Appendix 3: Effective Delivery Formats

There are a variety of face-to-face and online delivery formats within continuing education. The below provides some examples of these formats and their advantages and limitations.

Face-to-Face Delivery Formats

Course (W):  A relatively short-term, intensive, problem-focused learning experience that actively involves participants in the identification and analysis of problems and in the development and evaluation of solutions.

Seminar (S):  A session or series of sessions in which a group of experienced people meet with one or more knowledgeable resource persons to discuss a given content area.

Institute (I):  A short-term, often residential program that fosters intensive learning on a well-defined topic.  New material is presented to add to the knowledge which the participants already have on the subject.

Clinic (C):  A short-term program that emphasizes diagnosis and treatment of problems that participants bring to the session.  Experts available at the clinic, rather than participants themselves, have primary responsibility for diagnosing problems and prescribing treatment.

Short course (SC):  An abbreviated, more focused version of the class typically found in colleges and universities.  Designed to update or deepen the knowledge of those in a particular field, the expert dominates the sessions because it focuses on communication and on acquisition of information within a short time.

Advantages of Each Format

  • Many people can attend. (W/S/SC)
  • Very transportable. (W/S/I/SC)
  • Immediate application of results of problem-solving efforts. (W/C)
  • People interact in novel ways. (W/I)
  • Isolation from distractions of day-to-day concerns. (W/S/I/SC)
  • Problem-solving skills refined. (W/C)
  • Little need to reorganize facilities and equipment once they are in place. (W/S/I)

Limitations of Each Format

  • Fatigue and information overload are always possible. (W/S)
  • Mid-stream corrective action difficult when learner problems occur. (W)
  • Teacher burnout. (W/SC)
  • Little flexibility if timing is not maintained. (W/SC)
  • Individual feedback to learners rarely possible. (W/S)
  • Learners are not always effective participants. (W/I/C/SC)
  • Costs for travel. (W/I/C/SC)

Criteria for Selecting a Format 

  • Learning objectives emphasize problem solving. (W)
  • Solving problems that are relatively complex and generalized and that require intensive analysis. (W)
  • Resources necessary to engage in problem solving are available where they can be effectively incorporated into workshop activities. (W)
  • Skilled leadership is available. (W/S/I/C/SC)
  • Participants come with, or can be provided with, the group process skills that they need to engage in effective problem solving. (W) 
  • Important to remove participants from their “natural” environment to bring about the desired changes in capabilities. (W/I/C/SC)

Online Learning Formats

Online or distance learning is training that takes place virtually with registrants and instructors separated by geographic regions.  Registrants may receive materials and participate in learning activities for an online course via their computer or email and may be asked to complete a series of activities in a particular order, pass assessments, or submit an assignment to an instructor for review.

Distance learning may be delivered using many techniques and technologies. These include the following:

Online Learning or “eLearning” is delivered via computers using internet technology and software programs that allow registrants to interact with the course materials, each other, and the instructor via discussion boards learning management systems, video conferencing platforms, etc., both synchronously and asynchronously.  This is a fast-moving field with new products and techniques coming online in rapid succession.

On-Demand or Pre-Recorded programming uses a series of pre-recorded programs designed to convey information.  Delivery via webcast, video, podcast or other digital recordings is most common. Recordings may be hosted in Learning Management Systems, clouds or on websites.  In some cases the recorded programming includes an assessment. Live broadcasts (webcasts, podcasts) may offer the opportunity for webcam sharing, screen sharing, live chat, Q&A and polling.

Advantages of the Distance Learning Format

  • Allows registrants to take courses where and when they choose.
  • Alleviates cost, time, and work constraints related to travelling to in-person courses
  • Increases choices for more registrants.
  • Offers an alternative format for those with different learning styles, or those who may find it preferable to watch and re-watch recorded content on their own time.
  • Doesn’t require a “brick-and-mortar” classroom and logistical coordination association with the rental or reservation of a physical space and materials.
  • Engagement features such as Discussion Boards can increase interaction amongst course registrants.

Limitations of the Distance Learning Format

  • Certain  learning styles may just prefer the classroom lecture format and interaction an in-person course offers.
  • Some learners may find the content more challenging due to lack of interaction with others.

Criteria for Selecting the Distance Learning Format

  • Requires an instructor be comfortable developing and presenting content in an online format.
  • Activities and self-assessment exercises may be interspersed throughout, building to the end goal.
  • Most effective when concepts, ideas, and theories are delivered in a clear and concise manner, and steps are in place to ensure learning retention.