10 top tips for turning your training online in 2021
Advice for team leaders in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries
2020 saw a huge shift in the way many of us work due to the COVID-19 pandemic which is still being felt as we begin the new year. This was no exception to the pharmaceutical, biopharma and medical device industries. The workforce shifted away from the office to improvised desks on the kitchen worktop, dining room table or maybe even on the garden patio. Those still going into the office, lab or production facility often had to implement new working habits or approaches minimising contact with other colleagues.
Even during this new way of working it is critical for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device professionals to stay up to date with the latest regulations, techniques and processes. The life science industry is continually changing your team must change with it. Due to the social distancing restrictions and homeworking, many organisations had to change their approach to training. Either developing their programmes into digital formats or looking for external providers to offer digital alternatives. We have found that organisations have had mixed success here and have struggled to transition instructor led in-person content into online materials.
We all hope that the restrictions of 2020 will be relaxed in 2021, however it appears that this new way of working is likely to remain in some capacity. More employees would like to spend some of their working week from home post COVID-19. Combine this with the continued uncertainty of COVID-19 it makes sense to consider how best to support your teams training needs in a digital format.
Here are 10 tips from our experience you should consider when moving training to digital/online formats:
Use a variety of formats – Digital training is no longer just delivered as e-learning modules you click through. There are now a huge number of options, from very simple and cost effective through to more complex programmes. We have seen greatest success when clients who use a combination formats as it provides variety to the learner. This is essential in areas that are very technical or important for compliance such as examining a new guideline or SOP.
Keep it bitesize – The most effective online learning content is best delivered in bitesize manageable pieces. Sitting at a desk listening to a webinar or watching a computer screen for a whole day is not going to be enjoyable and will limit the amount of engagement the audience has. This is particularly relevant for complex technical topics such as regulatory affairs or process validation. For Live online training we recommend 3 hours in one day as the absolute most (ideally broken up). For recorded sessions, e-learning or on-demand materials we recommend the bitesize materials takes approx. 20 to 30-minutes to complete.
Interactive – Always look to make any material interactive. If the training is interactive, you will find a much greater level of engagement from the employee. There are several tools available to make sure the course is interactive. Include a mixture of the following: Case studies, group exercises, Q&A, quizzes, breakout sessions, scenarios. A great interactive tool is to have direct communication with the trainer or coach to enable questions and support for difficult topics.
Make training ongoing – Ongoing training with reinforcement and clear objectives will always be more successful than a one-off event-based training. A single webinar or e-learning will not help with development on its own. Look at ways to apply what has been taught online in the workplace. Set action plans and a framework to support and help with implementation of new skills and knowledge. Ongoing learning is also made easier online as you can create multiple bitesize
Keep it relevant – Make sure the information is specific to your organisation or team. Generic courses will not resonate in the same way as a programme focusing on actual case studies or in company examples. Use your own manufacturing processes and equipment as part of the course materials. Include your own SOPs when delivering the training. Not only will this be more engaging, it will also help with knowledge retention and application.
Develop on demand materials – Organisations now strive for continuous, sustainable learning. Studies have shown that continuous access to training resources provides a greater learning experience and results. It is also in line with the expectations of younger recruits who have grown up in a digital age. Make sure you have a library of on-demand materials or information for your employees to tap into and use as and when will help support their development. An example of this would be to record all your live online sessions and make them available on your learning management system.
Allow customisation – Particularly important if working with an external provider, look to customise the material around the specific needs of the team. Really think about the overall objectives of the business/department and then identify learning outcomes.
Manager and leadership buy-in – Managers and leadership are crucial in ensuring a learning culture within a group. Make sure they are involved from the start, they understand the expectations and encourage the team to use the resources. Even better, make sure that your managers and leadership are also looking to develop, they may be senior but it does not mean they have the answer for everything.
Fun – Ultimately the training must be fun and add value to the individual’s role. This will ensure they engage with it and fully take part in the training, making the most of it. Unfortunately, if you push your team to work through mindless click through e-learning you will likely achieve very little and lose their enthusiasm for future training.
Select the right platform – There several platforms available to deliver online training such as Zoom and MS Teams. Each one has advantages and disadvantages. Make sure the platform you select meets the needs of the training to be delivered. For example, if you are planning a large session with 20+ people logged in, it might be better to use Zoom. You would then make use of features such as quizzes and whiteboard. On the other hand, if you have a small training number you might select MS teams and use video and microphones to interact with the group. It is critical to plan the interactive features for the platform to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Written by Daniel Harding
Daniel is a Director at Educo Life Sciences and has experience developing team training solutions for (bio)pharmaceutical and medical device clients. He has helped clients achieve business objectives with learning programmes that meet their specific needs and requirements.
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