Let me say at the outset, I’m an “old school” trainer. I believe there’s nothing to beat face to face training in a group environment. However, modern times are making it more and more difficult for people to attend workshops, either due to distance or time constraints or both.
Online learning has the advantage that you can work at times that are convenient for you, at your own pace, so it’s the way of the future – whether we like it or not. However, most online learning programs are impersonal, far too structured, with no room for flexibility and no opportunities for real human interaction.
Is there, perhaps, a compromise approach which allows every student to work in a place and at a time of their own choice, at their own pace, but at the same time providing the level (or close to the level) of human interaction that occurs in a group training environment? Let’s not call it “online learning”. Let’s call it “remote learning”.
People are not robots. Remote learners have the same right to personal interaction with their trainer as they would have in a group training environment. You need to be able to phone, email or Skype and ask questions, seek advice, bounce ideas off your trainer. You need feedback and you need it promptly.
Basically, learners need to be treated like human beings and (so far) I haven’t come across a computer that can do that.
On the other hand, we can use the functionality of computers to make learning more personal and engaging. For instance, in a group training environment, the trainer would introduce the subject and talk about it. In the same way, we can create short videos that introduce the learning material and the tasks. This should give a richer learning experience than just reading the learning material.
My question is, what else can we do to make remote learning more engaging and human. We have achieved good personal interaction between the learner and their allocated trainer but how do we help individual learners build relationships so they can share their ideas and experience?