Online courses are an integral part of the educational development for both children and adults, but what significance will e-learning hold in the future of education? There is no concrete answer to this question, however the trends are indicating that it will become more and more important. So, how do we see e-learning shaping the future of education?

One big piece of evidence that e-learning will prevail in the future is the fact that established universities that are perceived as pillars of high-quality education, such as Harvard, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale, etc., started offering online courses both for credit and for free.

Another significant advantage of e-learning is that it allows access to quality education to people living in remote areas, who couldn’t otherwise improve their skills. Online courses are also a great opportunity for children in less developed countries to receive an education and significantly improve their quality of life.

So, what is necessary for e-learning to establish itself as the future of education and what elements of the courses at a bricks-and-mortar institution still manage to attract learners? We can look for the answer in reviewing different forms of learning that are still used today: instructor-led training, blended learning, and the modern forms of e-learning.

Instructor-Led Training VS E-Learning: Pros and Cons

The instructor-led training (ILT) is the form of education that we are all familiar with. It involves an instructor delivering new knowledge and skills to a group of learners or to an individual. The learning takes place at a special place and time. It can be in the form of a lecture delivered by the instructor to a large audience or a workshop that involves less participants but allows more interaction between them and the instructor. In such smaller environments the instructor plays the role more of a facilitator and encourages peer discussions.

ILT has been and still is the predominant form of company training as well, even though many businesses are turning to e-learning in the recent years. Let’s have a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of ILT compared to online training:

Advantages of ILT

More adaptive – unlike the e-learning course, which is prepared in advance and distributed to all participants in the training, face-to-face learning with an instructor is easier to adapt. The instructor can change some of the content or the tools to present it depending on the group they are interacting with. Some of the roles that the instructor plays in the learning environment include answering questions, giving additional guidance and clarification whenever needed, demonstrating more complex ideas and concept, rectifying misconceptions. The instructor can change the pace and intensity of the training if they notice that the learners are losing their momentum. The instructor can also pay special attention to someone who has particular struggles with a given material. ILT is very beneficial especially when the subject matter is more complicated.

  • Focuses on personal interaction and social connections – the biggest advantage of ILT is the personal interaction and the possibility to meet new people and bond with them. This can be a better equivalent of the modern social media, where you connect with people who share the same interests or have the same needs. It can even be compared to a form of a team-building event. The colleagues are faced with learning the same things and solving the given tasks together, which improves their collaborative skills in addition to acquiring new knowledge.
  • Efficient to deliver information – ILT allows for real-time feedback, discussions, questions and answers. It makes the delivery of the new concepts and ideas more efficient since the participants are able to clarify any misunderstanding on the spot, rather than having to wait for clarifications at a later point as it may be the case with online training.
  • Easier to enforce – since ILT is related with specific venue and time, it is more organized as an event and the participants feel the responsibility of attending it. Sometimes, an online course can be perceived as a less important form of training that is not mandatory to complete. All the effort and preparation of bringing an instructor and booking a venue at a time that facilitates all participants did not go unnoticed, unlike the online training, which seems as no fuss to organize (which is far from the truth).

Disadvantages of ILT

Higher costs – organizing ILT entails more cost for the company since it involves, paying the instructor, booking a venue and paying rent (unless it is on the company’s own premises), covering travel and accommodation costs, providing food and refreshment for the participants. It also takes time to organize the logistics around the event. And you have to perform this exercise every time a new training is needed.

  • Limited number of learners – no matter how big a hall you rent, it can only sit a certain number of people. Therefore, the number of learners is limited and you may need to organize two or three sessions if you need to train a significant number of employees. This, of course, also entails more cost.
  • Restrictive for the participants – ILT is perceived as restrictive by the learners, since they have to follow the pace and organization enforced by the instructor. This training lacks the flexibility of the online course, where the learner determines when and what to learn.
  • Depending on the teaching qualities of the instructor – the personal qualities of the instructor are very important to the end result of the ILT. An experienced instructor with the proper approach knows how to present even the most complex ideas in a simple and understandable way. This means, that you cannot expect the same results from the training every time especially if you use different instructors.

Recently, ILT is being optimized with the means of educational technology. It is now popular to hold webinars through a virtual classroom, which cuts on travel and accommodation expenses, while still allows for personal interaction and discussions. This form of learning is referred to as virtual instructor-led training.

