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Quality Online Learning vs. E-Junk Training

Submitted by  on September 6th, 2012

onine education written on chalk blackboardIn their study, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning, the U.S. Department of Education concludes that blended instruction is far more effective than one method alone. This is not earth-shattering news. Instructional variety is key, along with connection to work-related performance outcomes, NOT just learning outcomes; often “measured” by clicking through online tests or sorts. It stands to reason that online learning compresses face-to-face learning and that more research is needed due to the weaknesses of many studies involving online learning (e.g., small sample sizes).

In my experience from workplaces, compliance training (e.g., safety) is typically rolled out to the masses, with little concern about real learning results or a tie to on-the-job application (i.e., organizational results). From a personal standpoint, having taken graduate-level courses online and face-to-face, my online courses regularly had much higher-level discourse and showed more critical/creative thought than that which happened on campus (at two different universities).

Online learners tended to take time to think and respond thoughtfully with asynchronous learning, whereas the F2F environment can quickly become more social than educational. A bigger concern for me is the countless companies cranking out “e-learning” for hapless employees (e.g., “talking head videos”) and declaring them to be “training” or examples of effective and innovative work-related instruction. In fact, many of these “programs” are not being developed according to evidence-based instructional design principles or linked to measurable, desirable organizational results (i.e., performance change). Isn’t that what we all want – better results for people AND their organizations?

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