Having taught at a sixth form college for over 20 years, I often hoped that a remote control for my students would be invented that allowed me to push buttons entitled ‘BE QUIET!’, ‘SUBMIT HOMEWORK’ and rather selfishly ‘AT LEAST LOOK AS IF YOU ARE INTERESTED’. The genius that produced such a device would surely be richer than Zuckerberg and more revered throughout the teaching world!
Alas, it so far hasn’t happened, and I have now left the teaching profession for pastures new. Or rather pastures familiar, as I now help businesses better engage with their online learners using a range of strategies that enable them to increase the chances of successful course completion.
The issues that online learners encounter are often difficult to perceive but they exist, they hinder their progress and they need addressing. In this article, I will highlight a few of the areas that need consideration and suggest simple methods of supporting learners in coping with them.
We need to remember that for a lot of online learners that use Nimble, this is their first return to any form of ‘education’ since leaving school/college. Indeed, their original experience of education may not have been very positive. Yet here they are, faced with a computer and a login and are often expected to just get on with it.
Sell the benefits
We, therefore, must ensure that we educate (pardon the pun) the learner in the benefits that doing this training will bring them. Don’t tell them why they are doing it, as usually, this will be for a business-related reason. Make it personal, allow them to see what they will get out of it, give them ownership of their learning. Many learners will see their studies as additional to their job – try to make it complimentary. Let them know that there will be ring-fenced time available in work to complete the course. If this isn’t possible, discuss maybe some time off in lieu if they study in their own time. Whatever arrangement you come to – stick to it. You are investing in your learner; therefore, they should not feel hard done by because of this.
Encourage engagement at the start
As soon as the learner starts the course there needs to be recognition of this. I worked with over 650 learners at a college in Glasgow and by far the most successful method of early intervention was a ‘well done on starting’ email. Short and simple and personalised.
What’s in a name?
Using their name in the email is important. I tested this and found 54% more learners completed the first unit of the course if I sent them an email with their name in it, compared to those who received a more generic email. If it comes from the Managing Director even better! It makes the learner feel that people know what they are doing and are pleased by it.
Nimble allows you to export learner data as a CSV file, from which you can extract all manner of useful information. How about putting the date that they started in the email, or even the score they got in a test? (if applicable).
Keep an eye out
In fact, I will return to emails in a subsequent article, as they can be an enormous motivator to learners as they remind them that ‘somebody’ is watching. Remember, normally learning is done with someone else in the room. The teacher, classmates etc. For a lot of Nimble users, they will attempt the course ‘in solitary’ – and it is vital that they feel monitored. Google ‘Elton Mayo’ and you will see how psychologists nearly 90 years ago, discovered that people work harder when they feel that they are being watched. They don’t need to be monitored that closely, providing the impression of observation is given.
Allow open communication
I mentioned classmates earlier in the article, whilst the online learner does not have these to hand, you should consider giving them a forum within which they can discuss the course with other learners in your organisation. This forum can take many forms. The obvious technological approach would be to set one up online. This works well if you have learners studying on different sites. But if possible the best method would be to get everyone in a room, say for coffee and biscuits, and let them celebrate their progress with their peers.
Using these strategies, you may not get ‘remote control learning’, but you will be more able to control remote learning.
Mal Blackburne is an experienced educational professional with a demonstrated history of working in the teaching and learning sectors. He specialises in Digital Strategy, Online Learning, Learner Engagement, Coaching, Educational Consulting, and Educational Technology. Further details of his work can be found at www.laeconsultants.com