Conventional wisdom and online learning

Conventional wisdom and online learning

For those of us who have been involved in online learning for a time, the growing public acceptance of the Web as vital tool for training and learning has been a welcome development.
It’s become conventional wisdom that online learning offers an affordable and effective alternative to traditional classroom education. That wasn’t always a widespread viewpoint.

The benefits of online learning are becoming clearer over time. The U.S. Department of Education recently released a meta-analysis that concluded on average that students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. Further, the study found that online learning represented an effective option for graduate students and professionals in a wide range of academic and professional studies. (You can find the study, in PDF format, here).
The economic downturn has also served to focus attention on online education’s accessibility and affordability. In several cases, MindEdge has been asked to convert classroom training to Web-based programs because of concerns from organizations about the expense and lost time involved in getting employees to-and-from physical training spaces.
Educators, instructors, and trainers need recognize those elements of learning which work best on the Web, and those that are best suited in person.

Educators, instructors, and trainers need recognize those elements of learning which work best on the Web, and those that are best suited in person.

For example, we sometimes forget that the average instructor speaks at about 120 words per minute, while the average student/learner writes only 20 words per minute—which means a Hobson’s choice for the student of listening or taking notes. Lectures can be translated into much more learner-friendly mixed-media online presentations with transcripts and outlines to enable note-taking.
The key is to engage learners. That’s why we are focusing on developing the tools and techniques that appeal to adult learners, employing simulations, non-fiction graphic techniques like cartoon narratives, video, interactive exercises, and other pedagogically-driven methods. All of this doesn’t have to take place exclusively online. At MindEdge, we have long advocated “blended learning”—that combination of face-to-face and online which marries the human connection of the classroom with the personal accountability of technology-assisted learning.
Jefferson Flanders
President, MindEdge