Learning is something we do every day, regardless of our motivation, knowledge, focus and intention. After training for 10 years in conference and training rooms, I was sceptical about working in the world of eLearning. However, having seen the benefits first hand over the past 5 years, I believe eLearning is a highly effective way to learn.
What is eLearning
eLearning, according to Wiki is ‘the use of electronic educational technology in learning and teaching’. This does not necessarily mean it’s done online, but it does suggest a somewhat autonomous learning experience for the learner.
However, training and learning online can provide equally as rich a learning experience for the learner, and ultimately, the organisation.
The Outcome of eLearning
The outcome of eLearning varies depending on organisational infrastructure, target audience and program goals. What can influence the success or failure most is organisational culture. If there is no buy in at an influential level, providing eLearning (or any training for that matter) can actually have a negative effect on the learner. This will in turn have a negative effect on the organisation.
Different types of eLearning
A fact is that eLearning is growing exponentially in different formats:
- Online Learning
- Remote Learning
- Computer-based Learning
- Virtual Learning
- Web-based Learning
- Email Learning
- Multimedia Learning
- mLearning (mobile)
eLearning is generally perceived as online learning
Although the origins of the term are blurred, the e in eLearning does not necessarily mean the same as the e in email or ecommerce. In the real world, we generally think of eLearning as online or web-based learning. The general consensus is that it is done through technology, or remotely.
The common denominator here is the fact that the trainer is not in the same space as the learner. They may be in a different part of the building, or even another country. In some cases the trainer is a person, in some cases the learners ‘self-teach’.
Pedagogy v’s Andragogy
In terms of pedagogical teaching, lectures, drills, quizzes, and examinations do not suit the adult learner (and indeed some young learners.) A self-learning and experiential format works very well with adult learners (Andragogy).
Knowles (1980) defined Andragogy as “the art and science of helping adults learn.” Andragogy is a self-directed, experiential, problem-solving approach to adult education.
So how can we measure if eLearning is effective or not? Let’s look at a private online learner.
The benefits of eLearning for the learner
- The learner can learn in their own private space
- Better retention from a richer multimedia experience and interaction
- Faster delivery – the learner can work at their own pace and not at the pace of the slowest learner as in classroom based learning
- One hour training is really one full hour – no bathroom or coffee breaks
- Fail without fear – a learner can retry activities and exercises without being exposed to others
- There is minimum distractions (less social interaction means less distraction)
- They will have access to recordings, transcripts, replays and other resources
- The learning is condensed and continuous
- Learning is trackable and assessable with the use of a good LMS
The benefits of eLearning to the organisation
After location, time is the greatest limitation on learning. Trainers and learners travelling need to meet at one place at a pre-determined time which will have been organised well in advance, often months.
- Time – less time for employees to be travelling, more time being effective
- Absence – less time for staff to be absent from the workplace
- Ability to simultaneously train a large dispersed workforce
- eLearning can provide a standardised process and consistency in delivery
- Up-to-date content and at a much lower cost
- Lack of physical location increases attendance and reduces logistical issues
- Using technology that already exists in the organisation (call and video conferencing software, PCs, Macs, Browsers, peripherals)
- Carbon footprint – production and provision of eLearning produces 90% less CO2 than physical learning
- Carbon footprint – travel (not using transport, savings on CO2 emissions)
- Carbon footprint – a PC uses roughly .125kW/h – less power than travelling to class
- Carbon footprint – paper (can provide soft copy notes and exercises)
A good eLearning training course will be easy to use, stimulating and engaging. And there should always be an element of fun.
10 Steps for the learner to approach eLearning
- Ensure you have the relevant equipment before you begin
- As for any type of learning, motivation (the want to do it is greater than the need to stay the same) is important
- Set small attainable goals. An LMS (Learning Management System) can provide this step by step, or the learner and trainer can create and work towards their own goals
- Set milestones to motivate and track progress
- Vary the resources you use to provide variety
- When to start. Set a start date for your first goal
- Get going. There is never a perfect time to start any learning. It will eat into existing tasks so something must give to provide the time slots
- Do something towards your milestones EVERY day
- Provide a reward for reaching each milestone
- Assign an accountability partner that will tell you ‘good job’, and will as quickly wrap your knuckles when you fall back or get lazy
Gamification and eLearning
A relatively new buzz word, Gamification has been around for a long time in teaching and learning methodologies and applications. To give you a simple example, I use Duolingo to improve and test my French over coffee every morning. I am rewarded with badges, wins, progress bars and the feeling of accomplishment when I successfully complete a task or level. This is not the only way I learn French, I also use online teachers, which is my preferred style of learning languages.
Gamification is gratifying. It injects fun and self-motivation into individual eLearning. The intention to learn is enhanced by the promise of reward. I think this area of learning will become more widespread in workplace training as organisations realise ‘Reward On Intention’ boosts ‘Return On Investment.’ An increase on ROI? Sure who wouldn’t want that?
Over to you
Have you experienced eLearning as a trainer or learner? How has it compared to classroom-based learning for you? Share your experience with us below.
Images: ”Never Stop Learning creative sign/Shutterstock.com“
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