Whether your community health workers (CHWs) are new to your agency or have been part of your team for years, they still need training. New CHWs need to be trained in full core competencies, and veterans need to update their skills every six months to two years. Learning online has many advantages over traditional classroom settings — especially for busy CHWs who need to work training among client visits and other job duties. It allows for flexibility in scheduling, and it’s often cheaper. But there are also disadvantages, such as the lack of face-to-face interaction, which can make online learning motivation hard to find. And some demonstrations, such as how to take a blood pressure reading, are more effectively taught in person.
To keep your learners interested as they learn online, you must understand how to engage learners and provide feedback on their progress.
Below, the CHWTraining Education Board provides best practices and tips for keeping learners motivated online (although these tips work in-person and on-site, too).
24 Strategies You Need To Implement To Keep Online Training Motivation High
The secret to motivating learners is to hit them from all directions and ensure every step is designed to promote enthusiasm in what they’re learning.
In general terms, this means ensuring your staff knows why they’re taking training and that the value is clear. It also means giving them educational materials designed for adult learners. Grown-ups need to juggle competing demands, preferred learning styles, and their own familiarity with the delivery method.
Following is a list of ways you can create an environment that encourages learning and helps staff feel inspired to build their own skills.
1. Set goals.
Online learning motivation starts with clear objectives from the beginning. This helps learners stay focused and work for a purpose throughout the course.
Individually, community health workers need learning goals in order to channel their efforts and focus into clearly defined skills to move ahead professionally. These learning goals should be aligned with your agency’s mission so that everyone benefits.
2. Create an action plan.
If your CHWs are going into the program not knowing what to expect, you may find resistance. Instead, having an action plan helps motivate online learners. Once learners understand where they need to focus their training, they’ll be able to work more effectively to achieve those objectives. They should also identify how they will measure success.
This action plan should be built with you or their supervisor. This should be tied into your agency’s goals and directives.
Core Competencies for CHWs
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3. Make sure that the training materials are relevant to their job.
Unfortunately, many courses are too general or not addressed to the right group. Online learning motivation will drop like a stone if a course doesn’t make sense to the people taking it.
On the flip side, learning relevant new skills can keep employees engaged and dedicated to their jobs. It helps if you can merge training with staff learning goals. It’s also important to consider whether the online training adjusts to your staff’s skill levels. Too-easy courses or content that feels repetitive make it hard for learners to stay motivated.
4. Get buy-in from supervisors.
Participants’ supervisors need to be included from the beginning. A supervisor can make sure CHWs participate and also help answer any questions that arise in the course. Consider enlisting superiors as coaches for the best results.
This will also keep mission creep in CHW roles to a minimum. This is especially true if CHWs have very little training and are asked to do tasks that require special training.
5. Build anticipation for the course.
A last-minute course announcement is more likely to land flat on its face than one your staff is expecting and excited about. If they’re already overwhelmed, your course will likely feel like another item in their miles-long to-do list rather than something to look forward to.
Treat your training launch with some showmanship. Deliver some teasers ahead of schedule that let participants know something exciting is coming up.
6. Give your staff time to learn the training platform.
Online learning spaces don’t come easily to everyone. You may find that some of your CHWs are tech-savvy while others struggle to get the hang of technology and new software. Make sure that all learners feel comfortable learning online by opening the virtual doors earlier than you need to. Give everyone time to access the program without constraints, just to look around and understand how to navigate the website.
7. Promise a reward.
One strategy that works well with online learners is rewarding them when they meet their goals. This can help motivate them to continue learning.
Some training needs to be done, no matter what, such as HIPAA or CHW core competencies. But you can tie a reward to successful completion in other modules. This might be a certificate of completion, some paid time off, new equipment for use on the job, additional training opportunities, or end-of-course lunches.
Rewards can be smaller too. Even in a busy study day, learners can reward themselves by taking a break, going out for coffee, or watching a funny cat video.
Of course, if your staff is leveling up, there’s something to be said about performance bonuses, salary increases, and even promotions resulting from extensive education.
8. Allow time in their schedule for learning.
For someone working full time, adding a course on top of their busy schedule is probably one of the biggest deterrents. To prevent this, allow some flexibility as a trade-off for committing to the online training.
An afternoon or a certain number of hours to complete the training can help if they have a busy schedule that competes for their attention.
9. Set benchmarks.
One of the biggest reasons your training may suffer is a lack of monitoring. After all, how will you and your staff measure success if you don’t know where you’re starting?
