How to create a world-class online learning experience

StrategyOctober 9th, 2020

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The University of Cambridge has announced that it will be holding lectures online until mid-2021 and in the face of Covid-19, online learning has become crucial for lecturers and students alike. As we face a remote winter, Beyond asked the experts to share their top five tips on creating an unrivalled digital learning environment.

Fostering interactive activities in lieu of in-person training     

 “Just as in-person training can be boring, online learning can be interactive. People prefer in-person training because it’s more familiar, therefore more comfortable and it’s easier to focus when the physical environment limits distractions. However, anyone that’s sat through a two-hour lecture knows that “in-person” doesn’t necessarily mean interactive. Similarly, online training can be a lecture-style information dump or it can engage the learner in active mental processing. The key is to create interactions that directly support the learning objectives. These include practice exercises that mimic the real-world application or scenario-based questions that invite the learner to apply what they learned to a realistic situation. It is mental, not physical engagement that matters. Clicking a “Next” button doesn’t count.”           

Kristen Casalenuovo, Partner Education Marketing Manager, Snap

Learning outcomes

“The move to online learning presents a fresh opportunity for universities to emphasise higher level learning outcomes—that is, to focus on what students are expected to be able to accomplish, not just recall, at the end of instruction.

“The education technology world does this particularly well, as learning products typically only earn their worth when they help people accomplish their goals. These products' curricula are online- (often, mobile-) first, centered on hands-on practice, and powered by data-rich technology. By doing something similar, universities could foster a meaningful shift from test scores to the application of learned principles.”

Jarrod Tredway, Director, Beyond

Communities 

“While e-learning has the advantage of reaching more learners with on-demand accessibility, learners can often feel isolated and, over time, feel disengaged from learning. A common cause for this is the lack of interactivity with peers and instructors.

“There are some simple and effective ways to create collaborative and interactive learning environments online, including tools like interactive videos, activity-based learning, and virtual break out groups. If you really want to engage a learner with a video, make it an interactive one. Watching a video can be passive, but asking the learner to answer questions at various points in the video can keep viewers engaged.

“Activity-based learning is another way to make e-learning more interactive and lead to higher pass rates. This can be done with simple click and match exercises or by asking learners to test what they’ve learned outside the platform (e.g. in a product sandbox or offline with a peer).

“Lastly, live webinars with smaller breakout groups are a way to facilitate collaboration and community through real-time conversations. Peers are able to share ideas, work on team projects and even reinforce their own learning by teaching a concept to others.”

Marian Valia, Senior Manager, Mailchimp Academy

Using modern platforms to track progress

“Just like hours worked don’t always equate to employee productivity, hours trained don’t always equate to learner progress. The ultimate goal of training is for learners to improve their performance in a way that is valuable to themselves and their organisations. The value of learning is what happens afterwards. Modern platforms that excel in tracking progress enable measurement of both on-the-job performance and learning activity. Only by combining these two measurements can organisations truly evaluate the effectiveness of training.”

Kristen Casalenuovo, Partner Education Marketing Manager, Snap

Personalization

"We often hear about personalization tactics in a buying or advertising context, but the same principles apply to the world of education. Online learning makes tailoring content to specific needs exponentially more scalable, as data can be more easily gathered on how students engage with lessons, how much time they're spending, and where they may need additional help.

“By allowing for some degree of self-discovery across their curriculums, university faculty could actually begin to allow their students to build bespoke learning paths from a common library of content. And, they can do so in a way that embraces the uniqueness of screen-centric learning but still supports teaching goals."

Jarrod Tredway, Director, Beyond