‘I feel the course was designed for me’
‘I’m not forced to learn what I don’t need’
‘I’ve gone through some of the lessons several times. This is the best approach for responsible adults. Leaders need to take responsibility and the learning process supports this’
‘The online courses are more challenging [than learning in the classroom]’
These aren’t my words. They are from a manager that I’ve been mentoring as part of a leadership programme (see my blog in October), the primary content for which has been done exclusively online using off-the-shelf short courses and videos.
The off-the-shelf content has been very well received. In fact, much better than I might have expected. I was concerned that a generic treatment of topics like performance management, change management, feedback, and so on would miss the specific context for the organisation. This has not been the case at all. All the participants seem to have been able to see past these potential weaknesses and to be able to apply the learning in their own context.
The online approach has allowed the learners to make their own choices. This is something that we’ve known about e-learning for a long time so what’s my point? It’s that the online learning approach matches the responsibility that leaders and managers are expected to demonstrate all the time in driving performance. To learn from the online material, learners have to engage with it, which is in stark contrast to the traditional classroom model for teaching leadership. It’s not enough just to show up at class and complete the course evaluation form. With the online approach the learner has to do the work. To put it another way, no input.no output.
The ability to go back over content, at the learner’s own pace, to deepen understanding, is again a feature of online learning. What really impressed me was how seriously the individual I was mentoring took their learning. I am certain that the online content really helped to produce deep learning through the learn-do-review process.
The utility of the online content
In his feedback following the end of programme review, the senior manager who is sponsoring the work commented on the obvious utility of the online portal and content. Learning portals can sometimes seem to best serve the needs of the self-starting and self-motivated. But what my work has shown me is that by bundling resources, along with a simple programmatic structure, we can create very cost-effective learning that can deliver practical everyday value; it works.