mind and help you plan, facilitate, and promote online training.
Pick the right tool
It’s important to pick an online training tool that is the best fit for your audience. If possible, consult with your participants in advance. Some questions to consider:
- Do participants have easy access to the hardware and software needed for the training?
- If using videoconferencing, can you provide this in a location close to them? Are they comfortable using technology? If not, can you arrange for someone to help them?
- Are there limitations to how many people can use the technology at one time?
Then pick a method that will best meet the needs of your participants within the resources that you have available to you. Some options are:
- Webcast: This is an online presentation format similar to a broadcast – for example, a TED Talk. Webcast tools can be used to provide information to people over the internet. However, using this type of tool does not allow your participants to provide input during the training. Also, people getting the training in rural or remote areas where there is no broadband might have problems streaming the content.
- Webinar: This presentation format is more interactive than a webcast. Webinar tools usually provide opportunities for participants to be led through a PowerPoint presentation or video with some opportunity for asking questions. Webinars can differ considerably in how they are organized, and what actual format and process is used.
- Videoconferencing: Videoconference tools allow for a greater level of interaction because participants can see one another, and are able to talk to each other. However, they can be very costly to access. Some government agencies and institutions have videoconferencing equipment and will allow community groups to use the equipment for training purposes.
If resources are limited, webinars will probably provide you with the most bang for your training buck. And, as mentioned above, they can usually be archived and made available to a wider audience after the training is done.
Plan strategies to increase participation in online training
If you are using a webinar platform, participation can be encouraged by:
- giving materials in advance to get people thinking about the issues
- emailing specific questions for discussion, and identifying issues to think about
- giving participants a short assignment before the training; something related to their day to day experience would be best
- breaking up the presentation with quick polls using true or false questions or “raise your hand if” questions to encourage discussion
- getting a co-facilitator to help you take questions from users and provide you with the feedback for follow-up
Strategies to promote group discussion during online training include:
- arranging for participants who are in a common area or location (this could be in the same agency, same city or even same region) to meet as a group and do the web-based training together in a common location, sharing one computer
- if small groups are doing the training together in various locations, the training can include “breaks” for live small group discussions or group
Keep your presentation short
Attention spans online and on a conference call are shorter than for an in-person event. So, it’s a good idea to try to keep the webinar length to 60 minutes or less, and to leave at least 10 or 15 minutes for questions at the end. If you have more information to present, consider breaking it into smaller webinars.
Put together your presentation materials
Most common webinar tools allow you to present a PowerPoint presentation. Here are some tips on how to create an effective PowerPoint presentation:
- Provide a welcome message and instructions at the beginning of the presentation to help people in your live audience who are unfamiliar with webinars get started and understand how the webinar will be facilitated.
- Include an overview or table of contents slide near the beginning with a roadmap of what will happen during the training. Let people know how and when they can ask questions.
- Slides should highlight only key points that will be explained in detail during your presentation. If a comprehensive stand-alone resource is also required, prepare a detailed handout version to make available after the presentation.
- Slides and the live presentation should be in plain language. Avoid using jargon.
- Avoid using unexplained acronyms, abbreviations, or local terms that would be unfamiliar to a wider audience.
- Avoid slides with information that may soon be out of date such as costs or dates. Instead, link to websites where this information is always current.
- Have someone proofread your presentation to make sure everything is consistent and to avoid typos.
Tip: Try not to read the slides during your presentation. Instead, use the information on the slides as a prompt for your presentation and as a way of making sure you remember to cover all of the important content in the time allotted for your session.
Make your presentation materials engaging
Here are some tips on how to make the information on your slides pop out.
- avoid having too many slides
- avoid text-heavy slides
- avoid using small fonts – use at minimum a 24 point font size for body text and 28 point font size for headings
- limit the number of different fonts, background styles, and themes in your slide show
- colourful and relevant graphics or photos can enhance presentation points (try finding free clip art or Creative Commons stock images)
- avoid too many hyperlinks within the text of your slides – present a short list of web addresses at the end instead
Provide advance and same-day technical support
You can assume that at least one or two participants will have trouble joining the webinar. Provide the necessary supports people need to join in such as technical help, walk-throughs, and reminders. Email detailed information in advance as to how to join the webinar. It’s also a good idea to email this information 10 minutes or so before the webinar starts so that participants have easy access to it.
Do a run through of the webinar a few days in advance
It’s important to do a run-through of your webinar in order to make sure your timing is right and your technology is working properly. This is especially true if you are unfamiliar with webinars.
If possible, pick a “co-presenter” or person on your staff team who can help you both with this and on the day of the training. Have them monitor the webinar while you’re doing the run-through. They can give you valuable feedback and suggest any tweaks they think necessary.
Follow up with participants after the training session
Make a plan to:
- share any evaluation or survey results with the presenters and participants after the training session
- provide a chance for people who listen to the webinar after the live broadcast to ask questions or provide comments to be shared with the presenters (for example, provide email addresses for the presenters)
Make your online training accessible and available to a wider audience
Make a plan to: