Back to Basics: The Benefits of Online Learning
Elearning can consist of different content available on the internet. The most common learning sources are courses, texts, audio files, videos, and also forums. While traditional face-to-face learning is usually generalised and conducted with groups in classroom or business meeting settings, online learning can be unique and tailored for individual learners.
The Benefits of Online Learning
There are many advantages that come with eLearning. Here is a list of the most valuable online learning benefits for individual learners, along with challenges that may come with online learning so you can be better prepared to adapt to the online learning experience.
1. Independence & Flexibility
The most essential advantage of learning online is that people are no longer bound to fixed times or places. You can learn at work, from home, or on the go, as long as you have your smartphone and a stable internet connection.
Flexibility is especially helpful for people who have busy schedules. They can use microlearning and short videos to improve their knowledge and skills during short work breaks, when travelling or while having their morning coffee.
Seminars are still a learning option, but those require extensive planning and they can have weeklong durations. They often contain an overload of information that is not needed for everyone who is participating.
Moving to eLearning can save time, money, and it can happen at the exact moment the need for information arises.
Learning can be personalised for each individual to fit their learning needs. This means you can watch videos again and again if you didn’t understand something. You can read a text multiple times and take as much time as you need without feeling guilty for slowing down the whole class. This includes being faster, avoiding the wait for slower learners.
You can choose the content you like, the medium you prefer, and the time of day you learn best. It doesn’t matter if you learn in the office, at home, in public transit, on a computer, or with your smartphone. Elearning can be exactly what you want it to be, making sure you get the best possible results.
With modern learning solutions, you can provide your skill levels and goals, so the software provides you with content recommendations best suited to your needs.
3. A Medium for every Type of Learner
Not everybody learns the same way. There are different kinds of people out there, and not everybody benefits from sitting in a classroom with 20 other people to consume a lesson. Some visual learners learn best by reading texts or watching videos. Others prefer the audible part of it by listening to someone speak, consuming videos and audio files.
Many of us can better retain knowledge after applying it in the form of a quiz, a task, or a specific assignment. Being part of a group can also benefit some learners who like to associate certain knowledge with situations, people, or experiences.
Online learning offers most of those formats for almost every imaginable topic. This enables us to learn whatever we want in the way that is best suited for us. We can read, watch, listen to, and collaborate on anything at any time in an environment or setting of our choosing. This freedom of choice is the foundation for implementing learning into our everyday lives.
The internet has limitless possibilities to offer, one of which is the ability to connect. This does not only involve people but also content.
Most articles, videos, or audio files provide links to more information, follow-up content, and more details. This enables us to learn in any order and with as much detail as we want to. It also allows us to learn in much more efficient ways by utilising links to move from one topic to another without searching for everything manually.
Online courses use this advantage to create learning paths that lead you through a preset set of content you need to learn to achieve a specific goal. This is much more efficient than random web searches.
Instead of following a seminar schedule with others, you can go through a learning path at your own pace and even decide how much detail you want to explore. Especially for corporate learning, this way of learning offers substantial time savings by improving efficiency.
5. Get in Touch with People Everywhere
Although online learning happens alone, that doesn’t necessarily mean there are no human interactions involved. Social learning also happens online.
Instead of being limited to the people in the same room as you, you can get in touch with everybody from all over the world to collaborate in learning. Whatever topic you try to learn, there are many people who know about it and are eager to exchange thoughts and ideas.
Forums, chats, emails, and video calls are just some of the many ways you can use to expand your learning to involve the expertise or creativity of others.
In many ways, this kind of social collaboration is more effective than resorting to your direct surroundings. It allows you to look beyond your limits and get new ideas when talking to people outside of your network.
The world is full of people with valuable skills. Interacting with others can open your mind to all kinds of new possibilities even before starting to talk about a learning topic.
6. The Knowledge of the World in our Hands
If we learn in a group, a seminar, or in a work environment, we can only learn what is offered to us. Some of the in-person learning topics are of no use for us, while others are valuable but limited in detail. Especially things like corporate blindness and a lack of innovation can be roadblocks to learning internally.
When we go for online learning, the amount of information is limitless. There are many providers that offer professional online courses with video platforms, audio platforms, forums and articles about a variety of topics. Nowadays, we have access to all the knowledge in the world, any time, any place.
With this vastness of information out there, we can learn whatever we want or need to learn while being open to new ideas. Especially in the context of work, most fields of learning keep evolving. New technologies, inventions, concepts and innovations arise daily.
