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5 ways to drastically improve the impact from virtual classrooms

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Ilja Rijnen, regional HR director Asia Pacific and India, Edrington, shares the five things to focus on for e-learning to be successful.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

We humans are driven by social needs and we most of our learning takes place through social interactions: from our early moments of existence we learn through social settings, through interacting, observing and imitating others and sharing ideas with the world that surrounds us.

Already in the late 70s different studies conducted in America (Bandura, 1977) and Russia (Vgotsky, 1978) revealed that learning takes place because of the influence of social environments and the absence of a possibility to interact from early ages works counter effective on our development.

Since the late 90s, e-learning has been introduced to the world of learning and in the recent times, especially with the arrival of enterprise systems, the digital form of education has become the preferred choice for many organisations due to its perceived benefits: it offers its learners a flexible schedule, cheap and efficient ways of education and convenient ways of offering content on demand.

However, the individual learning experiences that are being created seem contradictory though to the social ways in which people learn, which is why many digital forms of learning have failed in the past decade.

Nevertheless, by working with the approaches from the social learning theories, it is possible to drive the learner’s intrinsic motivation and involvement. This will drastically improve the effect from virtual classrooms in the enterprise world.

The key is to focus on these five areas:

#1 The need to belong to a group
People feel a need to belong to a group – ensure people have a possibility to connect with other participants both offline and online. Make people aware of the importance of their presence in the group, having them work together on common assignments and goals.

#2 The need for expression through online tools
People feel a need to express oneself through implementing effective online communication tools, such as blogs, forums and chat-rooms. If used effectively, these tools can also be used to drive collaboration. This addresses the human need to support others and get supported and builds trust in the virtual group.

People feel a need to belong to a group – ensure people have a possibility to connect with other participants both offline and online.

#3 The natural desire to compete with others
People have a natural drive to compete with others and are motivated by the perception of punishment and reward, linked to the achievement of goals. Successful completion of tasks evokes a sense of accomplishment and increased self–confidence.

Adding ‘gamification’ principles (adding game like features to e-learning) is a good way to drive competition and achievement and the presence of a social environment. This can be stimulated by introducing clear metrics to compare performance and creating prizes or awards for achievements.

#4 The context needs to be understood
For information to become memorable people need to be able to understand the context, get what is being learned and relate to it emotionally. A context can be shared online through relevant videos, animations, diagrams, real life examples. In a social context the impact further increases when people can talk about their personal experiences online or offline.

#5 Ensure there is a need for the learning to be used
When all of the above elements have been put into place effectively, online learning can stick when the organisation ensures that there is a need for the learning to be used on a day to day basis and people are being involved by further development and application. Effective methods can be the creating of pages on social media such (i.e. Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter) to provide post course opportunities for storytelling, information sharing or collaboration.

If all of the above are applied in a constructive way, e-learning in the digital world can become an effective, involving and impactful experience that not only teaches the participants but also engages them to further help develop the content.

Art Direction: Shahrom Kamarulzaman; Photography: Elliot Lee, Nikon Ambassador (Singapore)

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