There is also the possibility, that your company is willing to embrace the more innovative approach of e-learning and convert its ILT into online courses.

Blended-Learning: A Successful Combination of Instructor-Led and Online Training

Blended learning combines instructional models with efficient usage of online technology to create a better and more engaging experience for the learner. It is a diversified approach to learning that is successfully implemented in schools, universities and other educational institutions, as well as by businesses for employee trainings. Here is what you need to know about blended learning.

The concept of blended learning

Basically, blended learning combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both the instructor and the learners at one and the same place and thus it resembles the approach of the traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. The innovative thing is that it includes online learning with some control over the pace and time exercised by the learner.

The concept of blended learning actually developed back in the 1960s under the term “technology-based learning.” Mainframes and mini-computers were used to substitute the pure instructor-led training. One of the systems used was PLATO that was developed by the University of Illinois and Control Data. It offered a great diversity of coursework starting from elementary to college level. The mainframe-based training had some limitations and was substituted by satellite-based live video in the next decade. One of the advantages of this training was that it could be used by people who were not so familiar with computers.

Despite its long history, the term blended-learning actually appeared towards the end of the 1990s. Now, there are some other terms used to designate this form of education –  hybrid learning, technology-mediated instruction, web-enhanced instruction, and mixed-mode instruction.

Benefits of blended learning for schools

One of the places where blended learning is quite successful is the school. In their video “The Basics of Blended Learning” Education Elements share their experience of how this approach improves the results and inspires school children to learn. Here are some of their findings:

Benefits of blended learning

Better and deeper understanding of concepts when offering the kids personal learning plans, guided practice, and inquiry-based teaching instead of the traditional group approach. The teachers also share that they can focus on the depth and application of concepts. The three main advantages can be summarized as:

  • Students get individualized, self-paced instruction
  • Teachers can provide differentiated small group instruction based upon weekly or daily data
  • Schools can operate at a much lower cost per pupil and reallocate resources

The overall conclusion is that blended learning gives students more control over their learning and allows for more targeted instruction.

Results of blended learning

After implementing the blended learning approach for some time both teachers and students were able to identify the positive results. The main ones included:

  • Students are more engaged using online content versus pen and paper practice
  • Students get real-time feedback and know where they stand at any time
  • Students control how fast or slow they go through a lesson
  • Teachers noticed that the method is accelerating students’ skills past their usual level
  • Students get experience with the teacher in a small group despite that the class is small
  • Teachers find it easier to plan
  • Teachers share that teaching is more rewarding since the students are more engaged
  • Teachers find that classroom management is easier

Based on the above findings of how blended learning is used in schools, it can be concluded that its implementation in the business environment will also be quite successful. If you want to diversify your company training, the blended approach gives you the right tools to do so. It will make the training much more interesting and appealing for the employees, especially if you translate and localize the e-learning part of it so that it really tells the story in their own language.

Blended learning is also a less expensive option to provide some diversified training for your employees. Having in mind the cost of e-learning development this can be truly the answer for a company that operates on a tight budget.

Attracting the Modern Learner

If you want to provide the best e-learning experience to your learners, regardless if they are pre-school kids, students, employees or curious retired people, you need to take into account the characteristics of the modern learner. So, here is a list of the most important features that define modern learners:

  • They are easily distracted, therefore you need to grab their attention from the very beginning. Including interactive elements, quizzes and videos in your online training will help keep them focused. Microlearning is also a good approach as it presents the new information in short bits.
  • They are socially savvy, which means that they love spending time on social media networks. A good approach in this case is to learn how to use social media as part of your training program.
  • They are curious, which means that they are always in pursuit of new knowledge. The availability of various mobile devices gives the new learners the possibility to learn new things whenever and wherever they want, even when they are on the go. So mobile learning is highly appreciated by them.
  • Last but not least, they are independent and like to have a say in what they learn. This explains why e-learning is the preferred form of learning since they are more or less in charge of the process. The modern learners are motivated to find knowledge and achieve their goals. They want to be able to determine when to complete their modules or what kind of e-learning activity to perform. Therefore, multimedia-based and interactive online courses are their first choice.

Keeping those personality traits in mind, e-learning professionals can develop great online courses regardless of the method they use.

It can be concluded that e-learning has a great role to play in the future of education since it is an attractive form of learning preferred by modern learners. It is flexible and adaptable and offers great possibilities to utilize latest technologies or education trends. Will it replace traditional education? Only time will tell.

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