At first glance, an increase of information accessibility and availability may appear to be a positive phenomenon in and of itself. On demand eLearning derives much of its impact from the fact that it scales rapidly and is available precisely at the moment of need, but this is only one half of the full story.
In order for digital learning programs to reach their full potential those involved in crafting their strategies must also consider ways to provide learners with synchronous environments that offer effective forums to receive individualised attention from educators, foster group cohesion, and provide opportunities for peer collaboration.
Proportionately Scale Both the Distribution and Impact of Elearning
Virtual classrooms have come a long way since their inception in terms of both the technology that underpins them and the elearning and instructional design theories that give structure to their environments. While much has been written on ways to broaden the reach of learning through these mediums, a less frequently discussed subject is how to ensure that this increase in reach is accompanied with a proportional amount of individualised attention for learners in this digital first setting.
There is no doubt that scaling personal attention presents a set of obstacles: one can easily imagine a scenario where as more and more learners gain access to educational content and instruction the accompanying need for one-on-one mentorship to adequately support their growth increases at a seemingly unsustainable rate. Avoiding resource under allocation is paramount in ensuring learners feel engaged throughout their experience and are able to internalize and apply the course material at hand.
What is essential is that this challenge be adequately weighed and considered at the onset of any elearning strategy. Responsible educators, and the instructional designers who support them, must understand that staffing adequate training managers and/or teaching assistants, effectively equipping them with best in class tools, and properly enabling them on their use are central in ensuring that success in the form of knowledge retention amoungst student grows at a rate that is proportional to the reach of elearning program’s distribution capabilities.
Generate Data Points That Encourage Iterative Thinking and Demonstrate Program Efficacy
Virtual classrooms can offer a viable way to help solve many of the challenges previously discussed by virtue of the fact that they provide a venue for synchronous interaction between instructors and learners. One-on-one attention inside of them not only increase rates of comprehension and knowledge retention, but can also generate new data-sets and measurement opportunities. A simple example of this would be examining data gathered from individuals within a cohort that attended live office hours or mentoring sessions and analyzing the data around specific activities they engaged in during these sessions. This ultimately presents an opportunity for stakeholders to be better equipped to both bring visibility to their programs and apply improvements rooted in data to their forward looking instructional design strategies.
Looking to the Future
In order for the true potential of digital learning to be achieved it is important that those involved in its design and execution understand that broadening reach without also scaling individualized attention is likely to cause disillusionment and course abandonment amoungst learners. Providing this resource inside of virtual classrooms in small group settings will help distance learners internalize a sense of community with their peers, establish intimacy with the information being studied, and build stronger relationships with the instructors and the organizations responsible for its creation.