3 Reasons Why You Need an Introduction to Your Online Course

An introduction to your online course sets the stage for the rest of the training. It’s important to provide the context needed for customers to be successful. As the first chance in an online course to grab the customer’s attention, the introduction is a vital component that should not be omitted.

introduction-online courseAdapted from photo by iamtheo / CC BY

1. Establish a connection

I recently attended an in-person training event about using Zendesk’s customer support software. The instructor started the training by introducing himself: his name, where he was traveling from, how long he had been providing online training with Zendesk, and how he personally used the software that he was training about. When utilizing an online delivery, establishing a connection between the trainer and the audience is just as important. Customers are still interested in learning who their instructor is, and what makes them an expert on the subject that they are leading a training about. Additionally, putting a face to the trainer furthers that connection with the customer.

2. Define the requirements

After the Zendesk trainer introduced himself, he announced a few steps for everyone in the audience to take in order to participate in the training, and provided the necessary instructions on how to complete them: connect to the wireless network, sign up for a google group for submitting questions and log in to your Zendesk account. If there are steps that your online audience needs to take in order to participate, or details that are valuable to a customer’s success at the course, provide this information in the course introduction.

3. Provide the curriculum

In the last part of the training that I attended, the trainer summarized the agenda for the training. It’s important to define what you are going to cover in a training, online or in-person. Establishing the curriculum sets the customer’s expectations, and guides them as they begin the rest of the course.

We recommend using video for your introduction. There are many tools out there that make video production easier than ever. By keeping the video under six minutes, you can optimize for student engagement. But if you aren’t ready to create a video, the introduction is still beneficial to customers. A text lesson providing all of your introductory details still provides the context that students need before diving into the core of the training. By including an image of yourself, you can still initiate that social connection.

What works best for you? If you have any tips from your own courses on creating a course introduction, share your suggestions in a comment below.

A Guide to 4 Methods of Customer Training: The Pros and Cons

Why is customer training important?

As Michal Lev-Ram discussed in a recent Fortune article, the emergence of the subscription economy, defined by the rise in subscription-based services, has sparked a need for customer success management. Companies are dedicating resources now more than ever to proactively ensure that customers continue to recognize the value of a service after initially signing up.

Customer training is a crucial part of a company’s customer success strategy. Let’s look at four common methods of customer training, and the benefits and disadvantages of each. By understanding the pros and cons of these methods, you can better implement your own customer training program, or take your training program to the next level.

customer training-pros cons
Adapted from photo by NEC Corporation of America / CC BY

Method 1: Help Center

Help centers (also known as help desks or knowledge banks) are a frequent starting point for providing customer training. Most often, these are publicly available materials and accessible by existing and new customers.

Pros:

  • Customers can easily access content
  • Freely available content generates potential SEO benefits
  • A help center is especially useful for simple, to-the-point questions and answers
  • The content is always available to customers, who can self-service and find answers in real time

Cons:

  • Customer engagement with your training content is not trackable by individual user
  • The volume of content within your help center can become overwhelming, and organization can be challenging, especially for complex topics
  • There is little to no interactivity between your company and your customer

There are many help desk software options, many of which are integrated with a customer support ticketing system. Here are a few to consider.

Method 2: Self-Paced Online Courses

Self-paced online courses, also called ‘on-demand’ training, are becoming increasingly popular as a delivery format. The most scalable method, it is always available no matter the time zone or geography of your customer. And self-paced training is the most preferred learning style for adults. For instructors, creating video content is easier than ever, whether that’s narrated slides, animation, or ‘talking head’ style production.

Pros:

  • You can provide structured learning paths, e.g. for different products and roles
  • It’s the most preferred learning delivery format by adults
  • Engagement is trackable by individual user, and data can be sent to other systems for analysis, communication, and other processes
  • Trainers can engage customers with quizzes and assess their understanding of the material
  • Self-paced online courses are great for onboarding and in-depth training topics
  • Online courses are always available so customers can learn on their own schedule

Cons:

  • Creating courses requires the trainer to produce video or other content
  • Interactivity is minimal. Discussion forums are a popular format used in self-paced online courses

Skilljar is a technology provider for self-paced online courses. For more information, visit www.skilljar.com.

