Online Learning – What Makes an Online Learning System?

In another article, I discuss some of the many challenges of online learning. As I believe in the adage, “He who has the heart to criticize should also have the heart to help”, I thought this time I would reveal what I believe to be the components of an Internet/Intranet Online Learning System (OLS) are. (I have created an OLS model as a cross-functional flowchart, too large to include here, but if you would like a copy please email me).

Methods of online learning (OLL) have been used for at least 20 years. However, OLL, delivered over the Internet, is relatively new, underexplored (because it is so new) and flagged as the way of the future. It certainly has tons of potential under the pitfalls. Two of them are:

  1. It’s not as easy as it sounds
  2. It requires significant resources

It’s possible for companies to take a minimalist approach and simply hire someone else to handle the entire process from start to finish. This is the cheapest approach and makes sense, but means they lack complete control. Still, it’s a good place to start and there is a growing number of Application Service Providers (ASPs) willing to consume OLL services.

Those companies that have good resources or for which confidentiality is an issue can take an in-house approach to the entire system. I focus on this approach.

My model identifies five distinct phases, namely: Preparation – Enrollment – Delivery – Assessment/Reporting – Assessment. These are linear and are similar to the traditional training model. Stakeholders in this model are customers who become participants, administrators including IT, accounting and general administration staff, and training staff.

The first phase requires the development of curriculum, marketing, instructional and other materials, as well as systems design and development. Central to the stage are mechanisms for customers to inquire about courses on offer. This requires multiple response methods, e.g. B. e-mail autoresponders, fax on demand, static HTML files on the Internet, mail or telephone processing of inquiries.

Regardless of how you inform your prospects, the material must be accurate, comprehensive, and delivered quickly. People expect instant information and will go elsewhere if they don’t get what they want.

Phase two occurs when prospects, after reading what you have to offer, decide to purchase your program (or perhaps enroll if they are in an industry training environment). This must also be quick, painless and efficient.

Aside: How many times have you filled out an online registration form, clicked the submit button, and waited and waited only to get a message telling you that the username you provided already exists? So you try again… and again… and again… and finally move on. Frustrating, isn’t it?

There are numerous software packages, third parties and others that provide an online shopping and payment system for you. Clickbank, which I use, charges a flat percentage per transaction and $1 and absolutely no other fees. You can set up your website to accept credit cards in 30 minutes, maybe even less. Once the credit card transaction is authorized, an email message will be sent to your customer providing the password and credentials for the purchased program. Make sure instant access is available or your customers will start emailing you.

Next comes the most critical phase, phase three. After reading the course briefing, letting you know how wonderful your programs are, paying the bill and getting ready for work, your clients – now attendees – need to go back to their course notes, emails, discussion groups and whatever access without having to exert their technical skills, patience or budget further.

Having recently experienced online learning at a university that is recognized as one of the leaders in this field, I believe that the participants’ activities need to be managed. By that I mean don’t show them where to find their class notes and don’t forget them. Be proactive. If your program is not fully automatic, eg learning how to use a computer program, make sure that a real live human being stays in touch with your participants and gets things started. As a wise man said, “Some people make things work, some watch what happens, and some say, ‘What happened?’” A lot of the latter will happen unless someone takes control of the tutorial.

Monitor progress, program discussion groups and feedback, but contact each participant first and find out everything is working well. Yes, they can use the email system, they have found the discussion group, the courseware is downloading and they have no technical problems.

Your OLS likely has some sort of grading system or is geared towards issuing certificates of completion. In the last phase, the results are received either automatically from online assessment programs or from teachers. They are entered into a database from which certificates are issued. The same process can be designed to automatically manage qualification exams, payroll, accreditations and other databases.

Scoring or quality control mechanisms in my model are implemented at every stage of design and delivery. There’s no point getting to the end of a process before you realize it’s not working. When every component of the system is tried and tested and functioning properly, there is a much greater chance that synergy will emerge as the components come together to provide the world-class system we all desire.

An evaluation in the pedagogical sense can be carried out. Best practice should do this at least the first time each set of instructional media is used.

As you will see from the rather brief treatment above, there is much work to be done to implement online learning. However, there are a few options that should be considered when preparing your feasibility study and cost benefit analysis.

And whatever you do, there are some standards you need to be aware of. Look for my article Online Learning and the Australian Railway Blunder which covers some of the most relevant standards.

Copyright Robin Henry 2005.

Thanks to Robin Henry | #Online #Learning #Online #Learning #System

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