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Training Contracts: 8 Things eLearning Pros Need To Know – Christopher Pappas

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Everything eLearning Pros Need To Know About Training Contracts

Joseph R. Codde first introduced the term “Learning Contract” in 1996, years before the term “eLearning” was even coined. However, it’s the perfect addition to online training programs that lack structure and learner motivation. Applied in a corporate setting, “training contracts” hold corporate learners accountable for their own L&D, while still giving them the support and resources they require. Thus, they are more likely to actively engage in the online training experience and receive the full benefits. Here are 8 tips to use training contracts in online training.

1. Let Corporate Learners Take The Lead

Corporate learners must be able to construct their own training contracts based on personal learning goals and objectives. If they need some help identifying areas for improvement, provide self-assessments that shed light on strengths and weaknesses. Training contracts should be as specific as possible so that corporate learners can focus their efforts, instead of trying to concentrate on a multitude of tasks or topics, which often leads to cognitive overwhelm.

2. Include A Detailed Timeline And List Of Goals

Training contracts should also contain a detailed timeline of when each milestone will be achieved. For example, the date by which the corporate learner must complete their compliance certification course and take the final exam, or a schedule that highlights when they’ll achieve incremental goals that support their primary goal. If there are multiple outcomes involved, encourage corporate learners to break them down into easier digestible tasks. Otherwise, they may lose their motivation and drive before they reach the finish line.

3. Outline Relevant Online Training Resources And Activities

Corporate learners need online training resources, tools, and activities to accomplish their training goals within the specified time frame. Once they’ve chosen their milestones and overall objectives, they should turn to the online instructor/facilitator for recommendations. In this case, the online instructor serves as a guide who helps corporate learners stay on track and provides them with the support they require. It’s best to create a list of relevant online training resources, such as online training courses or links to external tools. For instance, eLearning articles, online training tutorials, or videos that will benefit the corporate learner and help them bridge the gap.

4. Develop Clear Assessment Criteria

Success means something different for everyone. Thus, you need to clearly define the criteria corporate learners must use to evaluate their progress. For example, online training assessments or instructor-led evaluations that focus on their areas for improvement. You can even use online training simulations and branching scenarios to test their practical knowledge application. Ensure that your criteria are measurable and clarify expectations. Corporate learners should know exactly what they need to do in order to achieve each milestone. Once again, they must play an active role in the criteria development process.

5. Have A Feedback System In Place

How do corporate learners know when they are on track or need to adjust their online training course? The answer is receiving ongoing feedback from the online instructor or facilitator. You can also use peer-based feedback if the online instructors play a less active role. The key is to provide constructive input that corporate learners can use to guide their efforts. It’s also essential for them to offer their own feedback based on their personal experiences. For example, they would like more interactive or audio-based resources that cater to their learning preferences. The feedback system should be clearly outlined in the training contract, including how often it will be exchanged and through which outlets.

6. Schedule Regular Progress Checks

It’s wise to schedule regular meetings wherein the corporate learner and online instructor or manager can discuss how to move forward. As an example, the corporate learner is not achieving their milestones as expected. Thus, they may require additional online training resources or additional one-on-one support, such as a mentorship online training program. You may wish to set the date for each meeting in the original training contract, or simply schedule each meeting a week in advance. It all depends on each party’s personal preferences and agenda.

7. Re-Evaluate The Terms Periodically

Nothing is set in stone. A training contract that works well for a corporate learner now may not be suitable in months to come. This is why it’s essential to periodically review training contracts and make adjustments when necessary. Their objectives may have evolved over time. The milestones need to be adjusted if the corporate learner is struggling to keep up, or if they are advancing more rapidly than expected. It’s a good idea to schedule progress check meetings to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. This also gives you the opportunity to analyze the existing training contract item by item and verify that it still addresses areas for improvement. For instance, the corporate learner may have already bridged a skill gap that is covered later in the contract timeline.

