This is the conclusion of Brad Zomick’s two-part series on creating a successful skills-based training program. In the first part, Zomick shared four talking-based activities that could help to drive success for non-traditional students. In this piece, Zomick shares four doing-based activities that will help solidify learning.
In the first part of this series, I shared four talking components of a strong course:
- Comment Thread
- Office Hours
- One-on-One Instruction
For this piece, I have put together a list of four doing components, and will conclude with a suggestion of how to combine the two to create a successful skills-based training course.
1. Pre-Learning Assessment
The first type of exercise in skills-based learning starts before the course even begins and that is a pre-learning assessment. The smarter online learning platforms test new students upon intake so students can get an idea of what they need to focus on and what they might be able to skip. Perhaps the best-in-class in this area is Filtered, an Excel training course.
Filtered provides its students with a self-guided, fun and visual diagnostic that uses questions about not only Excel functions but also the student’s personal experience with the application. The net result provides a current Excel IQ, a target IQ and custom learning curriculum to get there, preventing wasted time on content the student already knows. Sadly, most courses do not offer an assessment and, if they do, it’s not quite as robust.
When it comes to skills-based exercises, the simplest form lies in quizzes. A quiz is a simply a brief informal test given to students shortly after learning a new concept. One platform that makes good use of quiz techniques is Grovo.
Quizzes work particularly well with Grovo, because its special sauce is boiling a web service or app down to essential functions and creating 60-second tutorials around each function. Thus, a quick two-question quiz is the perfect amount of testing to help imprint the most important concepts in the minute-long videos.
3. Interactive Instruction
While quizzes are great, exercises in the medium you are working in are perhaps the most important step in skill acquisition, especially one that involves a programming language or software. One way course providers can do this is via an interactive console.
Codeacademy, a leading programming tutorial platform for beginners, provides all of its exercises in an interactive format. In real life, you’d use a code editor and execute your code separately. However, Codeacademy’s console combines the two functions allowing students work with real code and see if it works immediately, which creates a hands-on experience.
4. On-Site Training
While interactive consoles are great, they are still a simulation. The ultimate manifestation of skill acquisition is working in the real environment. That means working in the medium you are studying. Thus, if you are learning Photoshop, the ultimate test is working with actual .PSD files. Or maybe you learning PowerPoint and should be working with .PPT files.
Lynda.com is one of the leaders in online learning offering courses and provides training for just about any software you can think of. With a regular account, you can simply watch your instructor carry out a project. However, with a premium subscription, lynda.com provides the necessary files to work alongside the instructor, allowing students to carry out exercises in the actual medium they are seeking to learn, the end goal in any skills-based learning experience.
Merging Talking and Doing
We’ve now outlined eight methods online skills-based course providers can couple with standard video tutorials and written text to ensure students have a successful learning experience. These methods fall into two major categories: talking and doing.
Many may bear a striking resemblance to the collegiate learning experience comprised not only of lectures, but also of discussion sections and homework. While we’ve highlighted one course per method, in most cases, this is not their defining feature. Generally speaking, if a course provider picks at least one discussion feature and one exercise feature, it is a step in the right direction. However, not all methods are created equal, so course providers often mix and match, depending on the complexity of the subject matter.
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