A piece of e-learning used to last for an hour. You’d sit at your desk (or at home) and complete the piece, start to finish. This had all sorts of benefits. It was more time efficient than going to a classroom and the materials remained available for reference into the future.
More recently, we’ve been working with ‘matrix’ approaches, where the learning is split down much further, into shorter elements. These shorter elements often don’t need to be completed in a linear order. They are intended to be standalone, and often have a different ‘voice’ for each piece (some being formal, presenter led, some informal, interview based, and so on).
E-Learning can also be extended beyond the single learning experience by including pre-learning and follow up materials. We’ve been working on a mentoring project to create an online ‘Mentoring Space’, where people can learn about mentoring, but also engage with other learners. This engagement includes working together in forums, sharing stories and calling on experts for support. We are also following up the learning in others ways; by creating packs of material to support each element of the learning. A pack of material might include emails that are sent to each delegate after they complete a module. One email might be a week later, reminding them of key learning points, the next might be three weeks later, and include a new video, but using the same characters as were present in the e-learning module. By bringing back these characters we can draw upon the relationship that has been created within the learning module and extend it into the post course learning.
The post-module learning can include challenge as well as information, for example, sharing a video showing a difficult encounter and asking learners to diagnose the issue, formulate an action plan and indicate key activities that would support a successful resolution.
Forums can be used, based around these case studies, with structured interactions. Using a moderator not just to control content, but also to drive activity can be highly sucessfull here; engaging with individual learners, asking them questions, identifying relevent sections, drawing them into the debate. Forums need energy and momentum to work. Sometimes we have to drive that energy in ourselves, to prime them, to get them moving, just as we have to ensure that learning is summarised and drawn to a close after a set amount of time.
We are also using podcasts, with a more programmatic approach, to engage at a more social level with learners in the follow up phase of the project. This includes adding interviews with practitioners and discussion about real encounters.
The challenge with any learning is to take it out of the classroom (or off the screen) and change what we do to reflect our new understanding. The only way to affect change is to take small footsteps , but the first step is always the hardest. Our follow up materials need to keep the learning alive and walk the first few footsteps with the learner, helping them to start making these changes.