Since the ascent of e-learning over the past two decades, our attitudes, as well as the quality of e-learning offerings and functionality, have continuously changed and evolved. When e-learning was in its infancy, I admit to having bias against it, based on concerns about quality  I value the type of learning that happens in direct human-to-human conversation, in the live interchange of ideas, in the ignition of inspiration that comes from human interaction. In practical terms, both during undergraduate and graduate studies, this belief in the power of learning from others translated into my taking any and all opportunities to spend time with faculty. It was not just interactions in the classroom; I often took advantage of office hours and took every opportunity to fraternize with faculty.

I grew up in a family where education was revered. My mother, a university professor herself, told me to always rely on myself to seek out knowledge, and to do it actively, rather than passively waiting for someone, be it a teacher or a formal curriculum, to impart it. Now, that advice is, in effect, a promotion for e-learning, which is often presented by the power of search engines. We have information at our fingertips and can learn all we want, at all hours of the day. That said, discerning good content from bad content is an entirely different matter.

I still remember my apprehension when I learned that all the required coursework for earning my association executive certification was online, without any classroom learning. Guess what? That coursework was of excellent quality. Now, if I were to look for any signs of bias in my own thinking toward e-learning, I would be hard-pressed to find any. In fact, I would argue that e-learning is an integral part of learning in all settings, including formal classrooms and corporate training programs, as well as personal development. If anything, we are probably not taking enough advantage of all the e-learning opportunities available. For instance, you don’t have to be a student to learn from brilliant university faculty – all compliments of free e-learning.

Yes, e-learning has come a long way since its inception, and so has my thinking about it. Here are five ways you and your organization can leverage e-learning:

Knowledge Retention

In their book “Make It Stick: the Science of Successful Learning,” Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III and Mark McDaniel argue that frequent repetition of content in small bites enhances and facilitates knowledge retention. Use microlearning to enhance the retention of knowledge learners acquire in instructor-led training sessions.

Continuous Professional Development

New research from Training Industry, Inc. on learner preferences indicates that learners in corporate settings value on-the-job training and coaching. One way managers can make their coaching more effective is to supplement it with e-learning modules related to the areas that they are coaching their employees on.

Continuous Personal Development

We may not notice it, but over time, as we grow professionally, we may unwittingly narrow our circle and areas of personal interest, effectively stifling our ability to innovate. Looking outside the proverbial box is critical to driving effective change and innovation. Challenge yourself to diversify your personal interests, and you will find breakthrough solutions professionally. Force yourself to expand your horizons by going outside your personal comfort zone. E-learning can come in handy here as a starting place for, say, checking out content on fly-fishing or traveling to a country that you have no previous interest in.

Compliance Training

Done right, compliance training that leverages e-learning also protects the organization on a variety of levels. Specifically, it can track whether learners have completed required training and if they need refreshers, assess the effectiveness of training, and provide the organization with documentation of meeting the compliance training requirements.

Diving into Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Both AR and VR are here, and embracing them as part of e-learning offerings will allow organizations to create immersive learning experiences. For instance, South Korea and Japan have widely used AR and VR in museum exhibits and other consumer experiences over the past five years. On the corporate training front, embracing AR and VR will give companies an edge over competitors.

E-learning is here to stay, and we should embrace it as it changes and evolves. One thing we should leave unchanged, however, is our expectations of maintaining quality standards and driving continuous improvements.

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