Method 3: Instructor-Led Virtual Courses

Instructor-led virtual training is used when personal interaction is needed with your customers. It is often utilized for regular office hours, general Q&A, or paired with on-demand training.

Pros:

  • This method provides an opportunity for real-time Q&A with the instructor
  • Virtual training is a less expensive option than classroom training
  • It can provide a good avenue for occasional personal interaction and direct customer feedback

Cons:

  • Instructor-led virtual training requires participants to be present for a scheduled session
  • There are technical requirements and setup that all participants must complete, in addition to the trainer

Common webinar technologies include the following providers, ranging from simple group audio/video calls to rich learning platforms with polling and virtual whiteboards.

Method 4: Instructor-Led Classroom Courses

Live, face-to-face training is the most traditional form of customer education. Course sessions are typically at least a full day or longer, and may coincide with product and industry conferences.

Pros:

  • Customers receive hands-on learning and personalized help
  • Instructors can get quick feedback from learners
  • In-person events create networking opportunities among attendees

Cons:

  • Live customer training requires attendees to be physically present
  • There are more logistics involved such as travel, space planning, setup and catering
  • This is the most expensive format
  • Live training requires the most time commitment of the four methods described in this article

Many customer and partner education programs employ all four methods, since they serve different purposes throughout the customer success life cycle. The end goal is to educate customers on your product/service so that they can get the most value from it, resulting in a happy customer, and ultimately creating an advocate for your company.

Online Course Builder Launches Cloning Tool

We received your feedback, and are happy to announce yet another new feature launch. Now instructors can easily clone courses with the robust Skilljar online course builder.

This tool enables quick and easy course creation when you want to copy an existing course. You can utilize the cloning tool whether the course you’d like to clone is already published or not. Cloning copies all of the course components below:

  • lessons
  • videos and other content
  • attachments

How it works

Clone a course in two easy steps.

  1. Navigate to the course you’d like to clone in your instructor dashboard
  2. Click the “Clone course” button in the top right corner

You will immediately see a notification at the top of your screen that the course was successfully cloned.

clone-online course builder

We love improving our robust online course builder to best meet your needs. Thanks for the feedback, and keep it coming!

Corporate Licensing Now Available

With the bulk purchase feature, instructors can sell multiple course registrations to companies for corporate licensing.

corporate licensing2
Photo by Jirka Matousek / CC BY

Corporate licensing

Bulk purchasing enables you to support the corporate purchasing needs of organizations buying your content. Now, companies have a simple way to purchase multi-seat licenses for your courses and distribute the licenses.

How it works

corporate licensing1

  • Corporate purchasers can buy multi-seat licenses for their teams
  • The purchaser receives an access code for the number of seats purchased
  • Each trainee self-registers

There is no need for users to share credentials with this easy process enabling each individual to register. This also allows you to track activity and engagement at the user level.

Group rates

Instructors can offer special rates to organizations buying multiple licenses. Use your promo code tool to create a discount code for the number of licenses you wish to sell: Get 10% off of 10 licenses, for example.

Take advantage of this feature and incorporate special group rates and corporate licensing into your sales strategy.

New Quizzing Feature Launches

We are very excited to announce our built-in quizzing feature is now available! Let’s look at how instructors and students both benefit from quizzing, and how Skilljar’s new quizzing feature works.

Why is quizzing important?

Assessment is a crucial part of the learning experience. Learning in its most simple form can be broken into three steps:

  1. Content
  2. Assessment
  3. Feedback

The content, and its delivery, can be offered in many different formats (for example: prerecorded video, live webinar, or in-person lecture). After the transfer of information, an important next step in the learning process is to assess what students have learned. By quizzing students, instructors can determine what information was successfully learned, and what areas need improvement.

Additionally, assessment enables students to get feedback on their performance. As students engage in the experience, they gain insight into their own learning.

