Posted by: Gillian | May 6, 2010

Efficiency and learning theory

Today was the British Institute of Learning and Development (BILD) first online discussion, rather than work, meeting.  We used FlashMeeting so that everyone who wished had both video and audio as well as chat and the subject was Online learning is more efficient than face to face training – discuss.

Yes it is an old topic, but it is wonderfully inclusive of those who want to meet and debate. The conversation could go anywhere and it duly roamed around a huge variety of issues.  My key thoughts have been posted in the BILD LinkedIn group but here is an excerpt:

1) Efficiency must, by definition, always be taken in context
2) Context includes many things […]

To continue in the same spirit:

The ability to use mouse and keyboard is still a really important point. Even in universities, people find they have to use their own keyboards to type in English (or English keyboards to type in something else). That’s not easy and takes time to sort out. Others may simply have managed to bypass the online revolution and not have a clue where to start – and that is becoming an increasingly deeply embarrassing problem for adults who have good jobs and know ‘everyone’ else is doing it. Building in inclusion/catch-up routes for them may be necessary and humane but it does damage most ‘efficiency’ measures.

The need for ‘any’ human contact sounds neurotic but is a real part of being human – we need to see, touch, smell. In many short training courses or long high-level education and even professional circumstances, actually meeting face to face is not essential. The short courses are short for a reason – they need to get the info over and do so fast. If they ‘can’ be done online, then they may be a very good route. The high-level ed or professional tend to build trust through prolonged email/phone/action as well as the course.

The need to reach wider communities is under-researched but is, I think a really valuable offshoot. What happens in a classroom, still tends to stay in a classroom. When first working with professionals in training/education settings, it was astonishing to see how fast the online elements could end up being adapted and incorporated in a very much wider community. That’s the magic.

Online cannot replace face to face and is often not as efficient but we need to ask: efficient in what context?  This week I have had essay-deadline driven requests to give my opinion on online learning in relation to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Bloom’s Taxonomy (version unspecified). If either could have been reduced to a definitive, currently relevant one-liner for an essay, it would have been done by now.  People are people in individual contexts. Education and training systems are there to try and maximise the cost:time:learning retention equation.  Some people fit systems, some don’t – and sometimes the systems just don’t see the needs, never mind meet them.

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