The Digital Education Experience: What to Expect when Learning Online
Education for many of us – be that school, TAFE or at university – has usually been something done face-to-face.
The teacher or lecturer stands up in front of their students, imparts some wisdom and shares some slides. The bell rings after an hour. Lesson over.
The recent global health crisis has quickly moved education from the campus to the web. From five-year-olds at kindy to experienced professionals studying a Masters, people are logging on to learn at unprecedented rates.
So what does great education look like online? And what benefits are there to learning online that you don’t get face-to-face?
Years ago, Blockbuster’s answer to digital disruption was to mail videos to its customers. Netflix’s response was to stream movies online. We all know how that one turned out.
Fortunately, great online learning today has been purpose-built for the platform – it’s not an attempt to shoehorn an analogue format into a digital world.
“People consume content on screens in a very different way to how they consume information in person,” says Paul Wappett, CEO of the Australian Institute of Business. “When creating an online learning course, the ability to be able to grab the attention of the student quickly is paramount. You can’t try to replicate an in-person lecture online; it just won’t be effective at all.
“You need to look at how the human brain works in that environment, how it digests, synthesises and embeds information.
“We know that, for online learning to be as successful as possible, the subject content has to be presented in modules of eight to ten-minute chunks. Anything longer than that and the student’s attention is going to wane.”
As well as delivering information in short modules, it’s essential in an online learning environment to reinforce the key points and check students’ understanding before moving onto the next topic.
“Through years of delivering online learning, we’ve found that testing the students’ comprehension of the short module before moving on to the next one has a significant impact on information retention.”
Uses tech to its advantage
Of course, you’d expect any online learning experience to take advantage of the digital presentation tools available. In 2020 you expect that the learning experience is built for digital, is interactive and is available when you are.
But the technological benefits of learning online are far, far more profound.
“Wherever there’s technology, there’s data,” says Wappett. “You can use that data to truly enhance the students’ online learning experience.
“For example, the data can help you identify not only when, but why a person is struggling – maybe in a particular topic or whether they’re generally suffering a lack of motivation.
“You can gauge individuals’ engagement levels, and you can intervene in near-real-time to help understand what’s going on and get them back on track.
“Maybe they need some additional help to understand the subject, or maybe they need some support.
“By learning online, it means you have an immediate support network there to help you at every step and intervene early to ensure you get the very best outcome.”
For the one, and the many
If you learn online, you will still have a whole host of peers who you learn with – peers from a vast geographical spread, bringing with them a diverse set of experiences to relay.
“In-person education has always been available to people who are located near – or relocated to be near – a campus,” says Wappett.
“And that’s always meant a huge portion of the population haven’t been able to access higher education. Learning online brings a fantastic diversity to a group – you could be studying with someone in a city, in the outback, or located overseas. There’s a huge benefit in tapping into that diversity, and challenging your beliefs.”
However, while you are most definitely part of a group, online learning enables the delivery of information to be tailored to the individual, rather than the masses.
“Thankfully, it’s no longer a case of ‘you must keep up’. Online learning keeps up with you.” Says Paul Wappett