It’s safe to say we’re currently at the forefront of an e-learning revolution. Organizations and institutions have adopted a ‘people first’ model, and respect the need for flexibility and ease of access for employees and students alike. As is the case with most societal shifts, there will be implications and challenges; the rise of e-learning being no different. Designers of e-learning should remain mindful of these implications and challenges, as they navigate which solutions work best for learners.
The rise of e-learning means a shift to the entire context in which instruction takes place. Face to face, close proximity interaction is a psychological need of ours. We thrive off of human engagement. With the increasing popularity of remote education, learners lose this very necessary component. As learner experience designers, there are ways to offset the adaptability struggle so many e-learners face. This is done through highly interactive content, and providing opportunities for group engagement (even if digital). Highly interactive content can make learners forget learning is even happening remotely. Creating engagement opportunities adds somewhat of a hybrid dynamic to e-learning, as users still maintain some level of colleague interaction, even if through a digital interface.
I grappled with including this as a challenge, rather than a facet of growing technology in general. I came to consider technology as presenting a challenge to e-learning. Here’s why. We must consider that even in a rapidly growing tech world, there are still several areas without access to adequate bandwidth and high speed connectivity. Hardware and software limitations come into play as well. Learner experience designers should design with the potential for connectivity issues. Ways to remedy these technicalities would be to limit the volume of content to appear on each page; along with limiting each page to 1-2 graphics and multimedia files. Additionally, mobile compatibility is necessary, as many remote learners work off of tablets and smartphones.
Surprisingly enough, there is a huge lack of digital literacy among today’s digital users. You may be wondering how in the most digitized era yet, there is a literacy issue. Young people are social media gurus, yet lack basic knowledge of functions within Microsoft office. They typically lack the skills to asses basic hardware and system issues. Older generations are overall, less well-versed in all areas of technology as well, having missed the ‘tech-boom’. Sure, these generalizations do not apply to all users; but they are commonalities. Taking into account demographics and organizational cultures are important. Ultimately, the best way to bridge the digital literacy gap for all users is to deliver content in the most user-friendly way possible. For younger users, this could mean emulating interface trends on popular social media sites, to include a level of familiarity to the LMS. For adult users, this could mean shorter prompts, more visual aids, concise instructions…you get the picture.
Let’s face it: as convenient as remote learning can be, it’s also extremely time-intensive. When you think about the whole rationale behind remote learning and providing flexibility to learners, you should be mindful of why learners need flexibility in the first place. People need flexibility in order to manage already packed schedules. Sure e-learning is great for remote capabilities, but it still requires time. Shorter modules and timers can help to alleviate this challenge. Provide learners with live time tracking, and the option to take breaks between sessions and modules with the ability to pick up where they left off. Value learners’ busy schedules. Your users will thank you.
Remote learning often takes more self-discipline and motivation than traditional learning. Traditional learning provides face-to-face interaction and human reinforcement. When placed in front of a screen to learn, people can lose a sense of urgency. They can become frustrated when confronted with a challenge and no physical instructor to ask for help. As learner experience designers, it’s important to incentivize and motivate learners. Progress trackers and gamification is a great way to encourage users. When presented with an LMS that is interactive and achievement is visible, there’s a greater likelihood of positive user experiences.
Share some ways that you’ve been able to remedy learner challenges below!