The technology resources that are available to today’s workforce development programs are a far cry from the resources that were available just a few years ago. The demands of industry-specific training programs, especially those designed to help close the gaps in the middle-skills job market, have driven the development of digital tools and media that contribute to measurable improvements in completion rates and outcomes.

Market pressures and incentives, such as high unemployment rates, the scarcity of workers with related skills, and the time pressures of federal grants, such as TAACCCT, have encouraged course content producers to accelerate the development of digital resources that are specifically designed to address the learning styles and lifestyles of adults who may have full-time jobs, childcare responsibilities, and other family obligations. Many lack confidence in their abilities to succeed in learning a new skill, particularly if they have been away from the classroom for many years, or if they believe that they “never  do well” on tests and other assessments.

Here are some of the specific content types and resources that have been found to increase learner engagement and completion rates, and to prepare learners for critical middle-skills job opportunities:

  1. Course content, including digital resources, that can be tailored to fit the needs of the school or organization, as well as the learner population that it serves.  Resources can often be structured to fit multi-day and multi-week schedules, to combine basic language and math skills with skill-specific content, and to create programs for stackable credentials.
  2. Asynchronous online courses that can be accessed at any hour of the night or day. Publishers and other content providers offer pre-packaged options that can be hosted on a school’s website or on the site of the content provider. For institutions and organizations who want to jumpstart the creation of a new set of programs, pre-packaged courses can provide a great starting point.
  3. Self-assessment and online practice tools that provide feedback to the learner when needed, to help keep the learner on track, to suggest additional reading and exercises, and to help build confidence.
  4. Integrated simulations that utilize video animations to show the learner how to complete a skill-related activity, and then turn the controls over to the learner to complete the exercise online. Examples include learning how to set up pivot tables in Microsoft Excel, using medical office software for coding, installing solar hot water systems, and responding to a variety of HVAC-related service calls.

Cengage Learning publishes the ed2go catalog of turnkey online courses, a wide variety of customizable course options for workforce development initiatives, and Gale Career Transitions services .

Are you currently teaching in a workforce development program, helping to build one, or managing one? How have you leveraged online resources in order to improve outcomes and increase learner engagement? We’d love to hear from you. Please share your experiences using the Comments section below.