Looking for an insightful guide to the e-Learning industry? Want a peek into the inner workings of one of the biggest revenue-generating sectors of the information age? You’ve come to the right place!
Read on to find out more about the industry, the engines that drive its growth, and why it’s in the ascendant.
JIT Vs JIC Learning
The development of the e-Learning industry has thrown up new opportunities for "just in time" learning, tailored to meet the needs of individuals, rather than "just in case" lectures delivered to large groups. It can be a cost-effective, environmentally friendly and flexible way for employees and professionals in almost any industry to up their skills.
Designing successful courses which meet the needs of clients and add value to companies is a multi-faceted process. Numerous experts are involved in the process; including researchers, learning theorists, IT developers and technicians, industry specialists and marketers. E-learning facilitators must consider the desired learning outcomes for their clients, develop resources, manage delivery, set up a feedback loop, and assure quality.
The Stakeholders In Content Creation
The ultimate aim for professional e-learning services is to provide courses that are comprehensive, usable and that meet the needs of their clients. Before developing a new course, facilitators must research the desired learning outcomes for participants.
Kidney, Cummings and Boehm of The University of Houston-Clear Lake examine the importance of identifying and consulting stakeholders in course development. The stakeholders for courses being offered to industry professionals include learners, employers and the clients these companies serve. In consultation with each of these groups, facilitators can decide on the most important learning objectives for their e-learning courses and then develop resources to meet them.
When it comes to designing the learning modules, well thought-out resource development is essential to success. There are many options available to developers including tutorial videos, online discussion forums, video conferencing and interactive tools such as virtual workplaces and smartphone apps. To determine the most effective tools to meet a learning objective, there are two important questions that developers must ask themselves:
-What needs to be learnt?
-What is the most effective way to learn it?
At this stage, collaboration between learning theorists and industry professionals is necessary to ensure that both content and delivery methods are of the highest possible standard. In the most effective programs, each learning objective is approached from a number of different angles, so that learners engage with and assimilate the material using different areas of their brains.
Modern learning theorists assert that different people process information in different ways, and also that high repetition and immersion are pivotal in knowledge retention. Successful courses will deliver material aurally (videos or conferences), and visually (written and pictorially). There should also be opportunities for collaboration, discussion and problem solving. The needs of all learners, whatever their dominant cognitive style, should be met.
Course Management And Delivery
Once the learning outcomes have been decided upon and the modules designed, the ongoing process of course delivery and management begins. Online teachers must have both industry expertise in the course's field and knowledge of effective teaching practice.
For any learning to be successful, engagement is essential and e-learning programs must have a human presence. An overall facilitator will ensure that learners are progressing with the course and that any individual concerns and needs are addressed. It is also important that the technical aspects of the platform are regularly checked and maintained.
Assessment And Certification
Assessment and certification are challenging aspects of the e-learning environment. Assessments need to be authentic for certifications to be valid. Luca and McLaughlin examine online assessment in their paper "Quality in Online Delivery: What does it Mean for Assessment in e-learning Environments?" and conclude that the online environment offers the benefit of easily being able to collect cumulative data on student learning, rather than assessments using more traditional one-off tests and exams.
The key to designing effective assessment is for tasks to be progressive and interactive so that providers can keep track of learning needs and measure knowledge attainment. Quality providers also seek feedback from companies to ensure that the knowledge and skills are being transferred into the workplace and practical assessments may be part of the certification process.
The Feedback Loop
Obtaining, evaluating and implementing user feedback is an important facet of professional e-learning companies. The learners themselves have the best insight into what was effective and what was not. Their comments need to be taken seriously by facilitators in order to continuously improve their product. Courses should not be static and should be under constant review from developers, facilitators and clients. Quality assurance is at the forefront of any professional e-learning service, particularly where certification is being offered.
Judith Strother of the Florida Institute of Technology provides a four level guide for quality assurance, wherein the components measured are reaction, learning, transference and results. What is essentially being assessed is how learners feel about their online training experience, what has actually been learnt, how well the skills and knowledge are transferred to the workplace, and the measurable results in productivity or company outcomes. If each of these facets nets a positive result, quality is assured.
Versatility Of The eLearning Model
Online learning can be tailored to meet the needs of almost any industry. Students in the e-learning environment are able to work at their own pace, at a time that suits them and in almost any place they choose. Information can be accessed in a plethora of different ways to suit any cognitive style. Professional e-learning services aim to provide usable, targeted courses which meet identified learning objectives. The main needs of effective course design can be thought of in a triangle:
- Specific industry knowledge of the clients they serve.
- Understanding of teaching and learning theory.
- Technical development and design.
A robust and ongoing process of research, consultation, development, evaluation and quality assurance is necessary to deliver the results that clients seek. When an e-learning course works on all of these levels, it can be a highly effective tool for providing in-service training to employees and professionals in many industries.
1. Colvin Clark, R & Mayer, R. (2011). E-learning and the Science of Instruction (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA:Pfeiffer.
2. Kidney, G., Cummings, L. & Boehm, A. (2007). Toward a Quality Assurance Approach to e-learning.
3. Luca, J. & McLoughlin, C. (2001). Quality in Online Delivery: What does it Mean for Assessment in e-learning Environments?
4. Strother, J. (2002). An Assessment of the Effectiveness of e-learning in Corporate Training.