How digital learning is transforming the workplace
Article published in the September/ October edition of Nursery Management today magazine. View it here.
E-learning has grown up fast in the last 10 years and since the pandemic and lockdown has had a meteoric rise to become the new norm in education. The crisis has provided a powerful test of the potential of online learning which was highlighted in a recent OECD report (2020). Governments and employers have encouraged staff to keep learning and to retrain while they’re staying at home with many training providers moving their face-to-face offer to online learning.
When we talk about eLearning or electronic learning, we generally mean short bitesize courses that often incorporate videos and narration together with interactive elements for example, quizzes or scenario-based learning. Gone are the days of dull, passive click and read powerpoint courses. If used to its full potential digital technology means we can blend bite-sized eLearning with collaborative discussion forums, access webinars, videos and curated resources from around the web. The experience of learning online can be a very personal one – backed up with live web-conferencing – both one-to-one coaching on Skype type platforms, and in virtual classrooms where large groups can gather to watch expert presentations and discuss topical issues.
Online platforms and social media can help break the isolation of working in a small or remote Early Years setting, linking people to peers and to experts in other locations. Some platforms, for example have the functionality to post questions to experts, this provides the possibility for almost instant answers to questions or dilemmas that a person might be experiencing at work.
Today we have access to a plethora of eLearning courses, but what does high quality digital learning look like and how can we ensure that the learning meets the needs of the individual and the organisation. We know from recent research that CPD is one of the three key components for quality provision and improving outcomes for children in the Early Years. It’s important that we don’t simply see eLearning as a quick fix, tick box exercise. As a sector we need to embrace all that digital technology enables us to do in terms of supporting the continuous learning and development of our teams.
If you’re thinking about buying an eLearning course for yourself or for others my advice would be to consider the following points:
- Does the content meet the need of the intended users – is it practical, contextual and relevant to the learners everyday work?
- Is it original and are learners able to self-evaluate, reflect, test out and apply their learning as they go?
- Is the content of the course chunked into bitesize units so that learners have time to assimilate and process the information?
- Does it support the learner’s wellbeing i.e. are study breaks built into the course?
- Is the platform intuitive and the content easy to navigate?
- Has it been developed and reviewed by experts in the field?
- Is there access to a collaborative platform where learners can form communities of practice with their peers both inside and outside of the setting?
- What support is available, do learners have access to online tutors, mentors or learning coaches?
- Is it up to date and how often is it reviewed and updated?
- Is there a clear learning pathway, can staff easily find and enter at the right level of expertise for their needs
Without a doubt eLearning is making learning more affordable and accessible than ever before and has become an essential part of our lives. It has brought about a revolution in the learning space where we are now experiencing a shift away from a top-down delivery approach to a bottom-up approach where learners can dictate the time, place, and speed of their own learning in ways that fit their lives and work. This doesn’t mean that we should abandon face to face teaching. As someone who has tutored for the last 30 years, I miss and crave the social contact and interaction with students. But I passionately believe that it doesn’t have to be a be a trade-off and we must move away from the perception that one is better than the other. As tutors and eLearning developers, we are continually listening to our learners so that we can steer towards the right balance of face to face and digital learning. Adopting a blended approach enables us to combine both methodologies which not only enhances but contributes to a deeper learning.