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5 reasons why Online Content Learning is the new thing

The biggest advantages of digital learning remains convenience and reach.

April 16, 2020 / 07:51 PM IST

Srinivasa Addepalli

Coronavirus has done to the education sector what years of technology advancement could not do: moved all learning online. Whether it is school students solving mathematics problems or college groups debating global politics or corporate professionals engaging in new ways of selling, everything is now e-learning. Not that it has emerged overnight, it was always around, in the wings, at best a supplement to the real deal, i.e. the classroom.

In my experience as a learning facilitator, the biggest challenge we face in a classroom of 30 to 60 unique individuals, is that we design our content to an assumed average. Learning styles vary but teaching styles do not; we end up boring some students whereas others feel lost. In a 75 minutes session, we can have good interactions with a dozen students, at most. At the end of the course or a workshop, we have a vague sense of who has actually learned or not. Quizzes, assignments, and exams are designed to grade and distribute students, not to help enhance retrieval and retention of content.

Online learning can overcome all these issues. But most often it does not. What mostly passes off as e-learning is videos of classroom sessions, uploaded to a portal, along with a few quizzes and assignments. Digital learning has been positioned as the poor cousin of a classroom program, and therefore, priced very cheap or even, free. Completion rates, therefore, are in low single digits.

There are five reasons and ways online learning can be superior to the classroom counterpart. Obviously, digital learning provides many advantages, convenience and reach being the primary ones. Digital helps learners transcend the barriers of time and distance/location; it also expands the size of the classroom infinitely. Just these two create significant economic advantages to adopting digital learning. But the benefits of digital learning over the classroom don’t stop here.

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First, and without any doubt, digital learning provides the advantage of convenience and reach. It helps learners transcend the barriers of time and distance/location; it also expands the size of the classroom infinitely. Just this creates significant economic advantages to the adoption of digital learning.

Second, digital content can adapt to context. Imagine a student can choose content that is most relevant or suited to her. Or even, a suitable, personalized learning journey is designed by AI and offered to each student. Each lesson could feel like a private conversation between the facilitator and the learner. Online learning offers an opportunity for teachers or lecturers to become true facilitators of learning.

Third, content can be built to cater to multiple learning styles. Interactive videos, live video sessions, written notes, simulations, discussion boards, and contests/challenges are some of the methods. While these are also possible in the classroom, the limitations of time and often, logistics challenges, prevent these methods from being used effectively.

Fourth, individual tracking and reporting can be used to ensure that every student completes the learning journey. Through appropriate nudges and personalized notifications, we convert the class into a personal tutoring environment. Our goal is not to pass some and fail others, it is to ensure that everyone learns and passes.

Finally, digital learning can enhance the diversity of the classroom and actually improve collaboration through conversations. Without the pressure of physical presence, we can encourage an interesting mix of student participation. We have also observed that the level of comments or questions asked is far greater during online sessions and learning social networks than in the classroom.

For many who are used to the traditional mode of regurgitating their lectures repeatedly in a classroom, all this may sound like an unbearable burden. That’s a product-centric view, treating teaching like a scripted stage act that is performed repeatedly, irrespective of the audience. On the other hand, we can take a customer-centric view and put each learner at the heart of our offering, to deliver the desired value of learning.

In my change model for the Isolation Economy, I refer to forced experimentation that is producing favourable experiences. Schools, colleges, corporates, and consulting firms have been forced to rethink the way education is designed and delivered. This is a great opportunity to obtain interesting insights into behavior, of teachers and students. Equally, many new products are being tested. There couldn’t be more exciting times for the education market.

As the lockdown continues, and we fear its recurrence, some of the changes will become permanent. Disruption of the education sector has finally begun.

The author is the founder & CEO of GlobalGyan, an ed-tech firm that assists students and managers build their careers.
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first published: Apr 16, 2020 07:50 pm