Why the evolution of technology has not really improved digital learning

expressed opinion entrepreneur Contributors are their own.

Teaching with computers is not new. Back in the late 1960s, some of the earliest explorations in teaching digital education focused on making the student experience better than the classroom. Professor Patrick Suppes of Stanford University discussed in detail the challenges of teaching a class of 25 students and concluded that the computer technology available at the time could provide the necessary personal instruction, lessons and support to identify individual weaknesses and provide Guidance for these needs.

So why in 2022 are we going to use broadcast techniques like web conferences, boring PowerPoint lectures, and ineffective e-learning videos and quizzes to give every student the same instruction? From K-12 education to the corporate learning and development sector, the story is pretty much the same, everyone has access to better learning tools and strategies, but they don’t.

Related: Workplace learning is broken. These 5 steps show you how to fix it.

Problems with innovation in learning technology today

To be sure, you have had good and bad learning experiences throughout your life. What made your worst experience so bad? Is it boring, emotionally uncomfortable, the wrong subject or just too difficult? Too often, designers of digital learning are forced to create content quickly and with such a small budget that PowerPoint is the de facto solution.

But even if budgets do open up, our minds and imaginations in the corporate world are limited by our past experiences and expectations. We all think we know what good learning looks like—and so do the designers and creators of e-learning authoring tools today. As an industry, e-learning suffers more from not investigating past mistakes than most other industries. Innovations in current learning technologies tend to focus on:

  1. Facilitating learning content creators But not necessarily more efficient for end users (students). As mentioned above, this work faces time, budget and personnel pressures and needs to be managed creatively within these constraints. With tools designed to make content uniform and quick and easy to develop, most e-learning is predictably boring and monotonous.

  2. To make the old look like new, bells and whistles: Hate flipping through slides on your computer? Well, you’ll love flipping through slides in augmented reality!

  3. Eliminate complexity and allow students to complete faster: Never mind that it takes real effort to master, and more tools come online every day to simplify design choices, including sharing pdfs, showing videos, or asking multiple-choice questions. With these products, students can easily complete a one-hour course in seven minutes or a 20-minute module while multitasking during a company meeting.

Related: E-Learning: Advantages and Challenges

What does great mentoring look like?

Since the 1960s, digital learning professionals have had everything they wanted, from early exposure to artificial intelligence, 1972’s plasma touchscreen to PLATO IV, sound, animation, augmented reality and virtual reality, but the real question is: why Are students not getting what they really need?

Learning is a personalized experience. Learners must learn for themselves; no one else can do it for them. If the duration of skills in the workforce is getting shorter and shorter, the core competency of the workforce of the future will be learning. Perhaps more importantly, employees need to be able to choose experiences that truly help them learn. Tip: This is not the last lecture with a quiz.

Technology is not the answer, it is the medium that delivers scalable, personalized instruction, as envisioned by early edtech pioneers. A core barrier is our lack of experience and skills in designing personalized instruction. Enough tools exist today, yesterday and long ago to create effective digital teaching, but as students, most of us have not yet experienced what great teaching looks like. Our limited experience in excellence hinders our ability to demand excellence from the training we receive. Digital or not, the learning experience must treat us and our needs as individuals.

Related: How innovative technology can improve on-the-job training

How organisations can benefit from delivering a great learning experience

Organizations that can move from poor learning to great learning will gain a superior competitive advantage, especially in today’s conditions of labor shortages, widening skills gaps and shortened tenures. Great learning enables organizations to:

  • Turn quickly and do things differently

  • Engage quiet quitters and acquire skills and abilities that translate into personal fulfillment

  • Retain top talent by giving employees the tools to grow, gain agency, and take on leadership roles

The path to excellence in digital learning

The fastest path to learning excellence starts with recognizing that our expectations and limitations in training are largely arbitrary and governed by traditional practices. Learning doesn’t have to look like the classrooms of yesteryear or point slides. If your eLearning is solving a real organizational challenge, such as increasing revenue, improving customer satisfaction scores, or eliminating waste, its design might include:

  • Mainly focus on supporting performance practices rather than spreading facts

  • Spaced practice on multiple events, not just one delivery

  • Demonstrate real-world consequences of actions and decisions

  • Personalize each student’s challenge level based on each performance

  • Support and drive each student’s drive to perform at higher proficiency in the workplace

Does your organization provide the best learning experience for your employees? Again, technology is just a tool – it’s not the answer. Reassess your practice and leverage the better learning tools and strategies available. Take the leap from tradition to excellence and watch your business and people thrive.

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