When we discuss the pros and cons of eLearning it is important to consider it from two angles. From the Teacher and for the Student. As a long term user and creator of eLearning I will share my real world experiences with you.
- Create Once
- Frees up Time
- Reusable Content
- Lower Cost
- Reporting & Tracking
- Richer Content
- Higher Technical Skills
- Teaching Method
- Relationship Building
- Student Focus
- Learning Flexibility
- Modularized Learning
- Repeat Training
- Course Cost
- Slow Responses
- Technical Issues
Now that you understand some of the Pros and Cons for Teachers and Students lets discuss them further.
When we are talking about eLearning there are a couple of things we need to understand. Firstly eLearning for Introductory subjects is great and frees teachers up for more important training. It however is not good for most Intermediate to Advanced training on its own. As the difficulty level increases so does the need for Teacher engagement.
This is not to say you can not create eLearning for advanced topics but it has to be combined with a real teacher engagement plan. Maybe by a Blended Learning approach with Live Virtual Classrooms as well as eLearning. The low completion rates and effectiveness of self paced learning is shown through the 7.2% drop in global investment in developing more since 2016.
The actual growth rate or eLearning in general is 7% per year with a projected growth from 190 billion in 2018 to greater than 300 billion by 2025.
So why am I giving you these general statistics when talking about the Pros and Cons of eLearning? Understanding the market size let you know how important understanding these topics are. It shows the push to methods of eLearning with more engagement and better completion rates.
The thought of a create once and reuse with no more effort was the biggest advantage of early eLearning. The reality is something a little different and rather than not touch again each course needs to be reviewed each year to ensure currency and to fix any mistakes. For simple staff induction type training this approach is great as larger overhauls to the training only needs to be done when legislation changes. It is also good for simple introductory topics like basic math that will never change.
If the subject you are covering is in an industry like IT where the rate of change is quite quick and new versions of software are out all the time it is much more time consuming to keep up to date. Having led a teams and created eLearning in this space with yearly releases of multiple software products it can be quite a challenge.
The trick to taking advantage of this Pro of eLearning is to keep your training as generic as you can without loosing the training benefits and to keep industry updates in mind when initially creating the content. If you create your eLearning in a modular way you will only have to update the particular portions that have changed. This is where eLearning Authoring tools can help. For a list of my recommended tools go here.
Link : Recommended Tools Page
Whether you are creating eLearning for internal use in an organisation or publicly on the web, you can reach much greater audiences than face to face training. With the use of a Learning Management System (LMS) you can make the training available globally in your organisation or to customers all over the world. Not only can you sell the eLearning through your own website but you could also license it to third parties or upload it to many of the third party eLearning provider websites like Udemy. For more information on ways to teach online check out this article.
Article : How Can I Teach Online
Frees Up Time
There was an early misconception that online learning was very hands off and once you created your eLearning you would free up time for other tasks. There is some truth to this for introductory topics where the students don’t need much support. But when you start to get to get to more advanced training you still need to support your students just as much. The issue is now that each student then contacts you one on one.
So yes this is still a Pro for teachers getting rid of the need to deliver simple content but the free time they get is often taken up with more one on one student engagement and further content creation activities. So no beach island holidays just yet.
We mentioned this earlier in the article as a way to make your maintenance of your eLearning easier. When we build our eLearning in smaller modules it also makes the training easier to include in other courses reducing course development time. Introduction and Conclusion Content can be made into templates as well to provide students with a general look and feel to the training. Intro Videos and Graphics can also be reused.
You can also split the role of creation of the content into two components as well with your eLearning developer doing the packaging of the training and the Subject Matter Experts (Teachers) creating the actual content. Why would you do this? There are a few reasons.
The first is to speed up creation of your eLearning. Next the eLearning Developer acts as a gate keeper for all eLearning meaning they can create a reusable library of content comming from all of your teachers. So when they get a request for new eLearning they can have a look at the existing library and see what reuse can be done.
For more information on the reusable content types check out this article.
With no training room or constant teacher involvement as well as the ability to reuse the training content it means a lower cost for the student. While the initial development for the eLearning is more expensive. After the pay back period it costs very little to enrol further students.
Reporting and Tracking
The ability to monitor student performance through course material and to test their abilities with inbuilt quizzes provides a better understanding of training delivery. Whether you are using SCORM compliance or building in your own page based tracking you can see where students are getting stuck in material and fix the training material as well as provide support.
Link : Understanding SCORM
Being able to link to any content on the web means for a richer student experience. This means trainers can include videos, audio, text and animations from other authority websites to save time on development. It also means students can learn directly from the experts in their fields.