8. Provide Online Support Resources

In addition to the regularly scheduled meetings and peer-based feedback, corporate learners should have access to online support resources, such as social media groups, online discussions, corporate eLearning blogs, and FAQs. In some cases, a question can be answered immediately, instead of having to set up a video conferencing session with the online instructor. Microlearning online training libraries are also an invaluable tool for remote learners. These online training repositories feature bite-sized online training resources that are quick and convenient. Another notable characteristic is distinct categories that allow for easy access. For example, the online training repository is broken down into skill-based sections or topics. You might even consider learner-generated microlearning online training libraries. Corporate learners have the chance to upload their own online training content or share links with their peers. Last but not least, consider an online mentorship program that provides one-on-one support.

Training contracts empower corporate learners to take charge of their own skill and knowledge development. You can use these 8 tips to create effective training contracts, as well as the framework that goes along with this learner-centered strategy. It’s also important to collect continual feedback from your audience in order to personalize your approach.

Do you know how to create online training courses that allow your employees to hone their talents and achieve professional growth?  Read the article 8 Tips To Facilitate Professional Growth In Online Training to discover top tips to give your staff the support and online training resources they need to be their very best.

 

 

 

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A Future of Monetized Branded Content Begins With Customer Value – Lauren McMenemy

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Content noise has reached epic proportions, and standing out from the crowd is no longer as easy as chucking money into paid distribution. Providing customer value becomes paramount as users have millions of links all vying for their clicks. They are more discerning, and also more skeptical; so the quality and provenance of content is evermore important.

Traditional media outlets have been struggling with this for at least a decade. As the internet became all-pervasive, media companies just duplicated their print offerings online, for free. It was a scramble to stay relevant in a digital age, but it actually damaged brands and the industry as a whole. By the time paywalls started going up, and the publishers began asking their audience to pay for access to content they had already been getting for nothing, the expectation and value of the content had already been assumed to be, well, free. Consumers naturally were resistant to suddenly being required to pay to read. After all, the internet should be free… right?

“In the transition to digital, a great error media companies have made is trying to emulate technology companies’ business model. If you’re Google or Facebook, advertising works. You’ve got the scale to make sense of keeping a product free … [But] unless buoyed by reach of billions of users, those who don’t charge for at least part of what they do are doomed.

“If you stand by the principle of not charging for anything, sooner or later it’ll make you compromise on everything,” writes online publishing course owner Edward Druce on Medium:

This is all well and good for traditional media outlets, those places we’ve turned to for centuries to inform and entertain us. We pay for the print versions, and evidence shows around two-thirds of news outlets in Europe now have some kind of pay model for digital content.

But the media landscape has changed—brands are now getting in on the publishing act. As brand publishers mature in their offering, the big question has yet to be asked: Will consumers pay for branded content?

Legacy Branded Content Still Sells

The short answer is yes, actually. Age-old content marketing products like the Michelin Guide, prove that consumers will pay for content that provides value, regardless of who has written it. Michelin now prints a range of travel guides, maps, atlases, and more to complement the world’s best-known restaurant guide—all created, of course, to get people into their cars and wearing down their tires.

man reading a magazine

In the UK, The AA (Automobile Association, a roadside assistance provider) follows a similar path, but adds in printed versions of the Highway Code and books to help study for your drivers license. Once you’ve got that license, you’ll need their services, of course.

It’s not just the car industry that has customers paying for content. Weight Watchers Magazine has a total paid circulation of 1,127,545, 90% of which are subscribers. That’s more than one million consumers automatically paying monthly for a magazine that has the sole aim of promoting the Weight Watchers nutritional plans.

So while paying for branded content can work, these are special cases of well-established brands providing tremendous customer value. There is still yet to be a brand that harnesses the power of a paywall for branded content on a mass scale. However, marketers aren’t ruling out the possibility.

Ideas for Leaders explores the idea of charging for online content, ironically placing the crux of the content behind a subscription paywall: “It is crucial how a fee-based charging structure is implemented: charge too little and you are missing out on valuable subscription revenue; but charge too much—or for the wrong content—and you will lose viewers, further undermining advertising revenues. The key is for media companies to take a flexible approach, charging optimal fees for selected content.”

How Can You Charge For Content?

Man standing on train platform reading newspaper

There are various models out there, both in the traditional media world and the world of freelance creators, that a company could look to adapt for its own revenue stream.

