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Is online learning effective?

With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the role of technology in lear­ning has dramatically increased. Though we are in a community quarantine, some economic activities are still ongoing and will resume in earnest, eventually. And even if many are wor­king from home, employees still need to be continuously trained to perform well on their job especially with the forthcoming “new normal.” Lately, we have observed the proliferation of online webinars. But how effective are they?

We asked Jeff Chua, an entrepreneur and also a corporate trainer of Inquirer Aca­demy, for some of his thoughts on how effective online learning could be, and what we should look for in choosing the best option for ourselves and our employees.

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Technology has come a long way and has drama­tically changed the way we do training. Since the 1970s, corporations have been embracing technology for learning. Video-based training was followed quickly by compu­ter-based training. And now, web-based training has become a significant part of the lear­ning strategy of most major businesses and some smaller companies as well. Most of the modern approaches to the use of learning technology are combined into a broad category commonly referred to as “e-learning.” Many still have the misconception that online learning is boring and ineffective, but it can also be enga­ging and results-oriented.

There are clear cost savings associated with e-learning, but common criticisms include nonengaging content, static interface and low interactivity. This has led some companies to conclude that online training is inferior to face-to-face training. The success of online training in terms of achieving learning goals lies in the design of the training. Well-designed and interactive e-learning can achieve the same (or even better) results in learning effectiveness.

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1) Right content. Training must use the right content. This means that the information to be shared is accurate, relevant, complete and interesting for the target learners.

Right content can be achieved through a needs assessment. Assessing what are the learning outcomes needed or concepts or skills that the learners must know or acquire in order to improve on a particular task or job.

2) Active learning. With advances in technology, this is now possible. Making the course truly interactive is a hallmark of an excellent online learning. Training is not filling the learner’s mind with content. More time should be devoted in igniting the creativity, imagination and problem solving of the learners by engaging them. We do that through active learning.

Even through online, the instructor can still design activities like well-thought out knowledge quizzes to complex simulations, and group discussion where learners can discuss and assimilate the concepts and reflect how they can apply it back on the job. With active learning, the instructor can also immediately provide feedback that can confirm understanding of the learner or help assist the learners in understanding the concepts.

3) Useful on the job. Design of the course should allow learners to easily refer back to specific, application-oriented parts of it once back on the job. This is where an available instructor online plays a crucial role. He/she provides timely feedback or context on how the concepts, skills or learnings can be applied back on the job.

The requisite skills or know­ledge address the learning needs that came out from the needs assessment. The instructor can also provide job aids and other tools to remind the learners once the training has ended.

In conclusion, research tells us that technology is a great enabler to achieve training efficiency. However, how the training is designed makes the difference in learning effectiveness, which is the primary goal. What this means is whether you choose a face-to-face training or an online training is based on the situation (i.e. certain team building activities may be more effective if done face-to-face) and need of the learner (i.e. lack of time to travel, lessen cost, etc.). INQ

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For more information about the schedule of online courses offered by Inquirer Academy or if you would like to add your input on the article, please email [email protected], or call (0945) 2158935 and look for Jerald Miguel.

The author is the Executive Director of the Inquirer Academy.

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