Exploring the best ways to learn online.
‘I am a learner’
Most of us like to define ourselves as lifelong learners. While many of us grab any opportunity to learn or know more about the world, for many this is an aspirational state. Everything between scientific journals and twitter is being consumed by everyone today. There’s a hunger to know, a passion to upskill & outshine. But let’s consider this, what use is learning if it doesn’t stick? If you can’t remember or apply the learning where you need to, what is the point of it?
Human beings are the only inhabitants on Earth who have the power to alter their own behaviours, personality and even their own brain. While information easily shifts to short term memory, the real difference between transformation and exposure is the ability of learning to become long term.
But long term learning that leads to real change needs much more than willingness. While the methods of learning will keep evolving, research suggests that relatability, feedback, motivation and practice are proven ways to shift knowledge from short term memory to long term change.
From Option to Necessary Adoption
Virtual learning changed from an option to necessary adoption in light of the COVID19 pandemic. Indeed by 2020, 98% companies had adopted some or the other form of elearning. The growth in self paced, on-demand learning amongst individuals has been phenomenal to say the least. Online learning portals like Udemy, Unacademy, Byju’s have become billion dollar businesses because of the drastic rise in individual enrolments.
Online learning acts like a catalyser for people to deal with the rapidly evolving marketplace. But 42% people have reported staying motivated as a major problem for completing their learning online. This tells us that while people want to learn, not all learning has the ability to bring about a true behaviour and performance change.
The big deal about On-demand learning
Self paced learning has changed the game in the skilling market. Its affordability and flexibility has lured many individuals and its penetration has been fuelled by the skilling FOMO that most people experienced in the last couple of years. The fact that it can blend seamlessly with our daily routines and can be consumed bite-sized has made this an incredibly popular medium of learning.
But Experts suggest that on demand video can hardly be the most optimal way towards sustained behaviour change. The reasons are straight forward ; humans learn better in peer groups than in isolation. Also, for any learning to stick, it is important for the learner to practice it again and again. While videos can be an engaging, they result in significantly lower retention when unaccompanied by other techniques and media.
We love to be distracted.
Besides, let’s be honest. We are a distraction prone species. How many times do you find yourself scrolling your phone while working? How many times are you checking social media while watching TV? It is safe to assume that video based learning is going to be the same – a distraction magnet. And once you get distracted from something, it’s often like falling down the rabbit hole that’s difficult to crawl up from. Especially if you’re learning in isolation.
A more effective way to learn online can be Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT). VILT is a format of learning where a real instructor trains you on an online portal. It is often done in groups and is designed in a contextualized and engaging fashion.
Let’s talk about real change.
62% companies are spending more on learning in 2021. While the work from home format might seem conducive to give employees flexibility in their learning too, what could be worth considering is that at a time when companies are grappling with economic downturns and disease, upskilling employees must lead to tangible business results. And sometimes, choosing the right format of learning can significantly shift the edge in an organization’s favour. Because real performance change is more likely when you learn with colleagues, engage meaningfully, get constructive feedback, stay motivated and practice.
While virtual learning is difficult to standardize and is greatly dependant on the quality of instruction, it can still be an effective way to learn by combining different techniques that are known to elicit real change.
A training methodology that is based on scientific study, psychological inferences and has been tried and tested besides being designed to be a process that is consistently repeatable, irrespective of differences in location, demographic and teaching style is what makes training companies like Dale Carnegie valuable and successful. It is no easy feat and requires strict quality control and training.
Learning has moved from a ‘want’ to a ‘need’
While many argue that VILT can eat into productive hours at work, I would argue that learning, upskilling should in fact be considered a part of everyone’s job. In the age of big data and artificial learning, it can no longer be seen as a ‘nice to have’ and most certainly should not be left to individual discretion.
94% of online learners prefer to study at their own pace. But the fact is that it is difficult to do unless accompanied with effective study time monitoring.
Self paced learning needs willpower to show up. Since it is not an ‘event’ , it takes more courage and discipline to weave into our routines. In an experiment conducted by Jonathan Tullis & Aaron Benjamin, it was seen that learners with control of study-time allocation significantly outperformed subjects with no control, even when the total study time was equated between groups.
In contrast, virtual instructor led learning is often an ‘event’ that you need to show up for. That makes it more controllable. Combining that with a more personalized, engaging experience that enables feedback, coaching in the moment and peer interaction is likely to have more long term retention.
Control is good. So is Choice.
If we are able to make VILT more choice-driven giving more control of what to learn, what to re-study & practice in the hands of learners themselves, it can prove to be significantly more beneficial than any other virtual format. Choice-driven virtual learning that enables interaction and supported by holistic teaching approaches is known to show positive learning outcomes.
Virtual learning need not be a ‘stop-gap’ solution. When done right, it can be a catalyst of reach change in not just businesses but individuals too.