In March 2020, Coronavirus hit the world like a tsunami. Since it was no longer safe for people to gather in large numbers, traditional classroom learning was left behind as businesses and education swapped over to remote teaching. It is one of the few economic sectors experiencing growth. We have embraced eLearning like never before.

Should digital learning be the default for all training now? Or should we seek a balance between traditional classroom-style methods and e-Learning.

eLearning – Riding The Wave

As a sector, eLearning is nothing new. Distance learning, such as the Open University, and the use of webinars and virtual classrooms to train global workforces, have been around for 10 years.

It makes sound economic sense. It’s far cheaper than flying 50 delegates to a conference and better for the environment. In most cases, it reduces learning time, since employees can learn at their own pace. Employers can track how well their staff are doing and feedback more efficiently.

Now, eLearning technology is our new normal. The eLearning market is set to reach $375 billion by 2026. ( Adoption of remote training had to happen at lightning speed. It was a vertical learning curve and now it’s boomtime.

When we switched over to remote, employers were forced to rethink their entire, instructor-led training programmes. There was a virtual ‘scramble for the lifeboats’ as existing courses were hastily converted for online delivery. Some businesses condensed and converted six-month training courses into six intensive days. eLearning versions of onboarding and training employees in new software such as Zoom kept training departments afloat.

Why e-Learning Is Effective

In many ways, the boom came along at just the right time. We are accustomed to access-on-demand services, from Netflix to Amazon. Today’s digital-native students expect personalised and flexible learning – something that is far easier to deliver online than in the lecture theatre. They want gamified content, video, microlearning assets, and they expect to have it at their fingertips. Definitely on their Smartphones.

eLearning and in particular adaptive learning, prioritises our own learning styles. It uses Artificial Intelligence algorithms to track a student’s performance. Then it trawls the net to ‘recommend’ additional material to help them get the best out of their training. It’s highly effective, akin to having your own personal tutor.

The more interactive and personalised your eLearning content is, the better your students will perform.

The statistics are impressive – online learning increases information retention by up to 60%. The exponential rise in online learning has meant that the tools and techniques available to deliver it have diversified. It’s not enough to transfer existing in-person content or courses onto new video conferencing platforms.

In particular, microlearning and gamification have been driving the market growth.

Custom-created games and techniques such as quizzes, leaderboards and competitions greatly increase engagement. Domino’s Pizza, Samsung and Google have all been using gamification to onboard employees since 2016. Introducing gamified content during video training conferences creates circuit-breakers which help employees stay motivated.

Microlearning is predicted to be the big eLearning trend in 2021. As the name suggests, it is bite-sized pieces of content – text, image, video or audio – designed for a high-impact information-fix.

“In this era of busy schedules and short attention spans, microlearning is a near-perfect training model. And it can be used for all kinds of training. A few microlearning examples include employee onboarding, compliance training, and skills training or mini reference guides that can be accessed on the go via mobile.” (Nikos Andriotis

The Effect On The Wider Market

The demand for eLearning content has positively impacted other industries too. There is a halo effect on technology providers who build Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Learning Experience Programmes (LXP).

These consumer-targeted LXP software programmes allow users to personalise their learning completely using Artificial Intelligence. LXPs can integrate with other 3rd party systems to create a personal learning ecosystem. Very attractive to today’s consumers.

In addition, the growth in eLearning has accelerated change in the mobile phone market.

By 2025, three quarters of the world’s internet users will access the web solely through their Smartphone. Mobile will be the go-to platform to access remote training resources. The demand for mobile-compatible eLearning content is surging.

Have We Gone Overboard On eLearning?

In March, we jumped ship on conventional classroom learning because we had to – most businesses reported a 100% move to virtual training by May.

So how effective has your ‘emergency eLearning’ strategy been? What feedback are you getting from your employees – particularly those who are more technophobic? Or those who are shy about participating in the more interactive elements such as instant chat or gamification?

In education, we have seen that not everybody has access to the devices or stable connections necessary to participate in remote schooling. If you don’t have access to internet technology, then all the eLearning in the world isn’t going to help.

Some things just can’t be replicated online. A charismatic teacher leading a discussion or debate. A chance conversation at a conference that results in a new connection, or a new contract. For complex, collaborative topics, employees will still get the most benefit from small group training sessions. This is also true for hands-on, mentorship programs.

Going forward we should blend eLearning with in-person training, tailoring learning to match each person’s learning style and lifestyle.

Take the best of both. That’s an enviably futureproof position to be in, post-Covid.