Those of us who were around for the early days of the internet remember how mind-numbingly dull e-learning used to be. Also, you didn’t really learn all that much – blame the lack of user engagement. Thankfully, we’ve progressed a long way since then. E-learning has become a well-researched discipline, combining the best of user experience with advances in learning theory.
Not having to attend training in person used to be enough of a novelty that quality presentation didn’t matter too much. But as technology improves, so we expect more.
Let’s see what good e-learning looks like today:
No more overload
Then: Reams of text… and then some more.
Now: One of the biggest stumbling blocks to effective learning is cognitive overload. Our brains aren’t equipped to process a lot of data at once. When you flood learners with more information than they can deal with, most of it will fall by the wayside. That’s why good e-learning programs today are simple, with no superfluous content. Basically, anything that distracts from the core learning goal is too much. Think keywords instead of long paragraphs.
Make it useful
Then: Online courses were heavy on theory, therefore not geared to practical use.
Now: Even a well-designed learning program will only be successful if it’s relevant to the student. E-learning works best when it delivers useful content with real world applications. Help employees do their jobs better, and their motivation will soar. For example, scenario-based training (such as learning to deal with customer complaints) improves functional skills for the tasks they do every day.
Then: Once you started with a course, there was no stopping even if your attention wandered.
Now: Unlike school-level education where everyone is roughly on the same level, corporate training includes employees from all conceivable backgrounds and experience levels. And because we all learn at our own tempo, one person’s cognitive overload is another’s snore fest. That’s why self-pacing is so important in e-learning – it gives the learner control. So, the novice can linger over new material until it sinks in, while the old hand can fly through familiar bits.
Then: Zero interaction with the learning material
Now: Employees today are used to immersive, interactive technological experiences; passively consuming learning matter will leave them bored and unengaged. Finding a balance between instruction and entertainment is key to designing effective e-learning. Video clips, simulation and gaming elements make courses fun without distracting from the main purpose.
Learn on the go
Then: Before mobile devices, you were chained to your desktop.
Now: Since we switch so readily between desktop, smartphone and tablet, e-learning is becoming ever more flexible. Whether through a native app or online access, mobile-friendly solutions are essential for employees who demand convenience.
E-learning now comprises more than a third of workplace education. It has improved dramatically in the last decade, with innovative solutions to every problem. And that means that organisations can no longer get away with mediocre learning material.
Clark, R., & Mayer, R. (2011). E-Learning and the science of instruction (3rd ed.). Pfeiffer.
Whitenton, K. (2017). Minimize Cognitive Load to Maximize Usability. Nngroup.com. Retrieved 2 October 2017, from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/minimize-cognitive-load/