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Potential Pitfalls of Online Learning: Part 3

Last week, we discussed under-estimating costs and resources when converting face-to-face training to an online environment. We conclude this series with recommendations regarding blended learning and measuring impact.

Pitfall #7: Not understanding the inherent differences in face-to-face and online learning

Online learning (stand-alone and instructor-led) is a fundamentally different interaction type when compared to face-to-face learning, and learners experience it very differently. This is not all bad, nor all good -- just different. Some of the differences include:

Online learning can:

Online learning can also:

Face-to-face training can provide an environment where participants, especially adult learners, are compelled to focus without distractions. Even the most introverted among us may find opportunity to build relationships with our peers during a lively training session. Even if we are not engaged, let's face it: it is rude to put yourself on mute, multi-task, watch streaming video, check your Facebook, and fall asleep during a face-to-face training session. Some may argue that in facilitated webinars, instructors can still provide feedback and organize group interactions, but the technology and distance can always act as a barrier to full engagement and building trust.

Pitfall #8: Not capitalizing on the inherent differences of face-to-face and online learning

Online learning does not need to be all-or-nothing. By understanding the differences stated above, many learning professionals will advocate for a blended solution. There are several ways online learning tools can support and extend face-to-face learning. Some examples include:

Pitfall #9: Creating learning sessions that are not connected to immediate use with no metrics of impact

Finally, whether it is face-to-face, online or blended, if the learning solution does not answer the questions "So what?" or "Why is this important to me?" then the solution has failed. If learners have no idea how to take what they have learned and apply it to their lives today, the solution has failed. if the training has zero measurement methods of impact, beyond the evaluation immediately after the end of the training (aka smiley sheets), then how do we know if the training was not a waste of everyone's time?

Effective learning sessions allow participants to make immediate connections to their lives. It helps them develop plans of action on how to apply what they are learning to their work. It offers concrete examples and tools to use the learning, and ways to self-measure whether it is effective or not.

Effective learning designs include concrete metrics in the form of pre- and post-tests to capture retention of materials and a data-driven approach to measure impact. Having learners develop plans of action to demonstrate how they plan on using what they learned can also demonstrate understanding as well as checking in months later on how well they implemented their action plan.

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