It’s not so long ago that we believed, as a society, that learning was greatly enhanced by a rap on the wrist with a long stick. Collective thinking leaned towards an ideal that information was best forced upon us. After all, negative experiences aren’t so easy to forget, right?
Thankfully, we soon learned that the Victorians had it a bit wrong. We started to embrace learning with open arms, and began to see the value of willing participation. Learning does not need to be a hostile environment; in fact, we’ve come a long way to discover that the more engaged the participant, the more effective the learning.
This ideal is one of the great foundations of awesome eLearning. We work very hard to make sure that user experience is at the forefront of all decisions we make. Our goal is for our learners to complete a course not only wiser than when they began, but also hopefully having enjoyed the experience.
So, we’re always thinking about the best way to achieve that goal…
The Problem with eLearning
One of the most incredible benefits of eLearning, and probably the one that sets it so far aside from traditional methods, is its accessibility. A platform of learning material that can be accessed at any time, (without the need for any hand-holding on behalf of the provider) is what allows eLearning to sit so neatly within today’s technological climate.
But it’s important to remember that taking learners out of an environment with which they can easily associate, and asking them to do just the same through a screen can raise some issues. In the grand scheme of learning as an activity, eLearning is really in its infancy. As such, those of us hard-wired to do better at learning-by-doing might struggle when it comes to learning certain skills through the medium of a mouse.
Finding a Solution
Perhaps the area of eLearning which poses the biggest challenge in replicating essential situations is that of staff onboarding. Introducing a new employee to key practices and processes via eLearning can be tricky if you want to guarantee that they can quickly implement what they’ve learned in a real world situation. This is especially true for more practical industries; and can sometimes even mean the difference between keeping people safe and allowing room for costly mistakes.
As an eLearning developer, it’s our job to find the best ways to teach with the platform that we have. We’re constantly looking into new ways to connect with learners, reach out to them to engage, and help them digest information as reliably as possible. In coming months, one of our main focus points will be that of working even harder to bridge that (ever-shrinking) gap between classroom and computer screen.
We’ll be asking the questions:
- How can we help learners visualise scenarios better?
- What are the key tools for developing scenarios, and how are they evolving?
- Where can we improve opportunities to revisit scenarios if something has been missed?
So what options do we have available to help tick these boxes…?
The technology of Virtual Reality has opened a pretty clunky door to opportunities of immersion in eLearning. Perhaps not yet realistically implementable on a wider scale, VR nonetheless is progressing incredibly quickly as an advanced simulation tool.
Imagine, if you will, the example of teaching a new trainee how to properly mix chemicals within the factory they will be working. It’s far too dangerous to let them get stuck in with real solutions right away, so what else can we do?
- Sit them down in a classroom with other new trainees and go over proper procedures. Perhaps show them a training video.
- Ask them to take an eLearning module that not only covers proper procedures and shows them a training video, but also invites them to engage with an interactive scenario that allows them to identify risk.
Obviously, encouraging the trainee to interact and apply both knowledge and intuition to a simulated scenario makes for the better option. They’ll retain so much more once they become themselves involved through that interaction.
But imagine now another level of interaction all together. With VR, the trainee could become completely immersed. They’d have a much better idea of how the real-life scenario might play out, and could learn by doing without any possible repercussions.
Augmented Reality…. VR’s simple(r) cousin.
Most of our clients aren’t yet ready to jump on the VR train. It’s expensive and no one is quite sure just yet where it’s headed. Nonetheless, we’re all pretty excited to get our feet a little bit wet as the benefits of making the learning experience more and more realistic are incredibly clear.
So we’ll start by augmenting reality. We’ll take those boring 2D scenarios and breathe just enough life into them so that they pull learners in that little bit faster and keep them engaged for that little bit longer.
But what exactly does ‘AR’ mean? And how is it different to ‘VR’?
Let’s say VR is a fully-immersive experience… you put on a headset, and you’re transported to a different world completely. You could be sat in your office, while your brain is climbing Everest, for example. AR is different in that it works using layers. It takes reality and adds to it. This could mean looking through a pair of glasses that give you information according to what you’re looking at, or it could mean translating different languages as you’re hearing them.
The implications of this for eLearning can be both incredibly simple and hugely complex. AR eLearning is information that is responsive to the learner’s environment. At a basic level, it could mean allowing learners to complete scenarios using actual imagery of their present surroundings. More advanced, AR could allow for learners to receive cues to complete scenarios in real-world settings through glasses or some other wearable device.
Once again, realistically, implementation of AR is still a little complicated. Not everyone has access to the tools they’d need to make the most of it, and we’re still touching on new technology that needs a little time to become refined. However, these are principles that we need to start thinking about with every piece of eLearning we create.
- Where within the module is the learner truly able to engage with the content?
- How can we increase that engagement?
And to really start to understand the importance and influence of these new opportunities…
- How much more successful at communicating information really are these more interactive methods?
The bottom line
So, we have a good idea of where we could find eLearning in the not-so-distant future. We even have some goals with which we can focus the evolution of what we do. But the bottom line really remains the same as it was when eLearning, (in fact, even learning in general) began.
Ok, the platforms with which we learn are constantly changing, (let us not forget it wasn’t so long ago we were writing on slate) but the principles haven’t changed.
It doesn’t matter if our learners are digesting information through the means of a piece of paper on desk, or a computer screen, or a pair of glasses… what matters is whether it’s memorable, interesting and easy to understand.
So, we might see you on the other end of a VR headset sometime soon… but we can promise you that what you’ll be looking at will be designed with just the same consideration and processes that we use today.