Jeff Downs writes that online professional development programs can transform organisations for the better or for the worst - it all comes down to the implementation.
It’s no secret that providing relevant training and education gives your organisation an edge in today's competitive market. In spite of this, the impact of the global recession has meant that we are all looking for ways to improve efficiencies and cut costs.
Online methods of communication such as web conferencing and webinars are providing more and more organisations with the opportunity to train and educate their employees more effectively and efficiently. So, when it comes to rolling out online professional development programs, where do you actually start and how do you successfully manage the transition?
What are your aims/goals?
The first step is to ask yourself this question and then work backwards - what problem you are trying to solve and what do you want to achieve with online education? It’s a good idea to capture this information during the planning stages along with figures on what you are currently spending on professional development. Knowing what you want will also be an important factor when it comes to evaluating providers – how are they meant to meet your needs if you don’t know what they are?
Plan in the planning stages…
Delivering online professional development programs does require time and commitment. Gather all of your resources before you begin – put together dates and times, arrange your speakers and topics well in advance, confirm budgets and ensure you have people available who can help you manage the events. I would also advise that you confirm the following…
Paid vs. Unpaid: Will you charge for your professional development events, if so, do you have an e-commerce tool available?
What will you do once your event is over? Many organisations record sessions and create libraries on their website where sessions can be purchased afterwards – it opens up an entirely new revenue stream!
Do you have the subject matter experts available? Are your presenters willing to present online? Presenting online is a completely different experience to presenting face to face so additional training may be required.
The right tools for the right job…
Choosing the right provider for your requirements can be tricky – it’s important to create a checklist and research at least four providers. Here are some questions that you should cover off…
Are participants required to download any software when joining an online session? This is incredibly important in launching a PD program; you want to make it as easy as possible for people to attend.
Do you have local support available for my participants? Many providers offer local support, but do they offer it for the people joining your event? If you have 100 people joining and they all have issues, will your provider be able to handle the influx of support calls or will they have to call you?
How many clients that you work with currently use your software for Professional Development? Online professional development is unique, and for first timers, can be tricky. Ultimately you want to work with a provider who has experience in the area and who can provide you with tips, tricks and best practices.
Some providers offer managed solutions which means they can assist you with the entire process. Find out what this includes as well as any additional charges.
I’ve seen online professional development programs transform organisations for the better and for the worse - and to be honest, it all comes down to the implementation. My advice is to approach a transition like this as you would any other – remember to research, evaluate and plan well.
About the author
Jeff Downs is the CEO of Redback Conferencing. Their fully supported collaboration solutions provide a leaner and greener alternative to business travel, allowing organisations to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world and in real time.