A paywall

Hide all of your content behind a payment portal, and charge an annual or monthly subscription fee for access. This model, however, requires a lot of trust on the part of the consumer given they are basically purchasing your content without knowing its quality. If you disappoint them, it may well do more than just lose you a subscriber—it could hit your brand’s reputation.

Remove the ads

If your content hub is currently complemented by banner advertising—be it for your own company, or sold space—some of your audience may be willing to pay a small subscription to remove the ads. Of course, this option is less likely today as ad blocking software is becoming more prevalent, and will necessitate flexible design.

Premium content offerings

Taking a cue from the Telegraph, you could drop the paywall in favor of offering additional special content in exchange for a small payment. In this way, most of your content will remain free to access, but those who truly value the quality of your analysis would get access to special reports or additional reporting.

One-off publications

Many brands know the impact a special report or regular review can have on downloads. True customer value can be found in providing industry analysis or investigative reporting. These publications are the result of months of hard work—why give it away for free? Likewise, you could ask for a small stipend in return for e-books and educational resources. Take a leaf from Michelin’s book and consider producing a guide that will offer insights to your industry.

Webinars and e-learning

Edward Druce’s Course Concierge, helps content creators to serve their audience and get paid for their efforts. One of their clients is Steve Ramsey, who spent 10 years creating woodworking videos on YouTube for a subscriber base of nearly one million people. He’s now offering more in-depth online courses to that subscriber base and making nearly 10 times the income he was on YouTube alone. While Steve is a one-man operation, what’s stopping your company from launching your own online instructional programs?

Paid subscriptions

Subscriber numbers are the holy grail for content marketers, a sign their content offers a valuable ROI to a loyal audience. It’s also a great way to create a community, something many freelance content creators have been doing via sites such as Patreon and Substack.

Screenshot from Patreon website

The former allows creators to run a membership business for fans, providing a meaningful revenue stream while being free from restrictions of third-party platforms such as YouTube. Substack, on the other hand, helps writers to start an email newsletter that makes money from subscriptions. A very new platform, it reportedly has just over 11,000 subscribers to newsletters paying an average of $80 a year for content.

Both options present a quick and easy way to monetize content as well as examples of how a brand might be able to build a subscriber base willing to pay for its content.

Asking for Payment? First, Offer Value

One of the founders of Substack, Christopher Best, has wise words for content creators looking to start a payment model: “The most important thing is knowing who your audience is and what they need and what they want; it’s them feeling like they have a connection with the author that gets people to pay,” he told Nieman Lab.

“When you’re orienting towards paying subscribers, you do start to see some metrics that don’t necessarily matter—just getting a huge number of clicks, in an advertising-driven world that is an end unto itself. But it doesn’t matter from a subscription perspective. On the other hand, you still have to get people to show up and see what you’re doing; you also have to show them the value of what you’re sending them.”

Mind you, a poll held on debate.org found only 20% of Americans think newspapers should charge for content online, so what hope do brands have? It doesn’t mean it’s not possible, it just means you should very carefully consider how you introduce the new revenue stream.

Ensure you’re offering optimum customer value, which means your content should be absolute top quality. Nothing “quick and dirty” will cut it. And importantly, don’t try to charge for something that was previously free. If this is something you want to explore as a potential new revenue stream, introduce a new content outlet, and perhaps test it out on small pieces to begin with.

One marketer I discussed this idea with spoke of an idea he’s had for a while—that the future of journalism will go the way of music, and we’ll have a Spotify-style service for written content. The idea would be that you pay to subscribe, and in return you get access to content from a selection of quality publications who are then paid royalties for access. There’s no reason why content from a brand couldn’t fit such a service—as long as it is top quality.

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The Emotionally Intelligent Way To Resolve Disagreements Faster – Josh Davis and Hitendra Wadhwa

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Imagine you run a tech startup. Cash is tight, but you can’t afford to enter the market with a product that doesn’t live up to its promises. And right now, it’s clear that your engineers aren’t focusing enough on the user-experience issues. Your senior engineer just won’t play along, though. You and she can’t seem to agree on what matters. She wants to do an early launch so the engineers can test features and improve them before fine-tuning the UX, arguing that other software companies, including major tech giants like Apple and Google, launch beta versions all the time. She suggests that you’re just burning cash and wasting time, that you don’t understand how tech companies work and need to trust her on this.

