The pandemic didn’t establish but rather cemented a major shift in education that had already been underway. Namely that learners have moved online and now so should learning.

Back in 2018, substantial research on learning habits and expectations showed that learners want training content to be personalised, timely, and accessible as needed – anytime, anywhere. And they want it available on their phones (findings summarised by Greany, 2018).

It’s clear that classroom-based face-to-face training is no longer enough. However, moving online poses new challenges that may appear insurmountable if you or your organisation hasn’t had to face them before.

Can online learning effectively replace face-to-face? What are the pros and cons? How should you make the switch? Do you actually have the capacity to sustain a successful online learning delivery process?

You need to find the answers to those and many other essential questions before you even start the transition from face-to-face to online learning. But don’t worry, this guide is here to help you.

 

Let’s begin by establishing some common ground

Anytime we talk about face-to-face learning, we mean the traditional classroom- or workplace-based teaching and learning we are all familiar with. You, the educator, tell the learner when and where they should meet you if they want to participate and, ultimately, pass.

Online learning, on the other hand, happens in front of the learner’s phone or laptop or any other device they may use. They login to the course, complete their assignments and practise their skills, all in their time (asynchronously) or alongside their peers during a live chat or a live streaming lecture (synchronously), and when done correctly, provides flexibility and a sense of personalisation.

There’s a third approach which combines face-to-face and online learning and is usually referred to as blended learning. The way it works is you meet the learner face-to-face, they do their tasks, ask you questions, and then, at their convenience, complete any other parts of the course online.

Content digitisation just means you or another professional converting the resources you have into digital assets. However, you need to think very carefully when undertaking the process as simply moving your PowerPoint presentations and videos to your Learning Management System won’t cut it. People learn differently online than they do face-to-face, deploy different skills, and even their senses in different proportions and this should be considered. So that’s why we’d recommend you use the services of an instructional designer to support you with the digitisation process.

Instructional designers decide how the learners are going to learn what they need to throughout the course, what activities they need to complete and in what order. That could be the educator – the subject-matter specialist who writes and delivers the theory, but more often than not, external experts (such as Learnium) are employed to help. Their job is to structure content you already have, come up with new content as necessary, produce a curriculum, and finally turn it all into a coherent, online-native training course, saving you time and money. If you decide to digitise your face-to-face course yourself, we hope you find this framework useful.

 

Does online learning even work?

The need for moving the educational process online is undeniable. The hard part is finding the way to do it successfully and sustainably.

A fundamental element of learning is in the connection and collaboration between learners. Social interaction is absolutely essential. This may look next to impossible to replicate in an online environment but by using a combination of different teaching methods and digital tools, it is achievable.

And to answer the question: yes, online learning works. As reported by Cooke (2021), 80% of organisations were satisfied enough with their online training provision to keep it at the same level, with only small increases or decreases in online provision being considered as restrictions ease.

So evidence suggests it works, but only when done right. But before we lift the veil on some of our know-how, let’s see exactly how online learning can benefit both you as the training provider and the learner.

 

What are the advantages of online learning in comparison to face-to-face learning?

Here are some of the main ones:

  • With online learning, you save time and money – compared to face-to-face, an online course takes 40% to 60% less employee time to complete. This reduces training costs, and employees can get back to their work quicker. On top of that, it may increase retention rates by as much as 60% compared to the 8-10% retention rate of typical classroom training (as reported by Growth Engineering, 2021).
  • Online learning is much more scalable – the delivery of face-to-face training is constrained by group size, instructor availability, venue access and many other factors. With no restrictions on the number of learners you can reach, online learning allows you to share the course you produced once with a theoretically infinite audience.
  • Online learning is consistent – while face-to-face training experience often depends on the proficiency of the person who delivers it, an online course always offers the same exact content delivered in the same exact way.
  • Online learning allows individualisation and freedom – the learner accesses their training wherever they want, whenever they want. The learner progresses throughout the course at their own pace.

 

What are some of the challenges online learning needs to overcome?

As we consider the learner’s success to be the prime focus of every educational process, achieving it should be every educator’s main concern. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges you and your training business may face while trying to attain that goal:

 

Focusing on the learner

The complexity of digitising your content, the overwhelming abundance of tools available, the rush to go online to assure business continuity, can all distract from what’s really important: making sure your audience acquires the knowledge they need. Effective technology should be invisible to the learner. By no means should you put aside capturing all the metrics necessary for measuring training success and retention but your behind-the-scenes concerns should not lead to compromising the quality of learning.

 

Our tip on how to tackle this

You should focus on creating digital resources that allow the learner to interact with them according to their individual needs and preferences, put them into a meaningful and real context and encourage peer interaction. We will discuss all of those in Part 3 of the current series, How to Create Online-Native Learning Assets.

 

Building a sufficient content library

The chances are, some of your competitors with better resources and more experience may have already put together training programmes you’d find difficult to compete with. There’s a lot of content already out there. And creating a new course takes time, resources and effort you may not necessarily have.

