E-learning comes of age

Instructables is part of a wave of modern learning platforms where individuals self-publish and others self-teach, writes Mr Conor Hannaway.

Conor Hannaway
Mr Conor Hannaway

For some people, Instructables is one of the seven wonders of the internet. The Instructables website (www.instructables.com) is a place that lets you explore, document and share your creations. It is the ultimate ‘how-to’ resource where people share their ideas in photos, stories and videos. Communities are fostered through comments, you can follow your chosen members and ‘favorite’ the ideas you love.

The Instructables comprise high quality media, calm and empowering voice-overs and contemporary graphics and video. There are any number of categories of activity such as gardening, photography, food and fashion.

Where do websites like Instructables fit with current training needs?

Instructables is part of a wave of modern learning platforms where individuals self-publish and others self-teach. The result is an ever-growing community of contributors and learners with a burgeoning collection of resources covering a multitude of topics. However, who is policing the content? How does someone know what it is they need to learn? And, is this type of content more suited to informal subjects and practical skills.

Early e-learning problems

Developments in e-learning pedagogy and technologies mean that it is no longer a marginal activity and it is now a widely respected mode of learning across all disciplines.

Three factors that historically held back e-learning from taking its place as the method of choice for learning.

  1. The first is people’s original experience. Pages of slowly loading text copied from text books did not promote an enhanced learning experience.
  2. The second factor holding back adoption had to do with inertia. While we have good training facilities and trainers and while people enjoy the face-to-face training experience why change it?
  3. A third rationale for the preference for classroom training was based on Malcolm Knowles adult learning theory. The principles, first set in the 1970s set out that learners are internally motivated, want to have control over their own learning, are goal oriented and prefer learning that is practical and relevant to their needs.
Modern e-learning methodologies

Today, e-learning is built around the learning experience. Following Knowles theory the learner is central to the design of courses and materials. There is a move towards individualised learning using concepts derived from accelerated learning methodologies, learning-by-doing and social learning.

Accelerated learning techniques are methodologies for speeding and enhancing both the design and the learning process. They consider using the whole mind and body for learning, creation over consumption, promoting collaboration, offering feedback and time for reflection as well as the positivity and emotion to promote learning.

Learning-by-doing, or experiential learning is the process of learning through experience. David Kolb’s experiential learning theory suggests the learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience; able to reflect on the experience; possess and use analytical skills to conceptualise the experience; and possess decision making and problem solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience.

Social learning refers to learning that occurs in a social context. It can occur by observing behaviours and by observing the consequences of behaviours (observational theory). The social element can assist in the development of new learning among individuals.

Is e-learning Indestructable?

Arguably the biggest breakthrough for e-learning in the last 10 years is technology. Virtually anyone can now create new materials and easily share them with a global audience. However, there is still quite a disconnect in the quality of resources. Compare a TED Talk and an Indestructable. Also, while some learners may be able to source excellent learning content and guide themselves through the internet to satisfy their learning needs, many will not. For now, many people find comfort in their being able to read the course description, having the structure of a pre-designed course and enjoy the social elements of learning.

However, one might argue that the largest benefiter from creating learning content is the creator. It plays perfectly with accelerated learning, learning-by-doing, creation over consumption and social learning through sharing and discussing.

HMI’s e-learner experience

The HMI has been developing e-learning programmes for a number of years so perhaps the final word should go to the learners themselves. We have been delighted with how engaged our e-learners are with our courses. A typical comment was: “It was good to do an on-line course that was so practical to use and follow and that had a direct relationship to the work I do and that has enabled me to develop my skills in managing people.” Another quote talks about the methodology: “Loved the different teaching methods and use of media and visuals.” And finally, another quote from a participant: “The whole course was easy to follow and applicable in all areas of my life not just work, a large reminder to plan prepare listen and be clear when managing a situation.”

Note about HMI’s e-learning offering

HMI take pride in producing bespoke, high-quality learning materials for a range of delivery methods including face-to-face, blended learning and fully online courses. We develop highly effective e-learning and performance support solutions to deliver valuable skills and awareness training. Our team of learning specialists and instructional and graphic designers provide innovative learning solutions to suit the unique needs of both the client and learner. The e-learning team specialise in instructional videos and highly interactive rapid e-learning courses. We have developed strong working relationships with key consultants and organisations to provide turnkey learning services for our clients.

In 2013 our e-learning partners launched The Learning Rooms. Through The Learning Rooms we deliver high quality e-learning courses in the areas of management, leadership and human resources as well as health and safety. It offers courses on best practice for managers, human resources (HR), performance management, how to manage conflict situations and how to coach your staff. The Learning Rooms also offers video based training courses on people handling and manual handling as well as a range of e-learning development services.

HMI’s online courses follow the best pedagogical principles for e-learning. We utilise accelerated learning techniques, learning by doing and promote social learning in our fully online and blended courses. Highly visual and engaging learning content, exercises, interactive case studies, structured reflection and discussions enhance the learning experience.