5 things we learned about online learning in 2020

5 things we learned about online learning in 2020

5-minute read

 | By 

Teemu Vaalasmaa

2020 was (and 2021 is) a year of digital revolution in learning and online learning. Revolution in this case means that so many schools, edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions and com­panies had to abandon their tra­di­tional face-to-face classroom edu­cation and replace it with online classes and digital edu­ca­tional materials. Some had more exper­ience while others had to start basically from scratch. 

No matter your starting level, everyone had to adapt the best they could to online learning. 

Us being a group of pro­fes­sionals who spe­cialise in cre­ating digital learning envir­on­ments, you can only imagine how busy and exciting our year was. We com­pleted varying pro­jects to a whole host of schools and com­panies, ful­filling their spe­cific edu­ca­tional needs and helping them realize the advantages online learning has to offer. 

There was one with CAPYEI, an organ­iz­ation that trains job skills to out-of-school youth in Kenya, who needed to com­pletely digit­alise their teaching in a very short amount of time. Then there was another project with Pro­fessio, a company providing cor­porate training, who had to move from 95% onsite training to 95% online training without losing the quality of their courses. 

Looking back at 2020, we found some key insights that we think are crucial to offer quality digital edu­cation and training. Although every organ­iz­ation is unique and have their own way of doing things, here are some near-uni­versal lessons that every trainer and edu­cator should take notice of. 

5 things we learned about online learning in 2020

You should take e-learning seriously 

The role of digital learning is only going to increase in the future, so you should not scoff at e-learning. This means that when you do digital classes, you should make sure they are done in an engaging way. Many have migrated their face-to-face training to a video con­ference format, but sitting on these calls can be intensive. Man­aging big masses is dif­ficult, and par­ti­cipants’ chances for inter­action are limited. 

Treating digital learning like a “normal” classroom, where learners are expected to listen to long lec­tures, isn’t often the best way to conduct classes. Instead, you should try to include ele­ments that promote inter­action and activate learners, so that the people on the other end of the line won’t doze off after 20 minutes. Embrace the advantages of online learning and the pos­sib­il­ities of 21st century education. 

Train the trainer for online learning

For a teacher to become familiar with digital edu­cation isn’t some­thing that happens by itself. The trainer also requires access to quality training. Teachers should be retrained so that they are able to deliver effective online learning to their stu­dents. This includes prac­tical skills, like the use of various tech­no­logies and tools, as well as taking in the­or­etical know­ledge about how to deliver effective online learning. 

There’s a big dif­ference in how to structure your teaching when it takes place online instead of a physical classroom. 

Even if you know the subject inside and out, you still have to adapt to presenting in a new envir­onment and with a new set of tools. It’s almost like moving to work in a new city: it’s easier to settle down and con­tinue doing what you do best if you have someone to show you how to get around.

Learners should collaborate with each other in the online learning platform 

With increased dis­tance and remote learning, one of the biggest things that suffers is the sense of com­munity, or a group atmo­sphere, sur­rounding the learning. Studies have shown that learning together increases motiv­ation and pro­motes better results. Teachers and trainers should pay special attention to tech­niques and strategies that make team work an essential part of learning. They should create spaces for col­lab­or­ation and strive for an atmo­sphere that pro­motes learning together. 

Aspire to build and foster a sense of com­munity. When you see an oppor­tunity to have learners col­lab­orate, use it. Even if learners are com­mu­nic­ating remotely, they should feel like they’re in this together. This is key to making your courses feel engaging. 

Clear instructions are crucial in online learning

Instruc­tions are cru­cially important in remote learning. Because of the lack of face-to-face instruc­tional ses­sions and the spon­taneous “aha” moments they might provoke, a learner might not have the same kind of oppor­tun­ities to really under­stand how to proceed with their work and studies. 

Sup­plying learners clear and com­pre­hensive instruc­tions play a major role in mit­ig­ating feelings of con­fusion and a sense of being lost with their materials or studies. By clearly stating learning goals, expect­a­tions, and how to proceed, learners will feel con­fident to con­tinue. Addi­tionally, having clear instruc­tions on how and who to contact when ques­tions arise is critical to avoid unne­cessary speed bumps. 

Rethink the classroom 

When trans­ferring from a physical classroom to a digital one, you should at the same time rethink the classroom structure. Con­sider using a “flipped” model for more effective remote learning. What this means in practice is sup­plying learners with all materials and instruc­tions well before any digital meet ups or con­ference calls. Learners will first have time to study their materials and then discuss them during the digital meet up. At that the time you are both well pre­pared to go through any out­standing ques­tions and clarify any uncertainties. 

In conclusion 

Online learning can be the premium option if done in a smart way. In 2020, the biggest suc­cesses were those who managed to utilize asyn­chronous learning as part of their learning events. This means that they first prepped everybody in advance through an LMS (learning man­agement system), then held an event (e.g. an online lecture), and then offered the chance for par­ti­cipants to interact after the live event. This way there is a lower threshold to par­ti­cipate, you use your time more effi­ciently, and, with the proper ana­lytics, you can have insights on what effects the training actually had. When done right, digital learning has much to offer. 

If you are con­sid­ering digit­al­ising your classes or training in an effi­cient way, we would be more than happy to help you get the full advantages of online learning. Take a look at our learning platform and feel free to book a demo today! 

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