Online learning and online courses are booming. Especially solopreneurs – new for self-employed – often offer sophisticated sales funnels and online courses as part of their online business.
Some of them are very successful, others are not. And many further education institutes, companies, organizations, universities and schools have also been more or less successful with online courses.
Why online courses still do not work “properly” today
There are numerous economic reasons for the lack of success. In most cases, however, the main reason is that PowerPoint slides and the accompanying spoken text are simply put online. Or simply the lecture itself is filmed for this purpose. The training videos offered are usually relatively long – we are talking about hours (!) – and not very entertaining.
Neither the needs of the participants nor the insights of modern online learning are taken into account. Also the online bonus (interaction, collaboration, gamification etc.) is not used.
But what can you do to enhance the online learning experience?
Make use of microlearning
Due to the overwhelming flood of information, our attention span is decreasing more and more – one study even attributes a lower attention span to us than that of goldfish. It is a fact that seminar participants cannot – or rather do not want to – concentrate on one content for so long.
Especially when learning content is not consumed in the seminar room, but on demand at the workplace or on mobile devices when on the move. There is also the danger of distraction from the actual work, the environment or the device itself: E-mails, messenger apps or social media hold a great potential for distraction.
Of course, the time factor also plays a major role. How much time can or want to invest in further training during work and/or leisure time – especially with regard to the work to be done?
This is also one of the main reasons why many employees are actually at their workplaces during further training measures and thus do not concentrate on the contents.
Sitting for hours in the seminar room and listening to the trainer was yesterday. Today, seminar participants place much higher demands on trainers and seminar design. The seminars must be varied and entertaining.
For online content, the demands and challenges are both greater. The seminar room is a “protected” learning environment where there is relatively little distraction.
For online content, as already mentioned, the risk of distraction is much higher.
Added to this is the distraction of the environment itself. Thus, it requires a high degree of personal responsibility to consistently work through online learning content.
In the case of face-to-face seminars and online content, we have to make sure that the participants stay on the right track – i.e. with us – and do not allow themselves to be distracted by a varied seminar design.
Games – Competition – Reward
As already mentioned, online learning participants not only want a varied seminar design, they also want to be entertained. In face-to-face seminars, this is achieved primarily through community or loosening up exercises.
Not only children but also adults like to play. With “games” integrated into the learning management, online content is not only conveyed more effectively, online learning is also more fun.
Interaction: communication and cooperation
Seminar participants demand more flexibility, mobile learning and short teaching units. However, this does not mean that they do not want to attend face-to-face seminars. Many people appreciate the personal exchange and cooperation with other participants in face-to-face and “real life” seminars. In addition to technical discussions, small talk is also an essential factor.
On the other hand, employees today no longer learn only by absorbing knowledge. Rather, they exchange information in their personal environment or with colleagues and are thus learners and teachers at the same time (social learning – knowledge peers). And not only at specific events, meetings or network meetings, but also directly when needed (learning-on-the-job) or in everyday life. Video conferencing systems like eyeson are an additional great support in the virtual world.
In addition to direct contact, “swarm knowledge” is also a not inconsiderable factor. Already with the advent of the Internet, discussion platforms (first via newsgroups, later via forums on their own websites) have formed, in which users could exchange information on any topic they wanted. The social media and WIKIs facilitate this exchange many times over through their functions.
Learning control and transfer security
The further training of their employees is not only a direct cost factor for companies in terms of course costs. Also the time in which employees take up further training measures and thus do not actively work in the company represents a cost factor that should not be underestimated.
It is therefore in the interest of the company that these training measures are as efficient and fruitful as possible. Learning control and transfer assurance are thus two important factors in employee development and (in-company) further training.
However, learning control in face-to-face seminars is in many cases by means of an oral or written intermediate test and a final examination. Online courses usually make use of multiple choice tests. Such a check – used incorrectly – can be associated with stress and even (examination) anxiety for some seminar participants, which dramatically reduces the motivation and enjoyment of learning.
Securing transfers also poses great challenges for companies and employees alike. Sometimes the practical implementation and repetition (= automation) of the learned knowledge is not actively supported – either because of time constraints or because the tools or resources for an optimal practice transfer are missing. The motivation of the employees to implement something new can also decrease due to the daily routine.
Printed media was predicted to decline rapidly with the advent of the Internet, tablets and smartphones. In the meantime, content is printed and offered online in “peaceful” coexistence – quality prevails.
Each of these two channels has its advantages. In the same way, the advent of online courses is predicted to lead to a decline in attendance seminars. The situation is not that dramatic, but in-company training is facing a major change.
However, if companies do not react and keep up with current developments – keyword digital learning – they face a difficult future in terms of employee development and attractiveness for new employees.
As with a good café latte, there is not only black or white in further education. Rather, classroom seminars and online content should provide the perfect mix!
Recommendations for action
There are numerous measures for the optimal implementation and design of online learning content.
However, the reservations and objections of employees and managers must first be cleared and invalidated. To do this, however, the employees, trainers and managers of HR departments must first be convinced of the benefits of online learning! Without this mindset, it will be very difficult to convince employees – and thus future participants – of this topic.
In addition, the “right” course form must be found for the respective topic or seminar.
Correctly implemented, online courses are the optimal solution for flexible, time- and location-independent (in-house) company training of employees, partners and customers!#
Lothar Lackner (LinkedIn) is managing director of IFDT GmbH: LplusL – lehren plus lernen supports customers with solutions for digital online learning worlds: consulting, learning platform, course production, support, workshops and training. He is university lecturer for digitization at the Institute for Management and Entrepreneurship at the Karl-Franzens University Graz, Certified Digital Consultant and he leads several diploma courses.