4 problems with e-learning (and how to guard against them)

Nothing is perfect, and e-learning is no different. Here are some aspects of online learning that need to be addressed before implementing an e-learning course plan.

1. Social isolation

Unlike traditional classroom learning, online learners do not interact with each other physically. Each is in a separate physical environment, and usually take up the modules when they have time. This means that they invariably are not online concurrently. As a result of all this, the social aspect of learning is compromised.

The solution:

  1. Wherever possible and appropriate, incorporate live interactive learning modules with real instructors and co-learners. 
  2. Consider providing online forums to allow knowledge sharing and engagement on a class-wide level, and chat rooms for private one-on-one conversations. 
  3. Include processes to request and incorporate learner feedback to make them feel heard, and therefore more engaged.

2. Dependency on self-motivation

Since e-learning courses are undertaken at the learner’s own pace, completion of the course in a timely manner while achieving all learning outcomes depends on the learner’s own drive and interest. This works well when the learner is highly motivated, but less so when the learner needs motivation.

The solution:

  1. Put realistic, but finite, time limits on course completion – indefinite limits can result in slackness at the beginning of the course from which the learner may not recover. 
  2. Factor in speed of module completion as part of assessment criteria. This could be either bonus points for early completion or a penalty for delay.  
  3. Work with industry experts to create content that’s interesting and relevant. The more engaging the content, the more likely that the learner will stick with the course. You can consider incorporating gamification or game-based learning for better results.

3. Risk of malpractice

Since there is no invigilator physically present during online assessments, there is a risk of cheating. Without dependable assessments, it is impossible to gauge learner progress and the efficacy of the course in improving knowledge transfer. 

The solution:

  1. Consider assessment through rapid fire quizzes, giving the learner very little time to search for the answer or ask a friend.  
  2. Micro-assessments are another mode of assessment, which are psychologically less susceptible to cheating – each assessment contributes so little to the final score that it doesn’t feel worth the effort to cheat!
  3. A number of specialized and easy-to-use software plugins exist to reduce the risk of malpractice to nearly zero.

4. Theory-orientation

It’s believed that e-learning is better suited to delivering theory training than  practice. However, that’s simply not true. When the content is prepared correctly, online learning can be made equally effective for both theoretical and practical training.

The solution:

  1. Prepare content that focuses on realistic practical examples, case studies and implementation exercises. Orientation towards realistic scenarios helps learners understand and apply theoretical concepts in practical settings. 
  2. By using microlearning, learning outcomes – especially retention – can be significantly improved. This is true of theoretical as well as practical course content. 
  3. Incorporate simulation as well as augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) into learning content to give learners a truly hands-on experience, to learn by doing.

At Hornbill FX, we believe that there are huge advantages to online learning. However, when you work with us, you gain a strong consultative partner who doesn’t hesitate to tell you when a pure e-learning  approach is not the ideal path forward. Thanks to our years of experience, we understand the complexities of e-learning and how to address them. Do contact us to discuss how to move forward with your next project.