In our journey of what it takes to design asynchronous training experiences for employees — remote or not — we discovered that asynchronous learning is not a binary thing but rather a spectrum, and also that there are more than one type of asynchronous training.
In this post, we’ll explore three specific techniques that can help L&D professionals in designing asynchronous training experiences, but before we dive into each of these, there’s one aspect that needs to be clear: automation.
The role of automation in designing asynchronous training
The basis of creating an asynchronous learning experience is automation.
One of the simplest examples of automation within a training platform is to create a personalized welcome message that each learner will get after enrolling in an online training course. You can set it up either as a text message, starting with the learner’s name, or as a short video message, welcoming them, and presenting the benefits of the course.
Adding this personal touch can make all the difference in terms of the learner’s reaction and a first impression about the course.
Another simple version of automation might be in the completion configuration. Usually, when learners complete a training course, they are awarded a Certificate of Completion. As an instructional designer, you can use a built-in certificate or an automated one.
Again, you can customize the certificate, so that, at the end of the course, the platform will automatically fill out the learner’s name, when the course was finished, and other details you might consider important; so each learner automatically gets a beautiful, customized, branded Certificate of Completion.
The best part about automation is that you only have to set it just one time, and then you can rest assured that each and every one of the enrolled learners — maybe tens or people, maybe thousands — will have a more personalized learning experience.
Read our Guide: How to make training more flexible using automation
3 Specific techniques of asynchronous training
Now that the concept of automation is a bit more clear, let’s see how instructional designers can combine it with three other techniques to create an awesome asynchronous training experience:
Empirically, one of the most popular aspects that L&D professionals have done, is to gamify the training courses.
As an instructor, you can create levels based on various learning goals, award points for completing learning activities, and also badges and trophies for various achievements along the way, besides the Certificate of Completion.
What’s more, these and other gamification elements, like leaderboards, or multi-player/learner activities, contribute to forming a community. As more and more learners log into the same gamified course, each of them can see their colleagues showing up in that leaderboard and engage in a bit of friendly competition. Some learning management systems even support team games, so you can organize learners into different teams, and these teams can actually compete against each other.
You can create a gamified learning experience in just a couple of clicks. You can make it fun by setting some levels, sprinkle a bit of automation magic and then you can start scheduling all kinds of fun things that happen while learning.
Read our Guide: How to make learning engaging with gamification
Let’s take a turn now towards another technique of asynchronous training, which is adaptive learning. A learning platform with adaptive learning features makes it possible for you as an instructor to dynamically hide and show training modules based on the previous learning history for each learner. For example, when you build a course, you can set some automatic rules that feed each learner only the modules they need to access at any given time, in a particular order, but based on their particular progress.
Creating these dynamic pathways is actually quite easy. Once you’ve mastered the concept of automation, you can start using it to hide and show content based on the previous activity of each learner. For instance, you can set the system to only show certain modules to users who have certain certificates, or to users above a certain mastery level.
So adaptive learning is based not only on automation but also on learners’ previous history.
Another interesting technique of asynchronous training is to do with something called mastery rules. I am personally a big fan of competency-based learning, or mastery-based learning, in which a learner moves on to more advanced training modules only after they have proved a certain level of mastery of the knowledge taught in the previous modules.
When creating an online training course, instructors can cover a series of competencies throughout it, and all of the assignments are automatically tagged with the competencies that they assess. For example, when a learner takes a quiz, the instructor can arrange it that individual questions are linked to individual competencies. This allows instructors to see exactly who is mastering all the different competencies in a certain course and give each learner personalized attention.
To take things a step further, you can also give learners automated attention. For instance, if somebody is falling behind for more than X number of days in a particular competency, you can set the system to automatically send them a notification with an extra resource they might find useful.
Or, if you actually want to have a one-on-one discussion with a struggling learner, you can set up an automated notification that sends you a message regarding the faulty learning progress of the learner, suggesting you to look into the matter more in-depth.
Once you’ve taught a few times and you start having a feeling for all the competencies that people tend to have problems with, you can make the most of mastery rules to automatically take actions if somebody is falling behind in a particular area.
Hopefully, this has given you a clear idea that using automation, combined with gamification, competencies, and mastery rules, you can design incredibly fun and engaging online training courses, that learners can go through at their own pace, asynchronously.
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and MATRIX. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author, and educator.