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ELearning or We-Learning?

16 June 2023

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of organisations choosing eLearning as their preferred method of staff training. Undoubtedly, many eLearning qualifications are less expensive and easier to organise than traditional face-to-face methods. There’s little or no travelling, and you can gain a certificate in-between reading emails or watching the telly. What’s not to like about eLearning?

As an owner of a Health, Safety and Business training company, it’s no surprise that I’m questioning the benefit of eLearning as it is commonly used. Over the last eight years, I’ve studied for a BA (philosophy and psychology) at one university and almost completed a Master’s in ethics at another through distance learning. The courses involved lots of self-study supplemented by face-to-face lectures, tutorials and online discussions with other students and lecturers. This has worked well for me and made it possible to work and study at a pace that fits my life circumstances.

But for anyone who thinks that distance learning and eLearning are entirely wrong, here are some critical differences between what my fellow students and I did and eLearning.

1) Me and my fellow students chose to study in this way. It was not something we had to do. Yes, our study was probably motivated by the prospect of career development, but that is not the same as doing a mandatory online course to gain a certificate.

2) We had many opportunities to discuss things with the tutor and other students. On an eLearning course, this is rarely the case. The person commonly does the training on their own, and the only discussion they have about the course and its content is whether they have finished it.

3) The qualifications received through distance learning were marked by knowledgeable humans who gave feedback on the achieved marks and offered advice about where and how you could improve. Most eLearning I have seen or heard about does not do this. A learner answers the multiple-choice questions (often before they have participated in the learning part), and if they get anything wrong, they adjust their answers and click to re-submit. This is one of the most worrying parts for me; the learner only answers questions that the eLearning provider thinks they need to know. But the company designing the package can never understand the context and applicability of the subject matter and cannot respond to questions from the learner or check for understanding.

Both distance learning and eLearning qualifications do not guarantee competence in a subject. They can only record whether a learner has met the specified criterion to pass and gain the qualification. ELearning fits that criterion if you are training your staff simply to gain a certificate. But if you are interested in learning that makes a difference to a learner’s performance, it must involve human interaction with an experienced tutor. At Ouch, this is what we call ‘We-Learning’. The learners and the tutors work together to develop a common understanding and context-related meaning. Ouch believe if something’s worth learning it’s worth learning properly.

But don’t take my word for it. Why not ask your team what type of training they prefer and, better still, check what they know after they have completed their course?

If you would like to know more about what we do and how we can help, please get in touch.

Simon Cassin

Ouch Learning and Development