 

Our tip on how to tackle this

If you decide not to trust any of the already existing content-digitisation services such as Learnium and do it on your own instead, a good way around would be the creation of a content library that is open to your learners so they can contribute to its development by posting any relevant content (research they may have conducted themselves, interesting blog posts from a reputable source, quality explainer videos on YouTube and so on). The peers then can comment on the posts, share opinions and their own materials in response. Such a library however needs to be moderated to assure quality. A good platform we recommend that has all those capabilities is Communities.

 

Ensuring sustainability

As it is abundantly clear to everyone involved in the sector, maintaining content online requires infrastructure, expertise and finances. And if you want to run a successful online training business, you’d need to deploy the right business model.

 

Three possible online learning business models

You should consider one of the following:

 

The night school model

Just like with the night school tuition, the learner pays a one-time fee to access the course. They uncover the module and their topic knowledge is then assessed by an assignment, a quiz or another form of examination.

The night school model is best suited to learning a specific skill or a particular subject or a language.

This business model can be useful for new businesses that are looking to generate revenue through subscriptions and course sales. Moreover, it is suitable for businesses with high-priced courses.

However, the learner would only pay the course fee once and it’s not guaranteed they will return. In addition, if you want to focus on multiple topics, you will have to make separate courses for each of them since learners seek only specific courses and therefore this model is time-consuming.

Below is a summary of the pros and cons of that model:

Advantages

Disadvantages

Highly profitable: You can charge high fees for a large number of specialised courses Non-recurring cash flow: One-time payment by learners will bring uncertainty in cash flow
Specific: You can create courses on specific skills and subjects to the needs of learners Aggressive marketing: High amount of budget will need to be spent on promotional activities
Low cost: You can create courses at a low cost Demanding: More resources required to design and sell specialised courses
Long-lasting: Once the course is made, it can be sold multiple times Time-consuming: A lot of time and energy is required to create courses

Source: Hayat Khan, 2021

 

The academy model

The academy model is a subscription-based service, resembling a virtual school. Your “academy” encourages learners to discover multiple topics and work on various skills. It offers a content library of courses, videos and other learning materials. It also gives the learner the chance to contact a tutor directly and get in touch with other peers.

This model is based on developing a long-term relationship with a learner who wants to deepen their understanding and not just acquire the specific knowledge and skills they may need, for example, to start a job. The subscription model guarantees a steady income flow for the business. And the more subscribers you have, the higher your cash flow will be without the effort of creating more content.

You can find some of the pros and cons of this model below:

Advantages

Disadvantages

Stable income: The subscription fee from the learners will continue to come to the business periodically Lower profits: This model will not yield high returns in the earlier stages
High retention: This model attracts the users for new content and promotes a long-term relationship Regular content updates: You will be required to upload new content regularly
High volume: You can attract large numbers of learners by offering them affordable subscriptions Superior platform: More advanced and expensive platforms will be required to operate this model
Simplistic: You are only required to make a single plan and strategy for the offerings Innovation: To grow the platform, new, more intelligent and innovative plans will need to be in place

Source: Hayat Khan, 2021

 

A combined model

This model offers both subscription-based offers as well as stand-alone courses with one-time fees.

This model is suitable for those learners who are willing to pay extra for additional course material or courses that can help them improve in their academics and skills.

 

Does converting my content into online learning work for my organisation?

As you can gather from the above, content digitisation is an endeavour that requires significant involvement from your site if undertaken without external support.

So before you start any digitisation process, it will be reasonable to first check if that’s even the right avenue for you.

Below, it’s a checklist to help with your decision:

  1. Do you have (or want to have) a geographically dispersed audience?
  2. Do you have to train on a subject frequently?
  3. Do you have a large number of people to train?
  4. Do you have mandated training (such as onboarding)?
  5. Do you have to reach a large number of people very quickly (for example, users who would need retraining after you updated your product)?
  6. Do you train on complex subject matters?
  7. Do different parts of your audience need slightly different information on the same subject matter?
  8. Is it likely that the learner may need to refer to some of your training materials outside of the training context?
  9. Would your training programme benefit from visualisation (video, animation) and/or more adaptable content (interactive infographics)?
  10. Would you like to provide the same level of training in less time at a lesser cost?

 

If the answer to just one of the above is “yes”, that could mean your business is likely to benefit from an online training programme. And if more of the answers are “yes”, well, here are our contact details:

Learnium

Alacrity House

Newport NP20 1HG

hello@learnium

 

We will audit your pre-existing content or create an online learning programme for you from scratch.

 

To sum it all up

Online learning is here to stay and the education industry needs to adapt.

However, a transition to an online learning programme takes time, resources and effort and a lot of planning ahead.

Luckily, there are experienced professionals only an email away to help you move your training online successfully and sustainably.

 

To be continued…

This piece is the first part of an extended series of blog posts in which we are discussing what practical steps you can take to create not only an efficient online learning programme but a whole new immersive learning environment.

The series includes:

Part 2 – How to Plan Your Online Learning Programme

Part 3 – How to Create Content for an Online Learning Programme

Part 4 – How to Measure the Success of Your Online Learning Programme

 

Thank you for reading and until next time!

 

 

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