My passion is for designing effective online training for learners. Over the last decade I have participated in many projects that have collaboratively designed, developed and facilitated online learning programs for elearners in adult education facilities in Australia.
During my 15 years in Toastmasters I have seen the need for online training that would provide a choice for those club officers who are regionally based and remote from capital cities in their countries. They need online opportunities to build their skills, work on projects to enhance their clubs, and network with others who perform similar roles; using structured training methods.
In 2016, when online clubs for Toastmasters emerged, my plans turned towards methods for designing, developing and facilitating online training for their club officers. During my six months as mentor for one such online club, I focused on providing online training for them. This was a High Performance Leadership project with the vision of trialling Club Officer Training Online an online ‘self-paced course’ accompanied by a series of online workshops.
Lessons learned from that project included possible solutions to the following set of questions:
- How can you design and tailor training for club officers in an online club?
- How can you develop effective training activities for an online club?
- How can you provide any time networking opportunities for participants?
- How can effective real time sessions be scheduled for online clubs?
- How can you motivate the club officers to undertake the training?
The process used for this HPL project involved three elements:
- Base Camp – a self-paced suite of modules accessible at any time in Moodlecloud
- Communication Channel – a closed social media group in Facebook
- Workshops – a series of real time one hour events using web conferencing tools
The MoodleCloud learning management system was selected as I was already skilled in building courses in this environment and had many years of experience in being a facilitator. However the use of a ‘gated online space’ requiring password entrance was not familiar to participants and was not used in the way it was anticipated.
The Facebook group T.O.A.S.T. (Training Online for Advanced Strategic Toastmasters) was created to enable conversations, notifications and follow up recordings. The group enabled the creation of Events with automatic reminders to the participants.
Click Meeting was selected initially, then discarded as it did not measure up to the quality of audio and video required for the online sessions. GoToMeeting was preferred by participants.
The COTO online workshop experience was scheduled during June/July and featured a series of real time workshops; one per week for six weeks. However, not every officer could attend at the time selected or for all of the sessions.
Lessons Learned: select an online space that does not require any logins for the content and use online social media spaces and web conferencing tools that are familiar to the participants. Most importantly design the learning experiences to fit with the time zone and time availability of the participants.
Club Officer Training Online: Influences
During the next couple of weeks I plan to develop and explore alternative online Microlearning training experiences that would be appropriate for club officers in land based clubs. I acknowledge that frequently, the biggest ‘barriers’ to effective training is the time required to devote to it, including the travel time to attend f2f events. Toastmasters are busy people and effective training will need to fit within their available time OR it will NOT be given a priority rating. Advanced Toastmasters will also NOT be engaged with regurgitated learning that is irrelevant to them. They want timely, relevant, effective and engaging training in small, easily digested chunks.
Toastmaster training for busy club officers could benefit from a Microlearning approach.
Microlearning is the method of breaking up longer courses into their core ideas and delivering them in bite-sized, digestible pieces. Each module consists of just one snackable idea and learners can chow through as many modules as they have time for in each sitting – then return to where they left off the next time they have five minutes to spare.
Source: CourseGenius Blog
A Microlearning approach that takes into consideration the needs and time availability of the learners, would suit Toastmasters.
Club Officer Training Online: Recommendations
I plan to blend the theories of Microtraining and Connectivism when designing the online experiences for busy Toastmaster club officers.
Effective MicroTraining that will fit into the two training months of the year, February and August, would suit the club officers of any Toastmasters club.
The Microtraining method is an approach aimed at supporting informal learning processes in organizations and companies. Learning in this sense means that an active process of knowledge creation is taking place within social interactions, but outside of formal learning environments or training facilities. This process can be facilitated by well-designed and structured systems and by supporting ways of communication and collaboration, like the Microtraining method does. A Microtraining arrangement comprises a time span of 15–20 minutes for each learning session, which can activate and maintain learning processes for a longer period if bundled into series. A Microtraining session can be held face-to-face, online or embedded in an e-learning scenario.
Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories.
Source: Connectivism by George Siemens
For Toastmasters, connectivism is the effective networking between people that capitalises on the existing relationships and communications between club officers and clubs in Areas, Divisions and Districts.
Stage One: Preparation
I will be guided by these steps in preparing effective training experiences:
- research the needs of the club officers as online learners
- network with other districts who provide online training
- collaborate with a team of trainers who are skilled and experienced in designing effective online experiences for Toastmasters
Stage Two: Design and development
The team will be guided by these steps in designing effective training experiences:
- create an online space in which the design of the training can take place
- design the elements of an effective Club Officer Training Online program
- develop the elements as Microlearning components and real time online Microtraining workshops
Stage Three: Trial and facilitate
The team will be guided by these steps in facilitating effective training experiences:
- promote and invite participation from officers in regional and remote land based clubs in Australia
- schedule and facilitate a series of 3 real time online workshops to fit the time availability of participants
- tailor the program to include any time access to the Microlearning components
At the conclusion of the trial, report on the lessons learned and improvements to be incorporated.
This is the beginning of an innovative approach to Club Officer Training Online!