Create robust quizzes

In just a few easy steps, an instructor can create quizzes in their dashboard. Utilize different questions types, like multiple choice, true/false, and fill in the blank. With the easy text editor, you can format your questions, include hyperlinks, and even upload images to achieve an engaging format.

quiz-student

Deliver quizzes seamlessly

The quizzing feature includes automatic grading, so students receive real-time feedback on what they’ve learned.

quiz2

Analyze responses

Review analytics by quiz and by students for insight into what your students have learned. This enables you to provide feedback to individual students. Additionally, a key advantage to tracking quiz data is for instructors to identify any trends that could lead towards a change to either their content or their teaching process.

You asked for quizzing, and here it is. We love hearing from you – if you have any feedback about the new feature, or what you’d like to see next, leave us a comment.

New Feature: Custom Web Analytics for your Online Courses

We are happy to announce the launch of our new custom web analytics. Want to know how this can benefit you? We’ll tell you how this feature can help you better understand the customers that visit your courses, and show you how to use it.

The big picture

analtyics main-online course

Understanding how customers find and interact with your website can help inform your web strategy. You can utilize this data to optimize marketing efforts, drive improvements to your online courses, and more. There are several applications out there that you can use to track and analyze traffic to your website. Some of these applications include:

With this new feature, now you can add your tracking codes to your Skilljar courses, too. Gain valuable insight into customers visiting and enrolling in your online courses.

How it works

Input your custom code from your tracking application in your Skilljar instructor dashboard on the Theme page.

webanalytics-online-course

You are able to input custom code to monitor every page within a course. You can also add custom tracking to course registrations. This is frequently used to track conversions from marketing campaigns.

Understanding your customers’ website activity will help you better serve them. Want more details on how to set up your custom tracking? Visit the Skilljar help center for information about optional parameters, example code, and more.

Announcing Bitcoin for online education

We’re excited to announce that instructors using the Skilljar course platform are now accepting payments in Bitcoin.

Skilljar enables instructors to deliver online courses directly from their own websites. Instructors using our platform are teaching video-based lifelong learning courses, from yoga to leadership to computer programming. If you are a consumer looking to spend Bitcoin, here are a few ideas on what to learn:

Bitcoin Screenshot

Why we believe in Bitcoin

Because our platform enables instructors to deliver online courses, an entirely digital product, we’ve seen high international demand from both instructors and students.

We’ve long accepted international payments through standard payment methods (credit, debit, and PayPal). But there are several currency conversion steps involved, often with 2% fees taken out each time. These fees are inefficient, yet difficult to avoid without resorting to international wire transfers or setting up local bank accounts in each country.

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is a virtual currency that moves easily around the world with the click of a button.

The tipping point

Ultimately our decision to enable Bitcoin for online courses was driven by 3 factors:

  1. Our instructors wanted it: We received several requests from our instructors to accept Bitcoin for student payments.
  2. Integration was easy and secure: We already use Stripe for payment processing. Their beta program for Bitcoin enabled us to launch quickly without having to integrate a new service throughout our e-commerce platform. Stripe also handles security and currency conversion, so our instructors do not bear additional risk. By going through Stripe, we do not have to hold Bitcoins nor build any Bitcoin-specific infrastructure.
  3. Our business is international: As a digital platform, our business is inherently international. We feel the pain of currency conversion fees on a daily basis.

We’re excited that instructors using Skilljar’s course platform are now accepting Bitcoin across hundreds of online courses. For more information, check out our press release here.

New Feature: Zapier Integration

We have launched an exciting new feature that we are happy to announce!

Seamless automation with Zapier integration

If you spend a lot of time using different web services to: maintain your contact list, enter data for tracking, communicate with your customers, and other tasks, life just got easier. With our new Zapier integration, instructors can automate these tasks. And you don’t need a developer to do it.

zapier-integration

You can now connect Skilljar course signups with hundreds of platforms through our Zapier integration. Popular platforms include:

  • Salesforce.com
  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • SurveyMonkey
  • and many more

Once connected, you can automate numerous tasks based on your Skilljar course signups. A couple of examples include:

  • Adding new customers to your email marketing list with a custom welcome message
  • Adding new customers as opportunities in Salesforce.com

How do I get started?

First, you’ll need a Zapier account (it’s free for up to 100 events per month). Next, follow these simple instructions to connect Zapier to your Skilljar account. Finally, set up your Zaps!

