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Help! Answering the cry of ‘eLearners’

Written By Shalini Merugu

Help! Answering the cry of 'eLearners'

Adult learning is based on the principle of the self-starting, self-directed, self-motivated, autonomous learner who accepts responsibility for his own learning and can manage his own learning effectively. In reality, for many learners ‘self-managed’ could sound a bit scary, given that in the past, our educational system put the learning controls firmly in the hands of instructors. This, coupled with instructor led training experiences in the corporate world could have sometimes unknowingly fostered the belief that unless an instructor tells you what to learn and handholds you through the process, learning is difficult. This is a dangerous belief of course, because with employees facing new challenges constantly, they can’t afford to wait for someone to tell them how to do something and when. The controls of learning have to shift back into the hands of the learner.

Even ‘Self – managed’ Calls for Support!

As far as eLearning is concerned, it might take a while for learners to make the paradigm shift that eLearning requires for them to be truly in charge of their own learning. So how do you handle learners’ fears and concerns on being self-directed and self-motivated and self-disciplined? For your eLearning initiative to be successful, you need to assure learners that they are not being thrown in at the deep end to fend for themselves. Right at the outset, let them know what kind of support systems have been set up to help them adopt eLearning successfully. In this post, I’m going to cover a few basic ways of providing support.

Support Strategy: Develop a well-thought-out support strategy. Have a dedicated helpdesk to help first time adopters of eLearning with their queries. If a learner has a technical problem that doesn’t get resolved, they are less likely to continue with e-learning as a form of training. Provide learners with mail Ids and numbers they can call in case they run into technical issues with their eLearning experience (sometimes, something as simple as dialing into a virtual training session can turn into a nightmare for learners who are new to it).

Discussion Forums and Access to Experts: When deploying eLearning courses (especially for the very first time), you could provide support in the form of a discussion forum, linked to the specific courses. This discussion could have a time frame during which you encourage learners to post their questions and get inputs from other learners as well. Have the discussion facilitated by a SME to help learners with responses or direct them to additional resources for learning. Make mail IDs or numbers of the SMEs available.

eLearning Kits: Another way of providing support for first-time users is through eLearning kits – When BMW rolled out its mandatory Business ethics course for the first time, it did just that. Their kit contained headphones for the session, directions for accessing the course, a bright signboard that said ‘eLearning in progress’, a learning contract that stated that the course was in line with the learning objectives established for the year and that interruptions would be kept to a minimum while attending an online session. While these sound like simple things to do, the impact they had was significant.

Technology Support and Options: And then of course there are issues of ensuring that technology behaves as it is expected to. If your organization is known for its notoriously slow network most times, eLearning may not go down well with employees already frustrated with connectivity and speed issues. Make sure your eLearning labs provide a hassle-free experience – this will keep learners coming back.

Also, if a sizeable chunk of your employees take courses from home and lack high-speed connectivity, you could provide them the options of taking courses offline, followed by online assessments which they could take connected from the office. Explore all available options and communicate these to employees so that their fears are addressed.

View E-book on E-learning 101: A Beginner's Guide to Understanding What E-learning is About

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  • Hi There
    I like the advice you give here, very sensible and practical. The issue of the learning journey that a first time eLearner has to make is one that I have thought and written about quite a bit. Making the transition from tradtional forms of teaching and learning does require a paradigm shift on the part of the learner as they engage with multiple learning curves and re-forming mental models of what it is to be a learner in the digital world all at the same time. All of which can lead to what is called cognitive overload, and may be one of the primary reasons for dropping out of online courses.

    Here’s a link to a paper I wrote on the topic “Early Attrition among First Time eLearners: A Review of Factors that Contribute to Drop-out, Withdrawal and Non-completion Rates of Adult Learners undertaking eLearning Programmes”,http://jolt.merlot.org/Vol2_No2_TylerSmith.htm

    Cheers

    Keith Tyler-Smith

  • M.Shalini

    Thanks Keith. Glad you liked this post. Also, thanks for sharing the paper you wrote. It does provide valuable inputs on learner attrition. I think the strong theoretical framework you have provided gives great insights into learner motivations and cognitive overload.

    Cheers!

  • I fancied what must be the maximum, unequaled blog post I have read in years.