The last two decades have witnessed a dramatic rise in the popularity of e-learning. Extraordinary changes that we are now facing in terms of communication and sharing information has meant that e-learning has had to adapt to meet the needs of today’s businessmen and women. e-Learning is an area that is currently being used by many, but why use e-learning and what are the reasons for its popularity? Marco Faccini, account director, hospitality division of ThirdForce PLC, one of the largest e-learning providers in the UK, tells hospitality-industry.com why.
Traditionally, e-learning was plainly a method of uploading manuals online. From its infancy e-learning had an extremely long journey to complete to ‘wow’ its audience.
More recently, e-learning has become much more focused on engaging the learner and providing a constructive and rewarding environment. The classroom comes alive with lessons packed full of sights, sounds, quizzes and games. A learner in the e-learning environment can now become part of the class through the interactive nature of online learning. With a combined functionality of text, audio and visual media, e-learning has become much more accessible to international students. Offered in languages such as English, Polish and Portuguese, a diverse workforce can partake in the e-learning phenomenon. The senses, namely sights and sounds, are fully intrigued through the array of online possibilities.
e-Learning was renowned for its presentation in large chunks of information. This method did not help the learner to retain information, nor did it motivate course completion. In fact, it had a negative effect on the learner, daunting the individual with the sheer amount of material that needed to be learnt in a one off session. More recently, the placing of the learner at the heart of learning has meant a rapid increase in popularity. The e-learner is ideally placed to know what they want to study and in what format. And so they should be!
Now available in smaller portions, e-learning material has become much more inviting for an array of students, of differing academic backgrounds. Material can be digested more easily and with increased flexibility.
Shake it, shake it!
The use of scenarios and games has also shaken and stirred the world of online learning. The ability to experiment, discover and reflect has made e-learning progressively more fashionable, encouraging an environment in which mistakes are permitted. Flexible material tailored specifically to the learner allows for a non-threatening learning space, where learners can progress at their own pace and can actually enjoy the experience. More confident learners are shaped, achieving the qualifications they truly deserve. e-Learners with basic IT skills can also experience online activity on fun, user-friendly platforms.
In its formative years e-learning was a highly dictatorial method of teaching and learning. Presented as a ‘tell and test’ activity employees were told the content that they must learn and then they would be tested. Learners were unable to discover new information: this was seen as a huge downfall! Nowadays, the learner can be part of a much more relaxed and personalised ‘try and see’ process. Now presented as a route to discovery, e-learning, reported by numerous learners, is 100 per cent more motivating as it builds on prior knowledge. Discussions are spurred on by exploratory and thought provoking questions between the learner and online tutor and even social networking with both colleagues and external participants.
Rightfully so, active learning environments are places where questions should be posed and answered. Creators and designers of e-learning have cleverly introduced character simulations that engage the online learner in a social experience where a ‘real person’ guides instruction and the lesson. Personality is created through visual impact, choice of language and even voice. Given all the advances that gaming and social technologies have made in recent times, why can’t e-learning incorporate some of these engaging and interesting components?
Extending the boundaries of learning
Once designed for desktop computer use, e-learning constrained learners to the confines of the classroom. With advances in technology witnessed over the past few years, why should students’ learning be restricted? Learning should be an activity performed with ease and one that encourages learners to commit to their course of study and further their qualifications. The long awaited availability of e-learning on the move has now arrived. Obtainable on mobile, tablet-form computers, known as the el-box, e-learning caters for those employees that live life on the move. Being able to use handheld technology, employees can dip in and out of their training whenever and wherever convenient. This supports the current lifestyle of today’s learner and those who may have sporadic working hours such as those working in bars, restaurants and hotels. Most of us are now permanently attached to our mobile phones and laptops, and are used to accessing what we want, when we want it! 21st century learning needs to mirror these advances.
The attractiveness of e-learning has also arisen from the types of materials that are presented. The digital generation of the new millennium seek blogs, discussion forums and web pages that allow them to initiate their own styles of learning and take part in extremely interactive and engaging tasks. These online pages provoke thought and debate, allowing learners to explore their understanding of their workplace and job role.
With the use of network technologies to deliver and facilitate learning, anytime anywhere learning is rapidly growing in today’s hospitality sector. e-Learning gives people the competitive edge to lift performance, raise standards and guarantee best practice. Ultimately it facilitates a modern and forward thinking approach.