Your past experiences of activity types

Activity: Assessing your past experiences of training

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Think about two pieces of training you have participated in: one that took place face-to-face and another online. They could be sessions where you were the trainer or ones that you just attended as a participant.

Make a quick note of the main activities you remember taking part in and put those in the middle column of the grid below against the activity type you think it matches. Then in the third column estimate approximately what proportion of the time you spent on each of the different types of learning activity.

Don’t worry if you are not sure which heading to put something under, just use the heading that makes most sense to you and your context. The point of the exercise is not to get precise figures, but to give you an approximate indication of what proportion of your time you spent on different types of activity.

If you have experience of only face-to-face or online training, just fill in the table for that one and compare your answer to those in the Discussion that follows.

Face-to-face training

Activity typeMain activities you rememberProportion of total training time
Assimilative
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Finding and handling information
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Communicative
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Productive
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Experiential
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Interactive/adaptive
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Assessment
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Online training

Activity typeMain activities you rememberProportion of total training time
Assimilative
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Finding and handling information
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Communicative
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Productive
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Experiential
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Interactive/adaptive
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Assessment
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Discussion

Here are one person’s answers:

Face-to-face training

Activity typeMain activities you rememberProportion of total training time
AssimilativeFormal talks from the trainer and some guest speakers.40%
Finding and handling information0%
CommunicativeSmall group discussions. Questions and answers with the guest speakers and the trainer.20%
ProductiveDrawing a diagram to summarise our view of one of the issues. Adding Post-it notes to a series of flip charts.15%
Experiential0%
Interactive/adaptiveRole plays. Discussion of case studies.25%
Assessment0%

Online training

Activity typeMain activities you rememberProportion of total training time
AssimilativePresentation from speakers using PowerPoint slides.90%
Finding and handling information0%
CommunicativeQuestions to the speakers at the end.5%
Productive0%
Experiential
Interactive/adaptive
AssessmentBrief quiz at the end.5%

Different people will have had different experiences and so come up with different proportions for each category of learning activity, but it is very common for online learning to end up being highly assimilative.

Assimilative learning can feel drier and less engaging online because the human contact is so much reduced compared to assimilative learning delivered face-to-face.

In face-to-face training, participants often learn a lot informally through conversations with other participants in break times but these opportunities for learning through informal communication are much reduced online.

However, online learning does not have to draw heavily on assimilative types of activity. Using the categories can help you to design in other types of learning. There are no right answers for what proportions of each activity type you should have – what is appropriate will depend on your particular context – but you should think about the following questions:

  • Do the learning outcomes for your course require participants to develop particular skills that could be practised during the training? For example, if one learning outcome is ‘increased confidence in discussing sensitive topics’, building in learning activities where participants practise discussing sensitive topics is likely to be very helpful.
  • What learning activities are your participants likely to be comfortable and familiar with?
  • What learning activities are they likely to find engaging and enjoyable?
  • What kinds of learning activities does your past experience of training in this area tell you are likely to be most effective?

In the next activity you will apply these ideas to your own online training to help you generate some ideas for new types of activity that will work in your particular context.

Activity: Applying to your context

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Ideas for activities

Think about an online course that you are either developing or hope to develop in the future. Read through the middle column of the table below which gives examples of specific activities that can be undertaken for each activity type. Then, in the third column note down one or two specific ideas for how you could include this type of activity in your course.

For example, if your course aims to train conservation volunteers, your specific idea for a ‘finding and handling information’ activity might be to ask participants to undertake a survey of wildlife in their local area, or to find out information about population levels of particular species.

You may find that some of your ideas for activities involve more than one of the seven main activity types. If this is the case, just put the idea under whichever one it seems to fit best. The point of this activity is not to worry about how to categorise learning activities but to help you generate some ideas about different ways of training people online.

Remember that not all the learning has to occur when you are ‘together’ in a synchronous setting such as a video conference; some of it can be undertaken independently before or after synchronous sessions. If your whole training course is asynchronous, remember that activities do not all have to occur online; you can also direct participants to do things in the ‘real world’. Participants are more likely to actually do the suggested activities if there is some form of feedback or reporting to the group. They are particularly likely to undertake any activities that are going to be assessed.

Activity type

Examples

Specific ideas for your course

AssimilativeWatch videos, listen to audio, read text, study diagrams and figures.
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Finding and handling informationFind out local information relevant to the course, e.g. availability and scope of services or population demographics. Select a key piece of information to report.
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CommunicativeAsk a question of the trainer. Discuss an issue in a small group (e.g. breakout room or WhatsApp or Facebook group) and report back to the main group.
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ProductiveWrite a list summarising an issue. Write a reflective account of personal experience. Record a short video or audio. Draw a picture to represent a key idea.
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ExperientialTake an idea from the course and apply it to their work or everyday life, e.g. a procedure or approach they have not tried before. Share ideas from the course with colleagues and gather views.
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Interactive/adaptiveRole plays and problem-based scenarios in breakout groups within a synchronous session. Computer simulations if working asynchronously.
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AssessmentAlmost any of the other activities in this column can form the basis of assessment. Quizzes.
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Discussion

Here’s an example of what someone working for a reproductive health charity thought.

Activity typeExamplesSpecific ideas for your course
AssimilativeWatch videos, listen to audio, read text, study diagrams and figures.Watch a video lecture.
Finding and handling informationFind out local information relevant to the course, e.g. availability and scope of services or population demographics. Select a key factor piece of information to report.Research local abortion guidelines and detail how one section differs to WHO guidelines.
CommunicativeAsk a question of the trainer. Discuss an issue in a small group (e.g. breakout room or WhatsApp or Facebook group) and report back to the main group.Discuss the differences between the WHO guidelines and local guidelines with a colleague or friend.
ProductiveWrite a list summarising an issue. Write a reflective account of personal experience. Record a short video or audio. Draw a picture to represent a key idea.Write about a case you attended (anonymise the patient) and outline how you would change that consultation with what you have learned.
ExperientialTake an idea from the course and apply it to their work or everyday life, e.g. a procedure or approach they have not tried before. Share ideas from the course with colleagues and gather views.Share your action plan from the course with a colleague and get their feedback.
Interactive/adaptiveRole plays and problem-based scenarios in breakout groups within a synchronous activity. Computer simulations.Simulated consultation with different interactions with the patient to choose from – like a choose your own adventure.
AssessmentAlmost any of the other activities in this column can form the basis of assessment. Quizzes.Multiple choice questions.

Now choose your next section.

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End-of-course survey

If you have finished exploring the different sections of this course, please do the end-of-course survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   before you leave the course.

This survey gives you the opportunity to tell us about your experience of studying Take your training online and what you plan to do with your learning.

The survey should take no more than 5 minutes to complete.

Exploring activity types