Monday, January 23, 2017

5 Pointers for Getting Your Head Around the New E-Learning

Rachel Burnham writes: I have had an amazing time over the last year participating in the Curatr based MOOC ‘E-learning: Beyond the NextButton’.  This was a 12 month based free online course to explore new ideas and approaches to e-learning – each month new material was released and an international group of participants explored a whole range of e-learning related topics.  I have learnt so much.

I was already aware that e-learning is a much broader field, than the traditional e-learning course, which is often used to deliver compliance training and involves those endless ‘Next’ buttons to take you onto the next page (hence the title of the MOOC).   I have previously used the CIPD definition of e-learning

‘learning that is delivered, enabled or mediated using electronic technology for the explicit purpose of training, learning or development in organisations.’

(Egan, 2012)

And this recognises that e-learning can include: webinars/virtual classrooms/live online learning; podcasts; use of video; discussion forums; digital resources such as blogs/infographics/e-books; and the use of social media and enterprise social networks.

What this MOOC introduced me to was e-learning as also encompassing the use of AI (artificial intelligence), VR (virtual reality), AR (augumented reality), Wearables, Proximity Beacons and Bots, plus how these links to some of the research into effective learning, such as spaced learning.  So it has widened my understanding of how technology can be used to support and enable learning hugely.

This is a rapidly expanding and developing field.  It was great to hear about the possibilities of AI to enable much more personalised learning experiences and to experience the use of AI in language learning through programmes such as Duolingo. It is fascinating to hear how rapidly messaging is growing and along with this chat bots that are being used to answer customer queries. These can be used in learning both to provider learner support and also to aid with learning practice.

‘Wearables’ is another rapidly developing field – probably most of us have heard of tools such as Google Glass and fitness bracelets, which opens up the possibility of using wearables to host performance support tools. Proximity Beacons came as something entirely new to me, but are beginning to be used in museums and galleries to provide additional information directly to visitors’ phones where they have the relevant app installed and again I can see the huge potential in these for performance support, particularly in equipment rich environments.  

Augmented Reality or AR hit the public awareness over the last summer with the Pokemon Go craze, but as the technology develops there are lots of possibilities to use AR for performance support and as a new kind of resource for learning.   Virtual Reality or VR is already being explored by very many organisations to provide opportunity for people to have immersive experiences with lots of potential for impacting on behaviours and attitudes as well as to orientate people to new roles and locations.

With so many different kinds of e-learning and with the speed of developments in this field it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all of this.   In L&D we urgently need to steer a course between being an ostrich with our head in the sand and being a magpie picking up every new and shiny thing that comes along.

Instead, I have 5 pointers to help you get your head around these developments.

1)  I recommend deploying your Personal Learning Network (PLN) to help you keep up to date with developments in these fields.  By PLN I mean your network of colleagues, contacts and acquaintances that you interact with both in person and virtually.  Make sure that within your PLN you include people who are already working with these kinds of technologies  - follow them on social media, read their posts & blogs and engage with them.  They will act as translators & conductors for developments in these fields helping you to stay in touch.  Plus, this will give you some ‘go-to’ people as starting points if you want to find out more about any particular technology.

2)  Develop a broad awareness of each of these technologies in terms of their particular characteristics and how they can be best used to aid learning - what are their strengths and weaknesses.  This is just the same as understanding when and how best to use a game or video or other more traditional learning tool.  Not every tool is useful in every situation.

3)  Link this awareness to a deep understanding of what is needed in your own organisation to help people and teams perform to their very best ability.  Consider carefully which tools will help to make learning more effective. Some tools will have potential for use in your organisation and some won’t.  Avoid magpie tendencies to get excited about something that isn’t relevant to your own organisation.

4)  Don’t fall into the trap of just limiting these tools to creating more effective learning.  Keep focussed on performance.  Some of the tools may do away or reduce the need for learning at all, by substituting the need for learning with improved performance support.

5)  Experiment – once you have identified which tools have potential within your organisation, try them out.  Experiment with small trials and learn from this.

So these are my 5 pointers to help you navigate through this changing technology and steer a course clear of both ostriches and magpies!

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

No comments:

Post a Comment