Just How Successful is eLearning?
Are you happy with how your online courses are going? The recent months have been a steep learning curve for educators. It has been a challenge to keep online classes running, let alone pursue the excellence that is your usual goal.
Still, setting high goals is essential for the success of online learning. Anybody can record a simple video or broadcast a live lecture online these days. But it takes focus and imagination to provide a quality learning experience and draw the best out of your students.
Even with good intentions and great tech, teachers and students still worry that online courses are not effective. Could they be right? And if not, what does it take to build a successful eLearning strategy?
Defining Successful eLearning
A more pertinent way to state our headline question might be: how successful is your eLearning delivery?
First off, it depends on your definition of success. Metrics for success include:
- Engagement: In one survey, 40 percent of students reported being bored with their eLearning experiences. Engagement is a drawbridge for learning. Without it, nobody learns anything.
- Access: Online learning improves access to education for learners whose disability, finances, or location limit their options. However, computer anxiety or lack of access to computers can limit opportunity and engagement.
- Cost: One study found that costs are 15-19 percent lower for schools delivering blended learning and 79-81 percent lower for purely online classes. Educators can use these supplemental learning resources to offer lower-cost education alternatives to those who need it.
- Results: eLearning grades are strong but not evenly distributed. A Stanford study found that high-performing students excel online, but “lower-performing students performed meaningfully worse in online courses than in in-person courses.”
- Student Satisfaction: Even high-achieving online learners may feel that they are missing the in-person class experience. Teachers can win hearts and minds by developing interactive and collaborative teaching methods.
If all this leaves you confused about whether to continue teaching with eLearning tools, don’t be. The question should not be whether, but how. The good news is that the effectiveness of your online course is in your hands.
Teaching Methods Are More Important than Your Tech Platform
Research on the “success” of online learning has produced mixed results. Some studies report that eLearning is more effective than in-person classes. Others show the opposite. This indicates that different learning providers are achieving different levels of success.
In 2017, Will Thalheimer overviewed dozens of studies into the success of online learning. His conclusion? Teaching technique is more important than whether lessons are delivered online or in-person.
Thalheimer states that “it is NOT whether the modality is eLearning or classroom instruction; the learning methods are what make the difference… The bottom line is that, when more effective learning methods are used, better learning outcomes are achieved.”
eLearning Success is in Your Hands
The biggest issue in online learning isn’t the medium of delivery. It is the failure to realize the promise of that medium. Let’s look at some approaches to ensure the success of your eLearning strategies.
One way to make eLearning proactive is to include an element of gamification. According to one learning management system (LMS) provider, 89 percent of users report higher engagement levels when eLearning apps come with a points system. Competitive elements and a visual sense of progress add to the communal feeling of learning. And taking part in learning is far more effective than passive listening.
Blended Learning and the Flipped Classroom
We know that Will Thalheimer found little difference between the success of online and in-person learning. But he also discovered that blended learning improves on classroom learning. Blended learning means using elements of online and in-person teaching.
According to one study, blended learning improves declarative knowledge by 13 percent and procedural knowledge by 20 percent against a traditional classroom learning experience. Utilize the strengths of both modalities to benefit your students if this is an option for you.
One popular blended learning method is the “flipped classroom.” Using this technique, lectures are delivered online, and homework, discussion, and feedback occur in the classroom.
Captions and Transcription
Some students need captions, transcripts, and other textual aids to get the most from online courses. And most other students will find these resources helpful, too. Dozens of studies have demonstrated how “captioning a video improves comprehension of, attention to, and memory for the video.”
Rev’s Live Captions for Zoom, human captioning services, and transcription services can all boost your eLearning strategy’s success. AI-powered live captions for Zoom help keep students engaged during live-streamed, synchronous learning. Meanwhile, human captioning makes pre-recorded learning content (and recorded live sessions) more accessible. And finally, Rev’s 99 percent accurate transcripts are hugely helpful study aids and supplements to a student’s notes.
Developing Online Study Skills
A facet of teaching that is often overlooked is the development of learning skills. Sure, your eLearning materials may be first-rate. But if your students don’t have remote study skills then their results will suffer.
Home study is most effective when it’s active. It is not enough to sit back in bed and let a video lecture wash over you. Nor is it effective to cram for exams by underlining passages in a textbook or lesson transcript. And discourage procrastination. Higher-performing students approach tasks sooner than lower-performing students.
Supporting your students’ eLearning skills shows that you care and boosts student satisfaction.
Online Learning is What You Make of It
eLearning is not going away. We can expect restrictions on in-person classes long into 2021. And in the longer-term, tech and market forces make eLearning a fact of life. In fact, the market for learning management systems is forecasted to rise from $13.4 billion in 2020 to $25.7 billion in 2025.
Like any form of teaching, the effectiveness of an online class depends on many variables. But, ultimately, the buck stops with the teacher and their institution. Do you teach with the same passion and inventiveness as you would in the classroom? Will your school back you up with the technical infrastructure to make your lessons accessible? Are you making effective use of third-party learning resources?
If you address the known issues of eLearning one by one, there’s no reason you can’t deliver a successful, inspiring learning experience, however far from the classroom you may be.