Higher Technical Skills
There is a misconception that normal face to face teachers have the skills to create eLearning and the answer is no they don’t. There is some training required especially in how to use the IT applications and create different types of eLearning content. They will also have to know how to bundle this together using eLearning Authoring tools as well.
If you are a larger organisation you can hire an eLearning Developer but if don’t have the money for that then if you are transitioning face to face teachers to eLearning they will have to learn all the skills above.
From personal experience with your younger staff that are more technology literate this is not to much of a problem. For your more experienced staff this may be a bit of a psychological mind set change and you will have to do proper change management with the process. This is assuming they even want to as they may not want to leave the classroom or split their role to half and half.
For more information on what skills you would need teachers to have check out this article.
If your teachers are used to teaching in the classroom the method of supporting students online is slightly different. Most people are comfortable with responding to students via email but providing live support for students online is something new for most teachers.
These skills are not hard to pick up but it can be a barrier for teachers that you are trying to bring across from face to face teaching to teaching online. For more information on how to provide support to students online check out this article.
Article : Understanding Live Student Support
Even though the students are going through eLearning you will need to occasionally support them live to get there personal training environment set up prior to the training or for more advanced training. Providing eLearning as a training delivery method does not absolve the teacher of any contact with the students.
One of the key reasons for students completing training and being engaged is the physical presence of the teacher. The ability of the teacher to create a relationship with the student is one of the primary keys for success. Without that interaction when teachers are talking to students there is not common ground to work from. When delivering especially self paced eLearning there is next to now Teacher engagement at all.
When selling eLearning or any training online it is still important to connect with students. If you want to encourage them to complete the training and taking some time on the Phone, Skype or Online Chat is a great way to welcome them to the training. Even a personal email not a system generated one can start this exchange.
Without building a relationship with students you won’t get as much repeat business and there is a chance for teachers and students not to be seen as real people. This means communications can sometimes get a bit strained.
With the mentality of creating self paced eLearning being the focus for so long a lot of teachers and eLearning Developers get so caught up in the process they forget to be student focused. They are so worried about whether the content is complete and on release date and many other things they forget to ask the simple question. Is this the right style of delivery for my students and am I engaging them enough.
This is why there is a push away from traditional eLearning (Self Paced) to more engaging social learning environments. Where teachers and students can engage in real time and students feel part of the online community. The amount of focus on assessment methods by Universities and Vocational training providers detracts from the whole purpose of eLearning to provide a student centric content delivery. Not make it easy on the teachers delivery style.
One of the best things for a student with eLearning is the ability to complete the training whenever and wherever they like. It also means that all of the students don’t need to work at the same pace. And it also means for the students with different learning styles that like to dig into topics can do so without slowing down the class. For people new to the topic they can do it slower and those that are just brushing up and take longer.
One of the great things about eLearning is the ability to make it into small modular chunks. By creating the learning in this way you enable students to do just in time learning. This is great for the work place when they need to gain or brush up on a skill directly prior to using it. With the ever increasing amount of knowledge available to consume this suits the information age style workplace.
Not only can students take the training when they like but they can review the training again any time they are just about to do the same task. They can repeat the training as many times as they need to understand the subject.
Due to the cost of the course being lower for the people providing the eLearning this translates to a lower course cost for the students. This means more students can access the training that would not have been able to before.
Where we are currently we have not built an online system that is as good as a real world teacher for engaging a student. This is why we talk so much about student engagement online. The ability to gain the students interest and encourage them to complete the training. Self Paced learning has shown not to be the sole solution no matter how interactive the content.
The teacher still has to take responsibility for the eLearning they create and the completion rates for this training. To often online students still to this day get treated as second priority to the students in the classroom by Universities and Vocational training organisations. Consistently looking at better ways to engage your students is a key metric for anyone teaching online.
It is not unusual for a student enrolled in an eLearning course to email a teacher and for it to take one to two days for them to respond. This means the student is stuck and can not continue until the question is answered. To help with this you should always have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for your online students. It basically is an agreement on how long it will take to respond to questions. If you need to deliver content quickly this is why face to face classes still exist.
Very few people learn well on their own and it is very easy get isolated and become fed up with eLearning. Especially when it is poor quality eLearning. To help with this isolation it is important for teachers to engage students when they start courses and let them know of the options for support that are available. Setting up Social Learning environments for students to peer support and feel part of a community is also important. For more information on this you can look at this article.
While most eLearning runs quite smoothly now in a browser if the training required them to have a particular computer setup or software installed. Then the students will have to do this on there own and may face technical issues. If you look at the Live student support article above this should solve this problem.
Now that you understand the Pros and Cons of eLearning how about a brief introduction on what eLearning is.