With online learning growth, new hurdles for access, quality, and applicability.
GUEST COLUMN | by Bernd Welz
There is an undeniable digital skills gap posing a threat to today’s enterprises. Knowing this, businesses are continually searching for new ways to better understand, and ultimately bridge, this gap through education. Corporate learning is constantly evolving and looks vastly different from the days of brick and mortar classrooms; today’s education requires flexibility, personalization, and most importantly an incentive to continually improve.
The internet has connected learners across the globe, providing new, valuable learning opportunities that would be otherwise unattainable. E-learning methods span geography, time and economic barriers, offering unlimited potential to curious, determined minds.
These platforms provide an ideal format to upskill employees from across the globe quickly and effectively.
Since 2008, corporate learners have become increasingly exposed to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as tools for training. These platforms provide an ideal format to upskill employees from across the globe quickly and effectively. MOOCs generally consist of video units, self-tests, discussion forums and hands-on exercises run by well qualified teachers, giving a personalized experience for the user. MOOCs have provided employees with access to high quality course materials on their own schedules.
But scale and opportunity like this is not without its challenges. As online learning has blossomed, it has presented new hurdles for access, quality, and applicability.
Online courses provide access to information from anywhere in the world, in real-time. Whereas students were once relegated to the classroom, MOOCs provide the opportunity for materials to be retrieved regardless of location and easily shared.
However, the lack of face-to-face student – teacher interaction offered by online courses can lead to problems that the online education community will have to address. While the virtual classroom can provide the chance to ask questions, there is a stricter time limit. The chance to approach a teacher after class for assistance or to get more detailed answers doesn’t really happen as easily through digital channels.
To allow sufficient time for questions, virtual classrooms tend to be limited in the number of participants, typically 20-100 participants. Additionally, when students are aware that they will receive a recording or slides, the temptation to multitask during busy periods can take away from the efficacy of the training.
As MOOCs continue to become a more common training tool, it will be the joint responsibility of employer and employee to ensure the tools efficacy. While the employer must work so that trainees have access to the materials they need, when they need them, it will be on the learner to ensure that they are communicating with professors and motivating themselves to up-level their professional skills.
Quality content is a top priority for providers of education technology. Employers must work to develop relevant content for course participants so they can, in time, take that material and apply it to their work.
Relevance is one the most important factors for enterprise MOOCs for when students can apply the knowledge they gain almost immediately, it makes it easier to understand.
As MOOCs and online learning opportunities become more mainstream, it will be important that high quality professors are asked to lead sessions. Not only will these teachers create more engaging content, but they also serve as a draw for students. In order to create a successful learning environment, employers must ensure they are developing high quality, relevant educational content for their learners.
Digital transformation has created an increased need for training content that can be produced quickly and shared across channels. New information is developed on a daily basis and most knowledge needs to be shared fast, as it could become irrelevant quickly. But not at the expense of quality.
While books must be rewritten, reprinted and redistributed, online learning materials can be updated with the click of a mouse and can be changed as necessary over time. MOOCs readily meet the challenges of a constantly evolving landscape by distributing the most up to date content in ways that are easily understood. In order for businesses to ensure their staff is up to date, and in order for employees to remain productive, both must work to ensure up-to-date-training materials are readily available and are of high enough quality to be truly useful.
Advancements in technology provide tremendous educational opportunity, but they are not without their challenges. As the digital landscape continually shifts, online education has the potential to aid businesses and employees looking to stay up-to-date on trends and ahead of the digital skills curve. MOOCs are sure to serve as a helpful resource to employees interested in growing and changing, but in order for them to be as effective as possible learners and teachers will have to ensure easy access of information, and high quality up-to-date content.
Bernd Welz, Ph.D., is EVP and Head of Scale, Enablement & Transformation SAP SE.