If your course is skills-based, first take measurements of where staff skills are. Tell your employees why their skills are being measured. Then upon completion, measure progress against your benchmark. One idea is to assess ability with one task during performance appraisals. Employees will also equate the course with an overall job requirement.
10. Share learning objectives.
For most of us, it’s difficult to work without a clear objective in mind. Even if it is something as simple as obtaining a CHW certification. To motivate online learners, frame the training by sharing what the course is about and give them a target. If they know what they should be learning ahead of time, that helps them know what they should focus on.
11. Ask learners to set their own goals.
Similar to the above tip, you can encourage remote learners to state what they want to get out of the course. Thinking about how the material fits in with their life can help make it more relevant.
12. Call and/or email all participants at the start of class.
If you’ve ever sat at the back of a massive classroom with several dozen learners, you’re familiar with the feeling of not knowing if your professor was aware of your presence. This makes it easy to blend in the background and can lead to disengagement from the start.
To avoid this, connect with your CHWs and let them know that you hope to connect with them as an individual and are invested in their success in the course.
13. Cultivate a warm classroom where you, as the facilitator, are present and reachable.
Online training programs can be challenging because oftentimes when communicating through chat and email, we forget that there’s a person on the other side. To build rapport with your learners, provide your phone number and/or a frequently checked email account that your participants can rely on reaching you in a timely manner.
Many people are unsure of online learning and nervous about taking courses. This strategy helps overcome their fears and boosts their contribution.
14. Nominate a champion.
Encourage community participation by asking participants to elect an “Inspirational Class Captain” to post motivational quotes in each module. The blogging tool or the discussion Forum is a good place for this contribution.
This is a perfect way to involve supervisors or mentors in the training. They can not only keep online learning motivation and answer questions based on their experience in the role.
15. Ask early and often what participants think.
A survey at the end of the course is one good way to evaluate the success of your CHW training program. But asking for their feedback throughout the course is even better.
Learners will often forget details by the end of a course. So check in with polls that ask how relevant they think information is or how long it took them to complete a module. Also, create a forum designed for general thoughts, and ask your instructor to get in the habit of asking for feedback.
16. Talk to participants.
Offer Skype, Zoom, or chat sessions to participants on a weekly basis. Offering these as fixed office hours is a great way to motivate participants to ask questions they need immediate answers to and to engage with you when they otherwise might not have.
17. Be careful with feedback.
Feedback is a priceless tool for online learning motivation. Provide consistent, positive feedback and frame all negative feedback with a positive tone.
18. Offer “extra credit” activities/games each week if possible.
Even if learners aren’t participating in the course for grades, you can pitch short quizzes as games that add a layer of fun to your online training and help to motivate online learners to continue on.
19. Include partners.
Create peer groups or peer partnerships to encourage collaboration and class participation. These could be community partners or interagency partners. You can use the Groups tool to create a private collaboration space.
20. Promote collaboration among learners.
One of the best parts of in-person education is the opportunity to interact with classmates and get real-time feedback, answer questions, or simply talk through ideas relating to the course content. This is largely gone from online environments unless it is actively promoted.
Similarly, you can motivate online learners by sparking debate and encouraging learners to share their own ideas and experiences as they relate to the topics you’re covering.
You can also try this strategy by creating so-called “Watercooler chat” rooms for people to connect freely.
21. Follow up with your online learners often.
A common cause for low engagement in online training is the fact that people seem to blend in without face-to-face interaction.
You can motivate online learners by identifying low-participating learners and responding more to their posts to show that you’re tuned into them. Call and/or email participants who are not participating in class to show that you’re concerned about their presence in the classroom and offer support to help them succeed.
22. Offer support.
Another strategy that works well with learners who learn online is finding support. If they’re struggling with an activity, let them know where to ask for help from instructors, supervisors or coworkers. They will likely be happy to provide guidance.
Technology scares some people. So be prepared to make it easy to succeed in your online course. Use these tactics to increase online learning motivation in your staff:
- Make your course accessible for people who have visual or physical limitations.
- Set up a demonstration before the course begins.
- Appoint coaches in the workplace who can offer assistance.
- Give a computer literacy assessment before the course begins so you have a better idea of who will need additional help.
23. Create a sense of urgency.
A sense of urgency is one of the most effective ways to motivate people to complete tasks. This is especially true when the task involves completing assignments. Learners often feel more motivated to do something when they see that there’s a deadline involved.
24. Offer financial and linguistic help.
Financial concerns are one of the biggest killers of online learning motivation. CHWs might not have the money to pay for training, and they may not have the language skills to succeed. Address their barriers to making sure training is offered in the language they need and that you’re picking up the bill.
Core Competencies for CHWs
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