I went to middle and high school entirely online.
For six years, grades 6-12, my education was entirely digital. I’ve been through a slew of different learning management software, I’ve seen several dozen changing industry trends and technologies, and I’m happy to say eLearning technology has come a long way in that time.
I can confidently say there aren’t many people with more firsthand experience in using eLearning technology than me—let alone specialists in LMS software. The powerful combination of education and career makes me the perfect person to look at the pros and cons of eLearning, and share over a decade of observation with you.
Advantages of eLearning
What makes eLearning so different from traditional learning? The answer can be found in five main points.
1. eLearning is a two-for-one learning opportunity
Last time I checked (admittedly over a year ago), I type 94 words per minute. The English-langauge average is about 40. I’m extremely comfortable with computers, office programs, websites, and software, and have never had to stop and ask myself how to use even the most avant garde of programs. I attribute my speed directly to the way I learned.
Online learning teaches two lessons. The first is the lesson they were designed to teach. The second is an under-lesson, not as explicit as the design, but no less absorbed by the learner. That lesson is digital literacy.
Like a class taught in a foreign language, students not only learn the course content, they also pick up the medium, even if they weren’t initially familiar with it. Computer learning and digital literacy go hand in hand.
And who knows? Like me, your students’ typing rate may increase, their understanding computer operations may improve, and they may feel more confident and comfortable with computers.
This is great for kids, but building digital confidence is particularly important for older learners who may feel left behind by the digital revolution. eLearning is a fabulous way to achieve computer confidence. You just need to know how to present the content to make it as easy a transition as possible.
2. eLearning spares adult learners from feeling like kids
When people are online, they’re more likely to take risks, trust more, and be more open than they would be in person. And while risk taking behavior has led to a lot of doomsaying about privacy and internet safety, in the case of online learning it’s ideal. What could be better than an open, trusting, risk-taking learner in an educational space?
A large part of the phenomena of open willingness to learn is because of the sense of safety arising from sitting alone in front of the computer. Learners are more likely to feel more secure and less like little kids being told what to do in a classroom. If you use eLearning, you’ll find a level of engagement you wouldn’t find in a classroom. A full 18% boost in some cases.
While we all want to be lifelong learners, ongoing learning feels like an unattractive option when our learning associations are all about traditional school. Instead, change the script by letting learning be about discovery and your learner’s own pace.
3. Online education encourages self-direction
Classrooms are very guided. Unless you flip your classroom, you’ll find the majority of real work takes place outside of the class, while the lecture portion doesn’t allow for much exploration or students taking the lead. See above, adults appreciate autonomy.
And then there’s the other option. eLearning allows adults to make choices and direct their own learning flow, resulting in more self-directed employees.
This point is a perfect marriage of the last two. eLearning students feel more secure and respected, and grow their confidence with online learning methods, leading to happier, more autonomous employees as a whole.
4. Reference points are way easier
Let’s say you run an industrial materials warehouse. Your staff are presented with a continued education course on workplace safety. The course is required for your continued certification, and you have two ways to go about it: a traditional class with a hired teacher, or a digital class employees could complete online or on their smartphones. Either way, the certification remains the same, as does the content. Right now, the choice seems more about style than anything else.
Fast forward to a month after the course is completed. There’s a hazardous chemical spill in your warehouse. Nobody is hurt, but you’ve got a problem. Your staff remembers that standards have changed in disposing of certain related compounds, but can’t remember quite how to go about it.
Which is easier: your employees go to the break room, search for the binder of course materials, flip through looking for the page with the information they need, potentially wasting precious minutes they could have spent fixing the problem… or your employee pulls a smartphone from his pocket, taps the course app, and uses a search function to take him directly to the paragraph he needs to check?
When all of your course materials are online or mobile-optimized, it’s much easier to find relevant information quickly and easily in an emergency situation.
5. The bottom line is unbeatable
When I was attending school online, we would refer to traditional schooling methods as “brick and mortar.” This was an important distinction because it meant they weren’t more normal or typical than us, they were just physical.
My school received the same funding as any other public school (since that’s what we were and the curriculum we followed), but could invest it all into excellent software, happy instructors, and great course content, rather than putting it towards physicals needs. We didn’t have buildings to maintain, classrooms to heat, or books to buy. Without the brick and mortar, all we needed to worry about was making our digital materials as wonderful as possible.
Business eLearning can find the same bottom-line advantage. eLearning saves you from having paper and ink to print, physical manuals to distribute, meals and gas to compensate, and lost work hours to cover. You get exactly what you pay for: the content itself. Everything else gets to be huge savings.
In addition, the lack of paper, ink, and carbon is much greener. You’re saving your budget and the planet, what’s not to love?
What advantages of eLearning speak to you?
eLearning is a unique medium with unique advantages. All you need to make it work is quality content and a great learning management system, and you’re on your way.
Have you found unique advantages of eLearning? Tell me about them in the comments below, and subscribe to my blog for more eLearning info.
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