Where eLearning is Headed: How to Get From Here to There
Today technology is transforming the eLearning industry. It is changing and will continue to change the way we communicate with learners, the way we design courses, how we learn and teach. Therefore, eLearning professionals have to adapt and find new ways to meet changing times. Simply incorporating different tools to their current eLearning training strategy isn’t enough. eLearning professionals must understand and embrace the meaning and the implications of these changes in the eLearning development process. This is not an easy task because it not only means they have to change what they do, but how they think.
To figure out how to get from here to there, eLearning professionals have to first understand where the "there" actually is. This list represents the newest and most important "rules" for eLearning today.
1) No Student is An Island, Learning is Social
Almost every aspect of Western culture emphasizes competition and the need to stand out from the crowd. However, no student is an island: people are social animals with brains that are wired to collaborate with others. This is actually good news as although it requires effort to change one’s opinions about cooperation, students are naturally predisposed toward working with others.
Modern learners are primarily active; they are used to constant interaction, in one form or another. Therefore, leveraging interaction and collaboration in eLearning programs allows students to think, explore and offer input on the subject matter. Environments that make effective use of communication technologies to connect learners in meaningful ways and include relevant and authentic learning activities are the most likely to succeed (Herrington, Reeves, & Oliver, 2010).
So, if you are one of those eLearning professionals still dumping a bunch of content on your learners, stop. Though content is vital in order to be successful, eLearning courses must promote the sharing knowledge, experiences, and opinions. Courses must include opportunities for interaction between learners through new technology. There are plenty of resources at the disposal of such programs including discussion boards, telecommunication tools such as email and chatrooms, social collaboration tools and blogs.
With all the tools available to the online instructor, today's learning environments can become more rich and effective. Versatility, human interaction and the whole Internet at their fingertips all create a learning context with endless possibilities.
2. Learner-Centered Courses Are No Longer an Option But a Must
People have come to expect personalization from every facet of their lives. eLearning professionals, therefore, need to enable opportunities for learners to create their own training experiences that meet their individual needs.
If you are still designing eLearning courses so that every participant learns and performs identically, stop. A shift to a learner-centered design model allows designers to meet the needs of all learners while maintaining rigorous expectations and quality content.
Learner-centered courses, as opposed to content-centric models, focus on teaching adults in ways that they are inclined to learn. These courses encourage learners to acquire knowledge effectively and eliminate the all-too-common rigid instructional designs that require the students to adapt to program. Finally, learner-centered courses feature content created with the students’ perspectives in mind, which only serves to increase learners’ motivation. Basically, placing students at the centre of the learning process makes them feel like an essential part of the experience and fires up their brains, making training more fun and lasting.
3. Active Learning Techniques Becoming the New Norm
The most common method of teaching involves a teacher simply delivering content to students; this is passive learning. In the past, traditional eLearning courses were all passive and this was considered the standard. Today, however, this is unacceptable.
Learning is not a spectator sport; students learn very little listening to audio, memorizing content, and recalling answers. Active learning, interaction, and social engagement are all becoming increasingly important. They allow students to become involved in their learning, relate the content to their own experiences, and apply it to their daily lives.
Course developers misinterpret the rule of active learning more than any of the other rules for eLearning believing that such learning occurs when students show signs of visible activity. In fact, active learning can be hidden from the instructor’s view and visual learning may be passive. Consequently, a better indicator of active learning is students questioning content and developing their own interpretations. Learners may write about information, relate it to their personal experiences, or apply it to their daily lives.
4. Bite-Size Content is The Right Size
In this modern information age, learners often struggle to maintain a long attention span and people are impatient for immediate gratification. This year, Rapid Learning Institute found that 90 percent of professionals who access eLearning courses consider short-form eLearning to be of either high or medium priority. This fact explains the rationale behind the current trend that swept the eLearning industry. From explainer tutorial videos that last for no longer than 10 minutes to short or snackable modules, it looks like bite-sized learning is here to stay.
The bite-size approach involves covering only the essentials in short modules that learners can access whenever they have the time. Short sentences, captivating photos, infographics, and quotes are all ideal ways to convey a message quickly. eLearning evelopers should also switch between these different types of content to keep learners interested.
If you are still an eLearning professional creating lenthy lectures, stop. Bite-sized learning, unlike the traditional approach, focuses on meeting the needs of modern learners. It perfectly suits their information-rich lifestyle. It enables them to access small chunks of information at their fingertips, anytime and anywhere. No more lengthy lectures. And no more rigid schedules. People can now learn on their spare time and learn only what they're interested in.
5. Moving from Linear to Non-Linear Courses
A recent study, revealed that the average attention span online is about 8 seconds. This has a lot to do with the arrival of hypertext, which encourages a non-linear way of reading. People can simply point to or click on a link without even finishing a paragraph. That's why learners hardly stay on a page and jump around instead. Today, learners spend time on browsing and scanning, keyword spotting, one-time reading, non-linear reading, and reading more selectively, while less time is spent on in-depth reading, and concentrated reading.
So if you are still designing linear eLearning courses, stop. Learning in life situations is a non-linear process — such learning occurs at random intervals when one’s attention is captured by the need or desire to increase knowledge.
Non-linear learning works by allowing students to make connections between information they already possessed and new content. It is also another way students can adapt programs to their unique needs, learning styles, and current levels understanding. eLearning provides the perfect opportunity to mimic this real life learning process by providing training in the way humans would naturally obtain knowledge outside a training or educational environment.
6. Image-Centric Content is Taking Over
In the age of social media, mobile technology, fast broadband, cellular networks, and high-resolution screens, visuals matter more than ever. The amount of visual content continues to increase across the Internet and eLearning is no exception. Graphic interfaces made up of photos, illustrations, charts, maps, diagrams, and videos are gradually replacing text-based courses.
For instance, students are able to process images 60,000 times faster than text. Images not only make a learning experience more fun, people are more inclined to view screens that contain pictures. Images also drive more learner engagement than text content.
So, it's not just about text anymore. Every eLearning designer needs to understand the power of visuals these days. If they're not including well-chosen images in every course created it's time to begin to do it because they are falling behind the times.