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Plenty of training organisations have been repurposing traditional training courses for online delivery – prompted by the surge in demand for online learning brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. In the rush to get products and services to this market, it is easy to forget that the dynamics of online learning and assessment differ greatly in terms of pace, tutor-learner interaction, learner support needs and communications. Online learning (a.k.a. e-learning or computer based training) has had mixed results. Everything that needs to be known about the reasons for this and how to overcome them has been in the public domain for years. Some fundamental things need to be got right including (in no particular order):

  • Course selection – Online learners are no different to any other learners – if they are on the wrong course, or on the right course too soon, they are being let down (and so is their employer if they are paying for capability improvements they don’t get). Pre-course assessments, advice and guidance can help avoid these bad outcomes.
  • Learner engagement – Online learners need more feedback – tutor calls, group conferences, FAQs, embedded how-to videos, learner to learner events and proactive admin can do this.
  • Formative assessment – Summative assessment is not enough. Online learners need to know how they are doing – quizzes, puzzles, mini tests, checklists can do this.
  • Progress tracking – Training organisations should know where every online learner is in the process – how well they’re doing, what problems they’re having with the process or system and whether these are fixed.
  • Tutor development – Online learners are individuals not a herd – some need more support than others and different types of feedback are needed. Trainers must be skilled in ‘reading’ online learners, and know how to use planned and impromptu interventions, coaching and feedback styles to suit individual needs.

CAS provides independent inspection, monitoring and evaluation of major training programmes delivered in workplaces, classrooms and online. We know that good connectivity and technology are not enough to guarantee productive online learning experiences. For online learning programmes to impact positively on competences and behaviours, the game changers are (1) ability of trainers to adapt, (2) the ability of learners to self-start, (3) the suitability and seamlessness of the learner interface, (4) the integration of assessment, and (5) the careful blending of online, workplace and classroom options.