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Online learning has, of course, been growing in popularity for many years but its importance has been greatly enhanced by the Covid Pandemic. It has several distinct advantages which make it attractive to employers, educators, trainees and students alike.  Amongst the most important of these are:

  • Ease of Access – learning material can be made available almost anywhere and everywhere, it tends to be more convenient for learners and to cost them much less
  • Learner Control – learners can choose where, when, what content and how much to learn
  • Content Quality – programmes can provide the best possible content in a standardised form for all learners plus access to multiple learning resources and rapid updating of content.

However, it has also been known for some time that online learning is not always effective and is rarely sufficient on its own. Which is why best practice emphasises the need for blended learning that uses a mixture of both delivery and content types. The reasons for this are a result of certain disadvantages that it is difficult to remove from online learning. These are:

  • Lack of Access – online learning may be technically easy to access but practically difficult for the disadvantaged, the poorest and those (mostly older) who are computer illiterate
  • Technical Weaknesses – internet connectivity can be unreliable; some systems, particularly older equipment, may be slow or unable to cope with the demands of the programme; the number of learning methodologies that can be delivered by any one programme will be limited; online delivery is not appropriate for all learning, particularly for skills with significant physical skill demands; the up-front development and maintenance costs tend to be high so only practical when there will be many users
  • Learner Psychology – online learning typically requires more time and has little teacher input. So, online learners need to be responsible for their own learning and therefore very self-motivated, disciplined with good attention and time and screen management skills. There is also a lack of peer interaction which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness as well as giving little basis for gauging progress.  These can all be exacerbated by health-related concerns
  • Teacher Support – there tend to be limited opportunity for individualised assessment and feedback which in turn means that it is difficult to provide personal support or to adjust the learning programme to individual needs.

So, online learning is a valuable and important tool in the training armoury but don’t expect it to do everything needed or to be a simple replacement for all forms of teaching.

CAS provides independent quality assurance to major training programmes delivered through classroom, workplace and online formats. We do this through a combination of remote monitoring, course observations, facility inspections and feedback evaluation. Where required, we conduct in-depth reviews of existing programmes, design new ones and advise on training strategy.