How to move from classroom to digital learning
A mixture of face-to-face training and eLearning can offer the best of both worlds. However, right now, only the latter may be available to you. Read on for tips on how to retain the impact of classroom learning while benefiting from the advantages of a digital learning environment.
Prompted by recent events and the unprecedented effect they’re having on our working lives, our colleagues at LEO Learning have produced a new guide on how to transition from face-to-face to digital learning. This advice will remain useful once the current COVID-19 crisis has passed, and this article highlights some of our favorite points, from an eLearning authoring perspective.
Why are we so attached to face-to-face learning?
A lot of people love face-to-face learning. After all, it’s been around for most of human history, and even if it has drawbacks—especially in a time when it’s important for us to reduce face-to-face contact—stepping away from this natural mode of learning is still not to be done lightly. Classroom learning has three key benefits:
- It connects learners and teachers in a productive, interpersonal way.
- It offers a safe space to practice.
- It has the capacity to be highly reactive—teachers can correct both learners and their own teaching in real-time to make sure a topic is understood.
- Face-to-face teaching is costly: you have to pay for the trainer, venue and the productivity lost when holding typically long sessions.
- Scaling up this kind of training globally can be inefficient.
- If unsupported by other activity, it can be hard to get learning to stick.
Digital learning has the potential to address many of these issues. That said, it has taken more recent developments (e.g. video, social and xAPI) to start to address the relative lack of human connection and expand the limited analytics data on offer in all training formats.
Ideally, you want to take a blended learning approach. Using the technology now available to you to deliver person-to-person training through digital channels, focus on areas that could be digitized to answer learner needs.
Retaining the 3 strengths of classroom learning in eLearning
To recap, face-to-face training’s greatest assets are its interpersonal nature, the safe space it offers for practice and the potential for highly reactive teaching decisions. Though we would usually recommend working with some degree of both approaches, digital learning has the potential to retain most of face-to-face training’s benefits when it needs to do so.
1) Enabling the interpersonal through video
Video is a powerful tool. It allows you to create eLearning content that contains a human element while still being available to revisit and comb through for information. Your video doesn’t have to be a high-end production fit for a film festival either. If the content is good, and sufficiently legible (reasonable resolution and audio quality) it will be of value to your learners.
One easy tactic is to feature Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and other experienced staff in short (approximately 2-minute) videos to share ‘war stories’, knowledge and expertise. Most modern smartphones are up to this task—though it never hurts to use more advanced equipment if you have it.
Other tactics for connecting people include virtual classrooms, as well as building a space for colleagues to ask questions and share resources.
2) Creating a space for practice with interactivity
Your content authoring tool should enable you to quickly deliver a web-like experience on any device. The visual design of an eLearning course can be enhanced with animation—transitions, moving images and galleries aren’t strictly ‘interactive’ elements, but their presence helps enhance the immersive feeling of the content.
Quizzes, open text input fields, and other knowledge-checking activities can allow learners to risk committing to wrong answers without any repercussions. If they’re wrong, they can be redirected to content they could revise, or told to look at a sample answer and compare that to their own.
Further tactics in the digital learning toolset ideal for certain projects include simulations and educational games.
3) Using data to make learning reactive
Outside of a virtual classroom setting, it’s more difficult to make eLearning reactive in real-time to learner needs. A pre-recorded video or piece of learning copy cannot correct a learner’s understanding of the content in quite the same way. However, eLearning makes up for this lack of immediacy with greater depth of learner understanding. Data can be used to improve learner experiences both before, during and after a given learning event.
Before the learning event, data can be used to personalize learning, serving up the most appropriate materials based on a learner’s job role, location and/or track record. During the learning event, data makes search possible—if learners are unsure of something, they can proactively search for supplemental material. Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) are one area where we see the eLearning industry working towards providing these kinds of capabilities.
After the learning event, learning analytics can be used to improve the training for the benefit of future learners. Identify what is and isn’t working and change or create supplemental content aimed at correcting any issues.
Embracing the benefits of remote training
The world faces a period where anything that resembles ‘business as usual’ is to be embraced. We’re confident that digital learning technologies can not only temporarily step into the space that face-to-face training usually occupies—we also believe that when successfully implemented, they will make a strong case for continued use once the status quo is restored.