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Online Learning Takes Special Skills

What skills are needed to successfully learn from online training? Are there some users that will never be successful using eLearning? Are the skills needed to learn in a classroom environment different from skills needed online?

Here are some thoughts.

Classroom-based training requires:

  • Listening comprehension
  • Ability to pay attention for long spans of time
  • Oral expression/ Ability to put thoughts into words
  • Colleague collaboration / Teamwork

Online training requires:

  • Reading skills
  • Independent study skills
  • Self-pacing and time management
  • Self motivation and discipline
  • A learning space created by user

Now the argument can be made that a lot of these skills apply to both classroom and online training. However it seems that certain skills seem more important for certain delivery methods.

As more and more courses move online we need to be more thoughtful of our design. We need to realize that some users might not be great readers, have a lot of self-discipline, and/or have time management skills. So how can we improve? What can we do to help out our learners?

Ideas to help learners that struggle in these areas:

Lack of Reading Skills

  • We’ve all heard that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Images can really improve the learner’s comprehension and speed up the learning. This is true for all levels of readers.
  • Be sure to “chunk” text, use bullets, and make it “scannable“.
  • Use audio and instructional video.

Lack of Independent Study Skills

  • Add a forum or discussion area.
  • Put the learners into virtual groups and have them do some online training and then hold a team discussion over the phone/email.
  • Hold live WebEx sessions to connect with others.

Lack of Self-pacing and Time Management

  • Make the courses short. This helps learners be able to complete training even if they only have a few minutes to dedicate.
  • Indicate how long each module/lesson will take. This will allow learners to plan.

Lack of Motivation and Discipline

  • Make the course visually appealing and interactive. (scenarios, quizzes, games, etc.)
  • Content should be applicable to the learner’s job and interests.
  • Possibly have the learner agree to a training schedule and have “check-in” points where they must indicate their progress.

Lack of Learning Space

  • Tell learners what is expected. They should know that they need to find a quite place (free of distractions) before beginning the course.
  • Provide a list of tips to create a virtual learning environment. Maybe they could turn of their phone, close all other computer applications, shut the door, put a sign on the door, put earphone on instead of listening through the computer speakers, etc.

What thoughts do you have?

Highlights from E-Learning 2.0 LinkedIn Discussion:

Anne Petersen: “One skill they definitely need is the skill to read instructions – and follow them”

Marian Heddesheimer: (for virtual classrooms) “Technical skills, like setting up audio and camera properly.
Moderating skills like allowing students to use their mike or camera.”

Ian Simpson: “My experience is that somehow e-Learning sharpened or at least underlined the distinction between good and not so good student performance.”


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One Comment

  1. Good to see an article on elearning devoted to the learning experience. All too often the focus is on technology. Your thoughts are very much in line with ours at COFA Online (an academic unit at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia). We have been training academics and industry professionals in planning, writing and teaching online courses for years now, and one of the biggest mind shifts for teachers is to realise that online is a very real learning space (NOT virtual), and that interaction happens differently there.

    Once teachers understand how interaction occurs online, they can empathise with the students more and hence design tasks that are more engaging, collaborative and relevant to the student.

    I think one of the keys to successful online learning is creating a good sense of community amongst the students so they don’t feel alone, and have a network of peer support and encouragement as well as feeling supported by the teacher.

    We are currently working on a project to help teachers understand these processes a little better called ‘Learning to Teach Online’. You can check it out here: http://bit.ly/aR8HzE

    I think our work has a lot in common, and it would be great to hear from you to discuss ideas further if you want.

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