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Online learning – Understanding the learner experience continuum

Online learning has become one of the most used forms of learning in the VET sector. It is a flexible and convenient way for people to learn new skills, knowledge, and information.

Learning online is a process that many organisations are starting to take more seriously. They are trying to figure out how to best support learners in their learning journey by providing them with suitable tools.

This type of education takes place in various forms like e-Learning, blended learning, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and distance learning. Learners are moving towards online learning due to its flexibility and convenience. Some learners may feel more comfortable with social interactions while others prefer to work on their own without any interaction to achieve their goals.

Different organisations work differently with learners as they move through stages. For example, some organisations give learners autonomy and encourage them to figure out what’s best for them, while others provide guidance and support for their learner journey.

There are different degrees and types of online courses that can be taken by learners. Some courses might be completely passive while others might require active participation from the learner like answering questions or providing feedback to teachers. Learners can take online courses at different levels with varying degrees of interactivity. While some organisations take care of all levels of learners, there are other organisations that offer specific services depending on a learner’s needs and preferences.

The learner experience continuum

The learner experience continuum is a way to visualise and explore the different stages of online learning and the role that organisations play in them.

The learner experience continuum refers to the different stages of online learning from no or little interactivity to comprehensive self-directed learning where learners are engaged and contributing comprehensively to their learning journey.

The different stages of online learning

The different stages of online learning include:

Stage 1: no interactivity – learners are given content through PDF files, word copies of these documents are uploaded online. This stage only includes the passive form of learning that happens by simply reading or watching an image or video that has been produced by someone else’s expertise in one particular subject matter.

Stage 2: low interactivity – Visual and audio tools are used, followed by quizzes or assessments that help them improve their knowledge of the material. The information is presented using text format rather than PDF and word copies, the learner can bookmark what they have read and where to continue next time they commence their reading, learners can watch content, try out interactive drills, watch videos, etc

Stage 3: Low social learning – where learners interact with peers in groups or one-to-one, who are also working to learn about a topic or gain understanding in a certain area. This is very similar to the traditional classroom setting.

Stage 4: High social interactivity – immersive and collaborative. – where learners can connect with people who have expertise in fields they know little about and explore topics working as a team in any real business setting. The interactivity in the learning processes can be achieved through each of the following methods:

  • 360 photos
  • 360 videos
  • Interactive virtual reality (VR)
  • Facial recognition
  • Student trainer interactivity
  • Powerpoint
  • Search engine

This stage also includes active participation in social learning networks and activities. This stage can also include the use of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual reality, gamification and other technological advancements.

Please note: There are many other stages that organisations provide for their learners. These include self-paced courses, self-directed learning, assessment-based courses, blended theory and practice courses, etc.

This continuum can be used in different ways to help learners through the specific phases and stages – knowledge transfer, informal learning and formal learning. Training organisations often help learners during these phases by providing content support to help them in the knowledge transfer phase. They also provide feedback and coaching for informal learner interactions and they have assigned mentors or experts who can provide guidance in the formal learner interaction phase.




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