When most of us think of learning environments, we probably think of school. We imagine ourselves sitting in a classroom, listening to a teacher explain something to us. Even as we enter the workplace, we probably think of learning as taking place in a meeting room, listening to a speaker about a certain topic the company needs us to learn.
But for learners at all levels, the environment where learning takes place seems to be changing. More and more learning is now taking place online.
Schools and other learning centers rely on technology (PCs, laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices) to help convey learning materials. Students can now enroll in online school, earn degrees, complete certifications, and update their skills all without having to leave their homes. This is also true for the modern workplace. Many companies are moving toward more blended learning; in fact, 86% of L&D teams already employ a blended learning strategy.
What is blended learning?
As the name suggests, blended learning brings together the two major workplace learning environments: face-to-face training sessions and online platforms. Using this style of learning, employees are able to receive more personalized and learner-centered instruction.
Some types of programs are even using BYOD policies. This means that learners can bring their own devices so that they feel more comfortable and in control since they know their own device better than one that would be provided to them.
Making the online environment a new learning environment also offers many other benefits. One major advantage is that there is a large amount of information online that learners can access. The information can also be found in various formats.
For visual learners, there is information in charts and graphs. For auditory learners, there is information in music, audio, and videos. Learners of many different learning styles can find information online that helps them learn.
Using online resources helps keep learning active. Trainers can use a lot of interactive content to help keep learners interested and engaged. This will help them learn more and retain the information better.
These types of environments can also improve the amount of feedback teachers and learners receive. Many online platforms offer a variety of analytics based on the data that they collect while the learner interacts with the system. This feedback can help learners know what they need to do to improve their progress.
Also read: Kolb’s Learning Cycle in the Workplace
Creating authentic online learning environments
Even though many workplace learning environments are moving online, not all of them are created equal. Research has found that the best online learning environments are what researchers labeled as authentic.
Authenticity has been a word used in regards to learning for many years. It has been used to describe learning that takes on real-world problems and solutions. It uses role-play, case studies, and practice to help people learn new information.
Participating in learning in such a way can lead to what some have called deep learning. Deep learning helps people retain information longer and use it in authentic ways.
These authentic environments are ones that learners have created themselves. Instead of using an employer-controlled learning management system, they found that the best learning tools were ones where learners had some control in organizing and planning.
One step that companies can take to create more authentic online learning environments is to connect it with systems in real life. Many learners use a company learning management system, but do not connect it to real life because the LMS does not resemble other online applications or environments.
Companies can work to create elements of the LMS that mimic other platforms that employees may use on a more frequent basis. This will make learning more authentic and easier to transfer. Not only is the delivery system more authentic, but the content is as well. Authentic learning materials increase motivation because they relate the information to the learner’s actual difficulties.
A final way of making the online environment more authentic is to allow for learner customization of the platform. This type of customized LMS allows learners to make changes to design, material presentation, and various connections outside of the LMS.
For instance, the LMS could be connected to a learner’s favorite social media site (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube) or it could be linked to an online platform that the company uses. These small elements of customization will allow the learner to feel more in control and more connected to the world outside of the LMS.
When workplace learning was strictly face-to-face learning sessions, authenticity was created by the instructor of the course based on the type of materials they brought and how they taught.
As the workplace learning environment moves online, companies sometimes struggle to create authenticity in a more controlled format like an LMS. Blended learning may be one way to create more authenticity, but changes to an LMS can be the extra boost learners need to take their learning one step further.