Outstanding! We have made it to the third offering in our four part blog series. In the first two sections, we took a hard look at some of the reasons companies and people provide when explaining why they don’t wholly believe in E-learning’s effectiveness. They were all at one time valid points – online learning in its infancy was not always what it was cracked up to be. However with time and the swift development of new technology, the programs that once fell short of their goals have been replaced with well-built cogent training that is now, an entirely different animal.
E-learning hangups that have been covered include course cost (both implementation and maintenance), time commitment, employee technical competency and lack of workplace encouraged technical culture. All have had their time under the microscope and all have since, been debunked.
In this article we will examine another significant issue often brought up when companies are hedging on introducing online learning into their training regimen. It does fall on the lower end of the scale describing E-learning concerns, but it is actually extremely important to successful online training. We are speaking of the important issue of overall quality of E-learning in its present incarnation.
As can be referenced in the first paper of this series Organizational Concerns Regarding E-learning the study performed by Towards Maturity clearly evidences a rather steady climb in quality of learning. Being that numerous E-learning users were polled over the span of almost a decade, this translates into a pretty compelling rate of customer product satisfaction over time.
There are a few factors that can be said to be systematically responsible for such a marked rise in the quality of online learning. They can collectively be called the “Triple T’s,” known otherwise as Time, Teaching and Technology. Let’s examine all three.
Is one of those tricky variables that can sometimes cause as much damage as it can repair. In the fortunate case of the E-learning industry, time served to take a young, uninitiated product and turn it into online training’s equivalent of fine wine. It basically amounts to E-learning providers being given long enough to learn from their mistakes. We have come a long way from when those first courses were turned out in the early 2000’s.
A novel concept at the time in the corporate sector, computer-based learning had been being tinkered with in the academic realm for some time. However, adapting E-learning from post-secondary institutions to that of the business world turned out to be a little more complicated than originally thought.
Some elements inherent to the world of students did not translate well into the learning practices of professional employees. Learner self-motivation was one such casualty. It turns out students are naturally motivated to engage in and complete their online coursework because continued good grades are predicated upon it. Employees working for companies did not have this carrot/stick encouragement behind them and course completion rates became subsequently abysmal. Situations such as this were what faced early course providers and there was a very real period of trial and error that had to take place to get us where we are today.
Is a factor that is related to time, but is vitally important in and of itself. Designing and building E-learning programs for companies big and small is an incredibly involved endeavor. In order to do it successfully providers must employ intelligent individuals who are highly technically proficient.
This obviously means that they are familiar with the digital world inside and out. Navigating the complicated landscape of bits and bites is not for everyone. It takes a certain amount of mathematical fortitude to turn code into a training program that is specialized to address the learning goals of specific employees operating in a specialized field.
On top of being qualified to interpret and present a foreign language to learners in an easily understandable style, design professionals need to be able to develop E-learning courses that are interesting and engaging. Without employee engagement, the training is doomed from the start. So in a nutshell, these individuals who build the training programs that you in turn make available to your company staff are bright, innovative, tech savvy and creative. What they are not in a word, is teachers.
This was one of the earliest and most egregious mistakes made by E-learning providers. Even though they were involved in the business of passing on knowledge and skills to employees who were seeking further education, they forgot the most important ingredient: people who are trained and intrinsically understand how to accomplish this feat.
With teachers left out of the equation, a compelling learning gap was soon painfully made evident. Learners were failing in significant numbers to connect with the E-learning course material. It was either incredibly redundant, or so far over their heads that no one outside the technical assistance department could hope to comprehend any salient points.
It was only over time, delineated by continual poor course performance, that E-learning providers realized that they needed to involve actual trained learning professionals in the creation and development process. Enter the teachers. Now this wasn’t a task for anyone with a teaching certificate. The most effective individuals not only needed to be technically proficient, they also had to evidence a significant understanding of the business world, for whom the corporate digital training was being designed. A solid understanding of instructional design, upon which E-learning course development is founded, was an essential element of their ability. This is a fairly specific skill set, and it took some time to identify the individuals qualified in both fields.
By combining their technical acumen, experience as teachers and business I.Q. with the growing technology that has been a hallmark of the second decade of this new century, online training providers have been able to mature a product that is efficient, effective and relevant to almost everyone in our workplace.
Although last on the list, is arguably the most important component of the Three T’s when it comes to the evolution of quality E-learning. As has been covered in the second installment in this series, technology is the “Foundation of the E-learning Nation.” Without it, we would still be hosting seminars, workshops, symposiums and conventions the old-fashioned way – with dry powerpoint-driven overhead slide shows that only recognize the employee as an observer – not an active participant.
Through the development and use of learning technologies such as gamification, simulations and scenarios, E-learning has grown into a corporate training tool that can be specifically tailored to not only industry and company, but to the employees who will be partaking in the program itself.
During the initial phase of E-learning growth, the technology of computers and the internet specifically, had just not reached a level that could support the detailed requirements that are demanded by contemporary online training programs. “Text and next”, digital slideshows and lengthy video was the word of the day.
All are arguably fair formulas for presentation, but none hold the much sought after philosopher’s stone of participation. When people become actively involved in the actual learning process, they become increasingly more likely to retain the knowledge that is being offered. When this phenomenon takes place, it allows the learner to employ the information that they have successfully assimilated directly into their job skill set, facilitating performance excellence. The bottom line for any of you who still wonder: technology is indeed affecting our lives, at least professionally, for the better.