How To Create Differentiated Online Training: 5 Strategies And 5 Tips For eLearning Professionals

Differentiated Online Training Types And Strategies

When designing and developing your online training course, your main goal is to enhance your employees’ knowledge retention in order to help them develop their skill sets and perform their daily work at a higher level. Yet not all people can be trained in the same way; diversity of your employees’ backgrounds, characteristics, and learning needs and preferences makes online training a challenging process. Differentiated online training, which implements different online training methods for different members of your workforce, may be a demanding and time-consuming task, but it has proven one of the most effective tailored online training strategies. In this article, I'll share 5 tips to create differentiated online training, so that you can help your employees increase their levels of engagement, improve their online training outcomes, and become more motivated to achieve their goals and be a part of your company’s success.

Differentiated online training acknowledges that your employees have multiple paths for learning; that means that it can adjust to fit individual needs by using different online training methods, approaches, and tools, in order to provide information in a variety of ways most appropriate to them. Differentiation does not regard time, as in synchronous and asynchronous learning, but rather the following online training “elements”:

  1. Differentiation of online training content.
    It allows the employees to start at different places in their online training content, as well as proceed at a different pace.
  2. Differentiation of online training approach.
    It emphasizes the variety of learning modes, as does, for instance, the theory of multiple intelligences.
  3. Differentiation of work product.
    It offers different employees different online training assignments, and they turn in different work products. This is rather a controversial type of differentiation, as it is often difficult to determine the standards by which the employees are classified.

In order to establish the criteria for choosing the appropriate type of differentiation, you may employ the following  differentiated online training strategies:

  1. “Diffuse” approach to differentiation.
    In diffuse differentiation all employees receive the same online training content, but have multiple opportunities for training, as they are provided with different sources of stimulation. It is probably the most common approach to differentiated online training, as the use of technology makes the integration of varied media and the distribution of online training content very simple.
  2. Self-directed approach to differentiation.
    In the self-directed approach employees receive different online training content, and they are allowed to make their personal choices in working their way through the online content. Examples of self-directed approach is offering either a fixed menu of online training activities and modules from which the employees select the order of completion, or links for online training opportunities and additional information, which employees can choose whether they want to use or not. Self-directed differentiation is also a common approach to differentiated online training.
  3. Naïve differentiation.
    Here, portions of online training content change in a more random way, through a shuffle function for instance, without requiring the participation of employee. An example of naïve differentiation is randomizing the rotation of online training content displays, images and graphics each time viewed. Randomized content view is useful, mainly for revision purposes.
  4. Boolean differentiation.
    In Boolean differentiation, software uses types of Boolean logic to determine how to adjust online training content for different employees. This type of differentiation is more focused on developing problem solving and critical thinking skills. A series of rules determines whether a statement is true or false, and decides if the employee in question is ready for the next step. It is one of the strategies most frequently employed for content adaptation to the particular needs of the learners in adaptive eLearning; depending on the choices learners make, they are presented with a next eLearning activity adjusted to their current state of knowledge.
  5. Model-based differentiation.
    Model-based differentiation combines a variety of approaches for generating ideas that will help the subject matter expert to decide they best way that online training content can be differentiated.

5 Tips To Create Differentiated Online Training

In order to create effective differentiated online training, consider following the upcoming tips:

  1. Assess your audience. 
    It is clear by now that the better you know your employees, the easier it will be to differentiate your online training methods in order to meet different online training needs. To understand what your staff already knows and what skills they need to develop further in order to achieve better work performance, you need to assess them. This way you will be able to decide how to design the appropriate differentiated online training strategy for meeting their objectives. Furthermore, consider evaluating your online training strategy, so that you can determine its effectiveness, which serves as an indication of whether your employees are responding to your methods.
  2. Use a variety of media. 
    The more varied are the multimedia tools your are using, the more will be the ways in which your employees can reach their online training goals. An interesting mix of videos, audio elements, slideshows, narrations, and interactive presentations will address different learning needs of your workforce and allow your employees to get training at their own unique pace, as well as develop their skills in a variety of formats relevant both to them and their online training tasks.
  3. Provide alternative online training paths. 
    Determine your online training goals and provide your employees with various paths to get there. Encourage them to choose the order in which they complete assignments, as well as the technologies they use for online training tasks. Furthermore, present them stories and branching scenarios that allow them to follow alternative paths and learn from their mistakes in a risk-free environment. This way, you will make sure that you offer them the opportunity to demonstrate their already acquired skills and develop new ones in alternative ways.
  4. Use assignments of varying complexity. 
    Using layered online training assignments allows your employees to match their online training with their unique learning needs and behaviors without losing focus on the essential skills they need to develop. eLearning games that have different difficulty levels and a rewarding system that adjusts to different behaviors can help all of your employees satisfy their need for achievement without feeling pressured.
  5. Use flexible grouping in online training group activities. 
    When your employees are encouraged to interact with each other in online training, they not only get a better understanding of the subject matter, but they also learn from their colleagues’ experience. Often changing the employee groups working together throughout the online training course will offer them the opportunity to both benefit from work with their more experienced peers and be leaders in groups with less experienced members, such are new starters. Furthermore, consider encouraging collaboration through social learning tools, by transferring online discussions to social media. Mixing groups will enhance the experience of working collectively and get your employees involved with both your online training content and their peers.

Now that you know how to create differentiated online training, you may be interested in learning more about customizing your online training strategy. Read the article Top 9 Reasons To Develop Custom eLearning That Engages Employees and find out why you should develop custom eLearning courses in order to make your online training immersive and engaging for every employee of your corporate learning audience.

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