‘Just-in-time’ Training for Online Instructors

Have you attended a professional development course, conference or training workshop within the last six months? Most likely the answer is yes. Training and development continues to be an emphasis for higher education institutions, yet many online educators and instructors still lack the necessary skills for delivering effective online instruction. A study done for Educause, by IDC Education reported that instructors of online courses report, ‘lack of knowledge to design online courses’ (69%), and ‘lack of confidence in using technology‘ (62%) as the two biggest challenges in e-learning. Why?  Reasons abound, including programs that are, not focused on the needed skills, too broad in scope, too technical, not relevant, delivered as a one-shot deal (one-time training with no follow-up), poor delivery,  the list is long.

‘Training’ often misses the Mark
To be fair, higher education institutions do provide a fair share of training for faculty in online instruction. Sloan Consortium reports an increase in such training. In 2011 – 72% of faculty teaching online received training by way of internally run programs. A smaller percentage received informal mentoring and only 6% of faculty did not receive any training. Unfortunately, though with good intentions, my guess is that the training provided did not improve the skills needed. Numerous studies suggest that despite thousands of dollars spend each year on employee training, the transfer rate (meaning improved performance by application of the newly learned skill) is somewhere between 10% and 30%. 😦

Difference between Training and Professional Development
We have discussed ‘training’ so far, yet there is a difference between professional development and training. Professional development is often categorized as learning that is intended to grow the learner over time, expand the knowledge base in a given area. ‘Training’ is focused, specific to developing a skill(s) that can be applied to the job right away. An example of professional development, a Webinar offered by Sloan Consortium, Knowing Your Online Students : Using Learning Modalities to Strengthen Learner Communities and Deepen Student Cognition. A training example, a YouTube video, Using Discussion Boards to Engage Students, watched by the online instructor just before getting involved in a threaded discussion.  Online educators need both – however, often the ‘training’ is not the right training, nor is it delivered at the right time.

What is JITT?
Now that we’ve clarified what training is, let’s clarify what we mean by Just In Time Training, or JITT.  Without getting too sidetracked, the concept of JITT, started as an inventory management strategy, JIT Just in Time, which means having, “the right material, at the right time, at the right place, and in the exact amount“.

JITT for the online educator
The right material [training resource], at the right time [when the skill is needed], the right place [ideally online, but not always] and in the exact amount [a focused, specific resource targeted to one skill].

Making JITT work
The key is finding resources to meet the skill gap at the time the skill is needed. Then applying the skill immediately, on -the-job so to speak. Here are some options to get started with JITT:

1) Build a bank of resources: As you come across online resources, bookmark these, perhaps by skill name so you can come back to these right when you need them, i.e. ‘threaded discussion’, ‘online collaboration’ or ‘online pedagogy’.

Image representing SurveyMonkey as depicted in...

2) Create your own development plan. Identify  skills areas that require development by analyzing student feedback reports at the end of a course, participation patters, questions of students (often there is a pattern), or send a survey to students asking for feedback – (Survey Monkey is a free survey tool to create and administer your own surveys).

3) If you are mentor or director of online instructors, consider sending weekly short, emails or other communique about one particular skill. Provide the background to the skill (deficiency) and one training resource that addresses the need i.e. Youtube instructional clip (try to keep it under 6 min), a short ‘how-to’ screen cast, or a brief article. Clarify why the skill is  necessary and how to apply it.

Resources to get your started (all are free):

Just-in-time-training takes some effort up front, but is an effective and efficient way to build a skill set customized to the individual.

Keep Learning 🙂

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