Only the internet can keep up with everything and direct this information to us. With the constant evolution of technology, we can learn things today that we couldn’t have imagined yesterday. If we were stuck with physical classrooms and trainers, we would never know about all the new developments outside our small world.
7. Power of Measuring
While seminars and in-house training are usually longer and provide an abundance of information in a short time, it is nearly impossible to check if the participants actually learned something or if they are able to apply the new knowledge in their daily work.
The only ways to measure this would be assessments during the seminars, confirmation of participation, and perhaps a self-assessment a few weeks later. However, none of those are really helpful in determining how valuable the seminar has been.
eLearning opens a huge set of new ways to measure the progress of every learner. Starting with the good, old-fashioned SCORM-packages, all the way to the new xAPI standard, there are many ways you can now track and measure completed lessons, test scores, repetitions, skill levels, personal goals, and much more.
Using a modern Learning Record Store can keep track of skill gaps and more. This helps companies see the actual value of their training and correlations to business KPIs. Using this technology gives you the power to utilise learning more effectively and in the right direction.
Like with all things in life, even eLearning has challenges you may encounter at some point. We would like to mention some of the most common ones to ensure we all can avoid unfavourable situations.
1. Overload of Information & Sources
As valuable and helpful it may be to have all the information in the world at our disposal, it can also become too much. There is so much information available on the internet, and it is hard to know what to look for.
Every topic is covered on thousands of websites - with varying quality of content. Depending on the required level of knowledge you need, there are different sources you should look for; from scientific papers or just random blogs.
Knowing where to find the right amount of information is the key to successful learning online. An excellent source for learning is, for example, LinkedIn Learning.
The internet offers a place for everyone, giving them a voice and a home for their words to be found. However, not every content creator out there has the necessary qualifications to provide reliable information for others.
Misinformation is a rising threat to knowledge-thirsty web users. If a text is written with enough honesty, in an objective tone, and with convincing words, it can easily be taken seriously, even though it is not valuable.
If you are checking the internet for learning materials, you should always make sure you are looking in the right places with a reputation for high-quality content.
2. Data Security
If you’re browsing the web privately, this is not as much of a concern as when you’re doing it on the job. Using a company-owned computer and the company network to go online, there is a steady connection of all the critical systems and the world wide web.
Hackers and computer viruses may use this connection to gain access to sensitive files or systems. If you’re learning online, make sure you have high-quality protection software available.
There is also the threat of human unawareness. Even if your systems and internet connection are perfectly safe, it is possible to be tricked into giving away sensitive company information.
Especially when you are participating in expert discussions in forums, you may get caught up in the chat and provide some intel to others that were not meant to be shared outside your organisation.
Make sure you keep in mind that you are not inside your organisation while using the internet for learning purposes. Using a modern learning solution that allows integration of web sources may be a great way to avoid many of the pitfalls that may come with random web research.
3. Lack of Practice
As for regular seminars, there is also the same challenge to ensure the transferred knowledge is used in practice. Unlike some offline learning methods, eLearning is all theoretical learning that cannot be applied in the real process.
It can be assessed, tested, and repeated, but we can’t guarantee that the knowledge is retained and used. With modern learning solutions like Valamis, you can reassess certain lessons using reminder lessons, quizzes, and other forms of self-assessment.
Although there are little options to actually measure the added value of newly learned knowledge in practice directly, there are ways to use a learning ecosystem to see correlations between business KPIs and learning content. This way, you will be able to see the impact of learning and the content that is working.
People in a seminar room tend to get distracted after listening for a while. Due to the lack of possible alternatives, people usually still keep listening to the trainer. In eLearning, this depends on the medium you use.
Searching for information on the internet provides limitless possibilities for distractions, especially on video platforms that offer millions of clips that may seem more inviting than the actual learning topic.
You need to make sure that your learners know the benefits of learning something to increase their resilience. If you use a learning solution that integrates external sources, the distractions can be reduced drastically.
The movement to online learning has let many seminar providers and universities fearful of becoming outdated and one day be replaced. Although, there are still many people who prefer learning in a group with a trainer and applying the information right away.
Topics that focus on social behaviour, such as rhetorics or leadership, are best learned in person by seeing and imitating. Other topics, especially theoretical ones, can be learned much faster online, using every available medium to be as versatile as the learners.
Contrary to the fears of many, there is room and the need for both forms of learning.
For this reason, learning platforms like Valamis are capable of including seminars and events in learning paths, and courses so that you can mix all different types of learning into one flexible package. With such solutions, you can be sure to provide the best of both worlds to your learners to reach the maximum learning impact while being future-proof.