5 reasons to use modern online learning


Oh no! Not another of these “5 reasons (or 7 or 10) for using e-learning”. You are probably already aware that this is not a new topic. In fact, if you search Google for '5 top reasons to use e-learning' you get 63,000,000 results. Sixty three million! For those who believe in the “wisdom of crowds” there must be quite a bit to learn from 63 million posts.

I decided to look at the 10 items on the first page of Google results and analyse the reasons why people believe in e-learning. The one reason that came out way ahead of any other was:

  • More effective learning

However, this is expressed in many different ways including improved pedagogy, better knowledge retention and management, supporting the learner’s development, enhanced engagement. It seems there is a broad range of definitions of effective learning.

It also quickly became clear that the benefits of e-learning in many cases are benefits to the employer of the learner, not the learner themself. Some benefits that were regularly mentioned are, in order from most often to least often quoted:

  • Reduced costs
  • 24/7 availability
  • Enhanced reach, finding hard to reach people
  • Faster delivery
  • Lower environmental impact
  • Consistency and standardization
  • Measuring learning activity and proving return on investment
  • Boosting employee productivity

If you are a learner then it seems unlikely that any of these reasons would be high among your priorities. The benefits most often quoted that relate directly to the learner are:

  • Learner is in control, can determine the pace, and has freedom to fail in a sheltered environment
  • Personalized learning, supporting different learning styles

Only benefits listed by more than one site are mentioned above.

So, it seems that there is not nearly enough emphasis on why e-learning matters to learners. That is why this post is about modern online learning. Firstly, let's leave the word e-learning for those who focus on the organisation's needs and use the words online learning when we want to focus on the learner's needs. And let's also jump ahead of all the baggage associated with the past two decades of e-learning and focus on modern online learning using today's technologies to fit learning into today's lifestyle.

Here are some suggestions for the 5 best reasons to use modern online learning:

  • Effectiveness: After more than 20 years we find that modern online learning now recognises the mistakes of the past. The days when e-learning was about the transmission of information are long past. People learn when they meet challenges, when they are pushed to solve real-world problems. We learn from making mistakes. Through correcting mistakes we understand why some approaches are better than others. Learning online is an ideal environment in which to make mistakes, receive guidance, and use those mistakes to build a more robust framework for our understanding. Assessing what someone has learned is not something that happens at the end of education or training – it happens all the time, at every opportunity. Modern online learning constantly challenges your understanding and demands proof that you can apply what you have learned.
  • Immediate Relevance: When do you usually realise that you need to learn something new? Right here! Right now! If all you need is information then a smartphone with a web browser will probably be sufficient. But learning is about more than just information recall, it is about understanding, applying, analysing and creating. We need education and training that is as immediately available as today's weather or a restaurant review. The key to finding appropriate training is the context – what new competency do I need to be able to apply? To offer this immediately requires a map of competencies in bite-sized chunks that can be accessed immediately. Modern online learning is capable of meeting this need.
  • Convenience: Of course there is no point being able to identify the required training if you need to fly to New York next month to take a two week course. What you need is the relevant chunk of that course in your hand right now, delivered through you smartphone.
  • Be an Adult: Adults are capable of making decisions about their own learning. We do not need training that insists you must do A and B before you can do C and then D will be revealed. Modern online learning makes every aspect of a course visible to adult learners and let them use their past experience and judgement to choose not just the order but also the time to spend and the depth of understanding required.

Yes, That's right, there are only 4 reasons not 5, but it is the reasoning that is important not the number. Let's get past numbered lists and concentrate on the messages.