The difference between designing online and face-to-face workshops

Happy New Year to all of you, dear blog readers!

Just before Christmas another group completed the eWorkshop design course and we are all admiring the results of the enormous effort the participants have put into designing their own eWorkshops in just 10 weeks. For most this was the very first time they ever designed e-learning and the majority are face-to-face trainers.

Is creating an eWorkshop different to creating a face-to-face workshop? Yes and no.

Yes, it’s different – because your learners will be at a distance, and the communication happens online. Learners may need your support at odd hours when e-facilitators are not available. So, as a eWorkshop designer you will need to ‘predict’ these needs and ensure most of the support is embedded in the eWorkshop at times and in spaces where the learners typically get stuck. The e-facilitator will be able to further support the participants when they log in, but to make it work well you need to infuse as much learner support as possible in the design.

No, it’s not different – because all the useful and productive social, interactive, dynamic and enjoyable aspects of working with peers, communicating with facilitators and being engaged should be the same! In fact, we might even argue that in some ways the learning experience can be enhanced through providing more opportunities for each individual learner to reflect and contribute when the engagement is asynchronous (at different times) rather than synchronous (at the same time) – the shy learner often blossoms online!

To make the eWorkshop different and better, designers need to think beyond the objectives and the content. For instance, we need to think about how we recreate the processes of building trust, building social cohesion and fostering enjoyment and motivation. Don’t leave this to chance – build it into your designs. Even if you take on the role of e-facilitator as well, you still need to plan (i.e. design) these activities explicitly.

If you’re developing compliance training, you don’t need to worry about this level of learning design. However, it should be a key consideration when designing any training that aims at problem-solving and critical thinking. (Don’t mix these up.)

Collaborative e-learning design is often overlooked in the curricula of instructional design courses at universities and other higher education organisations. A huge lost opportunity. Most of the e-learning sector is still stubbornly limiting itself to compliance training and webinars, focusing its conversations on whether to gamify or not. I’m hoping that 2015 will be the year where we all start applying adult learning principles instead.

A step-by-step guide to weaving online feedback
What do we mean by learner-centred e-learning?


1 Comment. Leave new

  • Derek (Baasdenleco)
    January 7, 2015 4:53 pm

    Thank you for an excellent article that succinctly gets to the core of where e learning has to progress.


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