But you don’t. You’re worried about the brand; what if first-time users give you just one chance, hate the UX, and never return? If your launch product isn’t user-friendly, your whole business could be destroyed. Weeks go by and your disagreement with the senior engineer is going nowhere. You’ve tried bringing evidence and examples to prove to her that she’s wrong, and she’s done the same to you. The arguments have started to get heated, she’s getting concerned about your leadership, and you’re getting concerned about her commitment.

What should you do? What you should’ve done much earlier: Find something–anything–to agree on, as long as it’s meaningful.

Agree on something (other than the solution)

It’s natural during conflicts to feel you have to prove that you’re right, but this only escalates things. One party may give in, but it will be at the expense of wasted time, energy, and morale. However, a surprising thing happens when you take the opposite approach. By finding some common ground as soon as you detect the first signs of tension or conflict, you can start working quickly toward a mutually agreeable solution.

There’s always something true in the other party’s thinking. It may be their intention, premises, logic, concerns, or the factors they’re weighing. For example, you might agree with your senior engineer’s concerns and say to her, “I agree. It would make a lot of sense to get real user testing at this stage on our basic features before we put a lot more energy into other things. Let’s find a way to do that without a public launch. I need to also make sure we protect the brand experience.”

Alternatively, you might agree with her premises and say, “You make a great point that the tech giants do a lot of this kind of testing, and it’s hugely beneficial to getting the product features right. We should follow their lead. I think we won’t get the chance to learn about those features unless users have a simple and positive experience. That’s something else great companies do. What will it take for us to get to that point before we put our product out there?”

Or you may even seek a deeper truth and say, “I appreciate how much you want this product and this company to be amazing. I share that optimism and enthusiasm. That’s why I think we have so much potential here. Let’s think about where we’re both trying to get to.”

 

When you find a way to agree with something other than the solution to the problem you’re debating, you can shift the frame of the conversation to include a factor you both see as true and relevant. That makes it easier for the other person to lay down their arms and stop fighting. Instead, they start listening.

The psychology of agreeing

This approach creates what psychologists call “shared reality” and “procedural justice.” Shared reality is what happens when others see the world as you do and then find a way to let you know. It’s very unsettling when others don’t share your understanding of reality. When they do, however, it puts people on the same team and opens them up to collaboration. Procedural justice is about getting a fair hearing. It’s when people can ask themselves, “Did I get a chance to actually be heard?” and answer in the affirmative.

We’re far more likely to accept an outcome if we feel like we’ve been listened to and understood. Not only does finding something to agree on fulfill both of these psychological needs, but research also suggests that people tend to automatically reciprocate. So when you agree, your opponent is more likely to find something else to agree with you about in turn.

Wait, though: What if agreeing makes you look like a pushover? What if the other person really is to blame for something–will you be letting them get away with it? And if you give a little ground, won’t they just take more? These are all important concerns. But the fact is that they remain liabilities whether or not you find something in their argument to agree with; acknowledging common ground doesn’t totally invalidate your argument.

You can agree and remain very strong about what matters to you. You can agree and still address how you came to be in the situation. And you can agree and stand your ground. Having created the basis for shared reality, procedural justice, and reciprocity, you’re less likely to meet resistance for standing up for your own needs in these ways.

So when you find yourself locked in disagreement, the emotionally intelligent thing to do is to agree–not necessarily with the other party’s conclusions or proposed solution, but with some truth in what they believe. It could be their goals, intentions, concerns, emotions, or something bigger-picture that you share. It has the surprising and counterintuitive effect of disarming people, so you can move past disagreement and on to collaboration.

There’s one more, often unexpected result of this approach. Agreeing tends to bring out the best in other people, but it can also bring out the best in you. By pushing yourself to find common ground, you can shift your own thinking in a more collaborative direction, too. A little more flexibility and understanding–on all sides–is surely a good thing.

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