The benefits of e-learning
Head of learning, Kathy Hanson, reflects on the benefits of e-learning during the final day of the Get Online Week campaign.We’ve been supporting Get Online Week, a campaign run by the Online Centres Foundation (OCF) and we’ve just launched a survey to find out what you think about distance learning.
Kathy takes a look at how our e-learning service – distance learning – has changed over the years and what the main benefits are.
We’re the largest provider of distance learning for the housing sector.
Our services started by us providing learners with the traditional paper based courses, at the beginning of each year. Students received a big parcel with an intimidating amount of course materials, after their induction session they used these materials which were probably already partially out of date to produce their assignments.
About five years ago we decided to migrate our course to an e-leaning format and we haven’t looked back, we think our courses are significantly better as a result and we’ve identified lots of benefits for our students and their organisations.
We made the decision because we thought e-learning would have a really positive impact on course quality but over time we have identified a much wider range of advantages. By operating a just in time approach to materials productions we can ensure that student are studying something that is really up to date, we can also add information during the course if useful things become available and be sure that all student have access. We can be also ensure quality; so that everyone has the same experience and information.
We control the online platform and so we can see how it is being used by students, over time this understanding will make for a more focussed development process and for better materials that provide students with what they want presented in the most accessible format. As distance learning providers this is the equivalent to seeing our class at work, we’ll be able to see which bits of the course excite and engage people and just as importantly which parts cause them to nod off.
We can plan our courses to ensure that they appeal to people with a variety of learning styles using a range of ways to package the information using audio, video, webinars, bulletin boards and chat rooms as well as exercises and quizzes to supplement the written material. We have options to assess learning more imaginatively so that coursework is part of the learning experience rather than something that is submitted at the end. All of this makes for more engaging and successful courses and a better learning experience for students.
There are lots of advantages for students; they can chose when they study to fit with their home and work life, so it is more accessible way to study that attending college. They can go at their own pace, they don’t get left behind or waste their time whilst others are catching up. They can also decide how much emphasis to put on different areas of study focussing on the more challenging or less familiar area.
Students don’t have to travel in order to learn and we don’t need to provide a college environment, this means that people who live in remote locations or who have niche interests can have access to the same learning resources as everyone else and that all students save on travel costs. This reduces the environmental impact of the programmes, the Open University found that 90% less energy was used in the delivery of these courses and that there were 85% less carbon emissions but all of this would be irrelevant if the learning experience was not good. Whilst researching this blog I came a cross a study commissioned by the American Psychological Society, it reviewed research into e-learning and concluded that “Learners learn more using computer based instruction than they do with conventional styles of teaching.”
The exciting thing about developing e-learning is that it is never finished, in the last five years our courses have changed out of all recognition and the pace of change is not slowing down. As we understand more about what our learners need and want we’ll be able to use the mind boggling array of possibilities to improve existing courses and develop new ways of making sure that housing people access to courses that equip them to do their jobs now and in the future – that’s what it is all about after all.
Find out more about our distance learning services or see the e-learning courses available from e-Academy.
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