The trainer is the most important ingredient of a successful online training. More specifically: the motivation, structure and feedback a good trainer provides. So says Torstein Rekkedal from the Norwegian NKI (with over 12K students). And we agree.
Rekkedal presented at the congress of European Association for Distance Learning today. Although we weren’t there, Wilfred Rubens was and wrote a good summary of his talk (find it here, in Dutch).
The findings of the NKI are very consistent with what we experience each day and we feel they deserve more attention. We strongly believe that online training will never ‘replace’ the trainer (although his/her role will change). Let’s get into two of the aspects Rekkedal mentions and how we experience this:
Structure and motivation
The flexibility of online training is both its biggest strength and weakness. One can learn whenever and wherever. But, regardless of someone’s motivation, sticking to it is a challenge when they are trying to change behavior.
We find that having a personal trainer invested in their success is incredibly important for our participants.
First of all, it’s more fun.
Second, most participants are eager not to let their trainer down. It’s always easier to disappoint yourself than someone else. Pride is at stake.
Third, having someone ‘safe’ remind them why they are doing this, is an important motivator.
Finally, being able to pace your own development, is hard. A trainer will force you to move beyond your comfort zone, going faster than you think you can handle or focussing on that single subskill when you’ve already lost your interest.
The research also points out the importance of the trainer’s feedback and specifically its timeliness and expertise.
From a didactic perspective, the difference between a response after 60 minutes or after 24 hours is not too exciting. It’s either immediate feedback, or it isn’t. But for motivation, the average response time is very important to participants (and that’s why we measure it).
Personalized expert feedback
But most importantly, and this is the reason that we don’t belive e-learning is there to replace trainers, is the fact that personalized, expert feedback from the trainer is probably the most important part to actually change.
This is most visible when we compare feedback from peers with feedback from the coach. The quality between the two and the extent to which someone is really confronted with their learning challenges is striking. Seeing someones challenges and knowing how to make them better is a real skill in itself.
Would you like to know more about this research? Check out Rekkedal’s paper, his presentation or Wilfred Rubens writeup (Dutch).