Live Demo or E-Learning?

I have a good friend who is a design professor at an Australian university who has been asked to create online classroom lectures.

She has spent the better part of a month writing the courses, choosing the graphics and videos that will overlay her words, and trying to keep lectures in a reasonable time frame so student attention doesn’t wander too far.

It’s a tough ask.  In her case, students are not locked into a particular lecture sequence.   They can jump around from topic to topic.  The idea is that this online lecture series will make it easier for her particular university to offer her courses to a greater number of students no matter where they are located.  Bums on virtual seats.

Sounds good on paper and it can work for delivering some theoretical concepts, but not all of them with complicated examples.

The point to keep in mind is that video is only one learner modality. Others include live lectures or facilitative learning; audio presentations such as podcasts, and written materials.  Designing an eLearning course may not be the best way to go, depending on the information you are trying to deliver.

For example, in the case of my friend, much of her classroom instruction is based on a real lab setting driven by multidisciplinary collaboration.  Can a video-streamed online lecture deliver on that teaching method?   Probably not.   In fact, my friend says its effectiveness is questionable and she puts a lot of effort and thought into her presentations.

So it helps to analyse the information you want to present before you want to select the way or mode in which you deliver it.

Case in point: Let’s say you administer safety induction training at a mine site.  Safety is critical and every employee who works at the site needs to pass the course as a legal requirement. It is a good bet that this training can be delivered on an eLearning platform.  It is a stepwise process that involves a discreet set of rules and knowledge.  So learners could easily log on, and work their way through the course at multiple locations.

At the end of the course, they receive a certificate of completion that is recorded in their employee record, all in an online environment.

But what about soft skills? Like dealing with sexual harassment on the job?  There are many companies that have created scenario based eLearning products.  But one size doesn’t fit all.  Sexual harassment laws can vary from country to country and corporation to corporation.  So these generic eLearning courses are problematic.  They can teach basics, but not better interactive live presentations from a facilitator who can break audiences down into groups and deal with the specificities of particular laws.

Or, perhaps this kind of training is a case where a learner could do multiple modalities (online, live and print).  Concepts are introduced in a generic online course, followed by a live, facilitated workshop, and a take-away book as a reminder of the learning goals.

This kind of blended learning approach is becoming something of a standard now in those designing online learning courses. But it all starts with the subject matter, and that is where thought number one should go when designing the mode of delivery.