We reflect on what we’ve learned from the coronavirus pandemic about the role of e-learning in the modern world.
As lockdown restrictions ease, we can at least begin to take stock of a confusing few months and try to make sense of what it means for online learning.
We first wrote about the pandemic in February. As a result of our work with clients with a strong presence in the Far East, we realised early on that COVID-19 was going to have huge consequences for businesses, education institutions and other organisations.
It’s fair to say that we probably hadn’t fully understood the scale of the impending impact at that stage – specifically that it would consume such a large swathe of the planet for such a sustained period – but we had grasped that there were big changes ahead for any organisation dependent on gathering large numbers of people together.
We were able to help our clients:
- Implement new learning technologies as a result of changes to how they were working.
- Put in place platforms that helped them to navigate lockdown, but will also streamline their operations beyond the pandemic.
- Reimagine in online form courses and other events that would otherwise have been lost during lockdown.
Here are some of our key takeaways from lockdown.
The importance of replicating real-world meet-ups
One of the first clients who contacted us as the pandemic took hold was an educational institution that realised it would be impossible to hold lectures and seminars as normal. We were able to point them in the direction of BigBlueButton, video conferencing software designed specifically for learning.
For organisations that previously used a blended learning approach and relied on regularly having face-to-face contact with learners, video conferencing for e-learning has been a key priority during the pandemic.
Zoom and other video platforms have been a big part of lockdown for all of us. For e-learning, BigBlueButton has the twin advantages of being equipped with features aimed at educators and also integrating seamlessly with Moodle and other learning management systems. That means no Zoom invites – everything takes place in a single tab within the LMS, which is a big timesaver if you’re trying to bring a large group of learners together.
Remote learning as standard
We’ve written about how working from home is likely to be here to stay for office workers. With many employers now putting in place the right infrastructure – software, computing hardware and suitable furniture – for remote work to move beyond one day a week at home with the laptop, it is hard to see how we’ll go back to the office in large numbers for a full working week.
This opens the potential for more companies to cast their recruitment net a bit wider — somebody might as well be working 500 miles away as 5 miles away.
Certainly we can expect the new approach to impact online learning in corporate settings. It remains to be seen to what extent and for how long universities and other educational institutions will favour remote learning as standard. Is the famed ‘student experience’ a thing of the past? Maybe not, but long spells in packed lecture theatres might be.
And similarly to the aforementioned recruiters, perhaps increasing numbers of prospective students will opt to study at an institution hundreds of miles away (or even in a different country) from the comfort of their own home if online learning is the norm at all institutions.
The corporate LMS as ubiquitous
We’ve just touched upon this, but online learning is now set to dominate training and development for employers. Away days, trips to HQ and packed training rooms are going to be increasingly hard to justify.
Employers have been forced to trust their people to do both work and training on their own terms (and often on their own kitchen table). We’re already seeing companies investing when the infrastructure to support remote learning wasn’t previously in place.
A learning management system will become essential for organisations with more than a handful of employees. We expect this to gradually drive up the quality of online learning across the board in the same way that wider internet access has gradually forced companies to improve the quality of their websites.
Little changes can have a big impact
Lockdown gave many of us plenty of time for introspection, both personally and professionally. We’ve been able to delve into details. We helped one client in the finance industry achieve a 500% increase in return visits to their LMS by simply restructuring their dashboard, courses and content to match learners’ current priorities.
What can be achieved when you pull together
Heroes on the frontline, parents juggling work and childcare, or just venturing out for the weekly shop. Whether of huge national importance or minor personal significance, we’re all emerging from lockdown with tales of how we’ve dealt with adversity. We’ve seen countless examples of humans pulling together to overcome or achieve something that seemed unsurmountable.
Our own lockdown anecdote comes from designing, building and testing a new LMS capable of delivering COVID-19 training to 60,000 staff and volunteers at the Birmingham Nightingale Hospital in just six days. In January, that would have sounded impossible. By April, it was something that could be achieved when everyone pulled together (and worked some very long days!). You can read more about that here.
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