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Online Learning to the Rescue

Are current events making this the ‘new normal’?

e-learning, online learning

The months of February and March started a major shift for educators within the United States, whether they were prepared or not.

State by state, schools and universities began sending their students home and closing their doors. Students and faculty were faced with a future of uncertainty while the government tried to keep people calm. A major pandemic caused the entire education profession to quickly switch to online learning and webinar-style delivery methods of content. 

As you can imagine, vocational training and certification programs are quickly being woven into the online learning world as well. This is the perfect time to understand the multiple types of online learning programs that exist and how you can effectively use them in your business now.

Let’s agree that the most important resource we all have is time. Simply put, we don’t have much of it as we all need to do more with less in today’s world. Further, what would happen if you don’t allocate your most important resource—time—into your second most important resource—people? There are multiple answers to this question. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Increased liability
  • Increased employee turnover
  • Increased asset damage
  • Increased productivity costs.

This list could become very large, so it is absolutely crucial that you take the time now to make sure that your team is well educated and certified in the programs that are going to help your company become more successful. 

Now that we have established a base of reason, we need to identify some tips and tricks that will help you understand the world of online learning as we know it today and what to expect for the future.

Webinars

Webinars are seminars or sessions that are produced and delivered over the internet. Webinars can be hosted by a single moderator or multiple presenters. Webinars started to find their way into the workplace in the late 1990s and have since become one of the most popular methods to deliver content for educators around the world. Webinars are often confused with online courses, but they are simply online learning opportunities. We will explain the differences later in this article.

Pros:

  • You can host thousands of individuals on a single webinar and reach a massive amount of people at a single time.
  • You can post a visual representation of the content while a person is speaking.
  • Many viewers appreciate a raw user experience that shows the authenticity and vulnerability of the speaker.

Cons:

  • Webinars are meant for speaking at people as they do not offer a strong interactive experience.
  • A professional webinar requires a lot of prep time and a quiet area to deliver the experience for the viewers.
  • Immediate interaction is difficult.

Tips:

  • Keep webinars extremely short and to the point. Eliminate any “fluff” or unnecessary content that is not relevant to the task at hand for the viewer. Remember, time is your most valuable resource.
  • Always reward your employees for attending webinars with continuing education credits and measure their success. Adults like to be competitive and show their work.

Asynchronous online courses

As more companies move to online learning, asynchronous online courses are very popular. These prerecorded, prebuilt courses are self-paced, allowing the learner to take the course during the allocated time set by an employer.

Pros:

  • Employers can manage the learning experience for their team through a learning management system (LMS).
  • The learning can easily be data-driven by quality checks within the facility or organization. If you see trends in outcomes from your workforce, you can focus the learning on those topics.
  • Courses can include interactive user experiences including quizzes, knowledge checks, click & drags, and videos.

Cons:

  • Building a course is time-consuming and can cost an exorbitant amount of money based on the complexity of the course.
  • You will need access to subject matter experts that can work in tandem to create the course.

Tips:

  • Consider both micro and macro learning experiences for your courses. Attention spans are short so you should not overload your employees.
  • Put your courses into a “preventative maintenance” schedule to ensure that all your content is updated on a consistent basis and meets learning standards. 

Synchronous online courses

Synchronous courses are a style of online learning in which the instructor is live with students on the same platform. It is very interactive, allowing participants to ask questions or even take performance-based tests. This type of online learning blended with asynchronous courses is a great way to achieve success with vocational training programs.

Pros:

  • The courses provide an enhanced user experience and keep individuals using technology in a social setting.
  • Instructors can see any “hands-on” tasks that need to be completed to achieve certification or credentials.

Cons:

  • Students must meet on the platform at a specific time and can’t study at their own pace.
  • As there is no ability to perfect a presentation through recording, this can cause anxiety if the speaker is not prepared.

Tips:

  • Begin blending asynchronous and synchronous courses together. The more interaction and proof of concept on any vocational skills, the better.
  • Purchase high-level equipment and confirm that you have a strong internet connection that will not be compromised during your session.

What will we see tomorrow?

After the pandemic fades and people regain confidence in their daily routines, in-person training will make a comeback as people crave physical workshops and seminars. The new reality is that online learning has changed the game forever. Any company or individual can find content online for free, but you must confirm that you can trust the source and that the quality of the content is high.

Moving forward both in education and vocational studies, the landscape of online learning will become more dynamic and competitive. Purchase costs will eventually scale down for online courses. In higher education, we are already seeing universities compete heavily and drive price points down. You must set yourself apart from the competition. 

Tips:

  • Partner with online learning providers that provide globally recognized certifications and credentials.
  • Partner with online learning providers that can capture your company’s specific needs and design your online portal to your demands.

Technology exists that allows your employees to access online learning on their cell phones while at a work location by simply clicking a pre-mounted tag. This application monitors the work they completed, identifies if they are certified, and provides any current education/protocols they need. We are becoming an extremely data-driven industry and moving at speeds much faster than ever before.

Brant Insero

Brant Insero is ISSA director of education, training, certification and standards. He can be reached at brant@issa.com; phone, 847-982-0800.

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