eLearning has Grown Up, Here's What to Look for Now

eLearning has grown up, but what is it capable of?

eLearning has grown up, but what is it capable of?

Many of us would have experienced eLearning in the corporate world. Whether it was called ‘online learning’ or ‘virtual learning’, eLearning as part of an organisation’s Learning and Development tool kit has been around since 1999.

The need to deliver education outside of traditional face-to-face models isn’t new.

As early as the 19th century, self-motivated people took up study by correspondence with Issac Pittman who taught shorthand in the 1840’s via mail service. By the 1960’s, computer based training launched in earnest at the University of Illinois.

Early elearning was so badly one-dimensional.

My early experience with eLearning, for which participation and completion was mandatory, could be likened to a really bad PowerPoint presentation married up with ‘elevator music.’ I remember the poor experience, but not the content. While this corporate tool, and my and my colleagues’ course completion, no doubt ticked a box, it certainly didn’t foster any desired behaviour.

Fast forward to today and eLearning, to my delight, has vastly improved.

There are advantages with eLearning such as: flexibility in delivery and knowledge aborption; consistency of message; speed to deliver; and cost savings. Sure, the extent of the benefits can vary widely yet an entire industry has developed around the delivery of eLearning. Such is eLearning’s capability to support organisations and learners.

Now a competitive sub-category of training and education, eLearning has become a more exciting experience for students and a viable tool for leaders wanting to foster change.

As technology and user experience (UX) has advanced, eLearning has benefitted, particularly with the likes of gamification, chatbots and virtual reality. The simple (let’s be honest, boring), page-turning style of learning has been superseded by visually compelling, interactive experiences – sometimes more enjoyable than face-to-face learning (for some learners).

But there is still the underlying question of – does eLearning really work ? 

Have the technological advancements rendered a more educational product – or is it just prettier to look at?

It’s a great question – eLearning, when deployed by enterprise, exists to have a desired effect.

Studies conducted to determine if the eLearning approach delivers better outcomes provide mixed results: some show strong success and others, quite the opposite. eLearning surpasses classroom-based learning when the eLearning incorporates identified and improved learning methods. While learning management system (LMS) can make course-ware look ‘good’, a deeper understanding of learning modalities and learning design is required to separate an average learning experience from an exceptional one.

Human-centred design meets eLearning

I’ve come to enjoy eLearning because of its ability to build courses upon the neuroscience of learning. For example, providing realistic decision-making scenarios and genuine role-based tasks help embed the desired practices in real-life. Providing feedback on course activities and spreading repetitions of these activities over time reinforces learning and knowledge recall. Delivering a blended approach with face-to-face and eLearning often leads to the best results: giving learners’ team-based interaction, and self-paced, individual learning and question time.

If you’re in the market for an eLearning solution, it is a buyer-beware moment.

Look beyond the flashy interaction and the ability to use plug-and-play SaaS offerings. Team up with your Learning and Development leader and ask, does the eLearning offering:

·      use recall tools (such as quizzes)?

·      provide practical application scenarios?

·      offer reinforced repetition? 

·      Is it based on evidence-based learning design or is it still just a tick in the box?