Meet Keegan Wincewicz, PM Intern at Skilljar

For the second segment of our intern introductions…get to know Keegan, product management intern at Skilljar! He most recently gave the Skilljar website a welcomed refresh, and is planning some great new features for the platform (more details to come later on these!).

Keegan grew up in Redmond and earned his BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Washington. After UW he joined the United States Peace Corps and taught high school math in a small Tanzanian village for 2 years. Keegan then worked for Intel Corporation in Arizona and China as a semiconductor plant facilities engineer. Currently he is an MBA/MPP joint degree candidate at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and is very excited to be back in Seattle this summer.

keegan-skilljar

Q and A with Keegan

Q: What three words would you use to describe yourself?
A: Introspective, focused, curious

Q: What’s your favorite place to visit in Seattle?
A: Gasworks Park on Lake Union. I like walking up to the hill where you can look over the lake and have a great view of downtown.

Q: What’s your favorite lunch spot in Seattle?
A: Ooh, that’s a tough one between Thai Tom’s in the U-District and Dicks Drive-In. I’d have to say Thai Tom’s; it’s where I discovered tofu could be good.

Q: What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
A: Diversity of thought. I enjoy understanding how and why other people think the way they do.

Q: What was your last experience with online learning?
A: Harvard Business School actually has a few online cases made almost entirely from video. The last one I studied was about the business development of Lululemon and a critical expansion decision facing the company. This was one of my first experiences with video-medium online learning. It was interesting watching the CEO discuss what was going on in her mind during that challenge. In this instance the video format was much more engaging than reading a few written quotes in a case would have been.

Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned while at Skilljar?
A: Being a start-up, Skilljar doesn’t have formal departments or strictly delineated personnel responsibilities. If I find something is wrong, I’ll try to solve it myself first. There’s no such thing as saying, “oh, this is an IT problem, I better take it to the IT department.”

Q: Were you surprised at any time during your internship with Skilljar?
A: I think I underestimated how important design, wording, and aesthetics are to customer-facing products. The team puts just as much effort into creating a well-designed and intuitive product as they do into building features. It makes sense, but I came from an engineering/manufacturing background and hadn’t anticipated this aspect.

Q: If you were going to offer a course online, what would it be about?
A: An amateur guide to brewing beer. I’ve been doing it for about 10 years and it’s a fun hobby. I especially like brewing stouts; they taste great and the heaviness can mask any brewing imperfections.

Welcome, Keegan!

A Guide to Video Production

In this article, we have compiled information about four different types of video techniques. Use this article to help determine which technique is best for your content, what software and tools you need, and find resources to consult when you begin video production.

iphone-video-production
Photo by Goran Paunovic / CC BY

A refresher on the four video production techniques

  1. Narrated Slide Presentation - slide presentation with audio narration that is converted into video format
  2. Screencast - recording of a computer screen which can also contain audio narration
  3. Animated Video - video presentation created by using animated images
  4. Talking Head - presenter speaks directly into the camera, usually displaying their head and shoulders

What do I need to create my video?

This table summarizes the software and/or equipment recommended for the four video techniques discussed above.

Technique Software/Equipment
Narrated Slide Presentation PowerPoint
Keynote
USB style microphone – Blue Microphones Snowball
Screencast Jing (PC)
CamStudio (PC)
Camtasia for MAC (MAC)
USB style microphone – Blue Microphones Snowball
Talking Head Clip-on microphone – Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser
a camera that shoots at least 720p
Case Star iPhone Tripod for shooting with an iPhone
Animated Video VideoScribe
Go! Animate
Adobe Voice
Powtoon

What resources can I consult when creating my video?

Below are some helpful resources whenever you have questions about any of these four video techniques.

TECHNIQUE Resources
Narrated Slide Presentation Skilljar blog article
Microsoft support
Apple support
Screencast Skilljar blog article
Talking Head Skilljar blog article
Wistia learning center
Animated Video Skilljar blog article
VideoScribe help
Go! Animate tutorials
Adobe Voice support
PowToon resources

There are many factors that will affect your video production strategy. Budget, timeline, subject matter for example all play a part in your decision-making process when deciding on a technique. Especially if you are new to video production, then research is a key first step to creating your production strategy. Find the technique that’s right for you and your content!