Live Online Learning – are you ready for the Virtual Classroom?

This week Chat2lrn are delighted to welcome Colin Steed, Chief Executive of the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI).  Colin has a wealth of experience in delivering Live Online Learning.  Not only does he manage the LPI’s webinar programme, he is the architect and designer of the LPI’s global certification programme for live online learning facilitators (COLF) and he published a best-selling book on live online facilitation ‘Facilitating Live Online Learning‘ in 2011. You can follow Colin on Twitter @ColinSteed. 

With the majority of people now able to access Internet-enabled computers both at work and at home, the ability to learn online with a live trainer has arrived.

Today’s learners want to learn in shorter timescales, they want learning accessible at the point of need, they want shorter sessions, and they want those sessions focused on the role they perform in the workplace.

Looking for cost savings in today’s economic climate, employers are also looking seriously at live online learning. In the Learning & Performance Institute Learning Survey 2012, 46% of the institute’s members reported that they are now using live online learning and plan to increase its use over the next three years.

Contrary to popular opinion, live online training – also called virtual classroom training or synchronous training – is not new. My first experience with it was back in 1995, when I was editor of IT Training magazine and was invited to try out a new technology which “would see the end of the classroom”. How many times have we heard that old chestnut every time something new is launched?

During the past decade or so, powered by the huge and rapid advances in technology and years of research into how people learn online, things have developed and progressed considerably. Notably, the following advances have been made which has brought reliable live online learning to everyone:

  • Most people now enjoy a fast Internet connection through high-speed Broadband both at work and at home, indeed even while they are travelling, by the advances in mobile technology such as smart phones and internet-enabled tablets, such as the iPad.
  • Most knowledge workers have computer access at work and at home, as well as owning many Internet-enabled mobile wireless devices capable of receiving learning events.
  • The web conferencing software has evolved into a reliable platform, benefitting from over 15 years of development and enhancement.
  • We have been provided with evidence-based research on how people learn online and the best way to deliver online learning events.
  • The 2008 recession necessitated every organisation carrying out deep cost-cutting exercises; organisations both public and private are looking for all ways to save on non-essential costs.

And so it is, within this climate, that we have seen a dramatic rise and re-emergence of live online learning throughout the world. This time around, however, we do have a much better chance of reaping those benefits and opportunities – but only if we act on the lessons we have learnt from the past.

So what lessons have we learnt since the 1990s?

  • Firstly, and most importantly, we now understand that the face-to-face classroom trainer cannot simply transfer their classroom delivery skills or their content into the online classroom. Although much of the trainer’s skills can be utilised online, there are many new skills and techniques needed to ensure delivery of effective, learner-focused and engaging online events.
  • Secondly, we have some evidence–based research on how we learn online, from educational psychologists like Sweller, Mayer, Clark, and Medina et al. These findings prove that to enable learners to learn in the online environment we need to overhaul the traditional way trainers produce visual aids, and we must understand how not to overload our learners’ working memories if we want the learning to stick.
  • We need to produce shorter, learner-centred events that are focused on enabling learners to learn and practise skills that are aligned to what they need to do in their job. We need to stop dumping information into our learners – and that means a complete re-think of how we design our online events.

Trainers need to think beyond the physical aspects of classroom and instead create learning relationships with their learners, using the resources available to them in the online classroom. These learning relationships require the trainer to master new facilitation skills and techniques, as well as acquire mastery of different tools and resources from the ones deployed when the trainer and learners are in the same room together.

So are you ready for the Virtual Classroom?  Join us Thursday 13 June, 16.00BST/11.00EDT/08.00PDT.

Useful links:

Virtual Learning Show – Free Online Conference taking place on 20 & 27 June 2013

LIVE ONLINE LEARNING IN EUROPE 2013 SURVEY – Take part in the survey and receive a free copy of the published report.

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