This way you’ll make an effective learning hub

Rinke Huisman

Many organisation have made, sometimes inevitably, the shift to online learning. This transition asks for different expertise, knowledge and insights than learning on the work floor. 

When searching on the web you’ll find the familiar do’s and dont’s. Yes, you can’t copy paste a training, and yes it’s important that technics are involved and that the setup of the learning hub is logical and clear. This blog however delves into 6 less obvious themes, which do contribute to an effective learning hub according to research. These are not that different online from offline, but the way of performing, the didactics, are clearly different. This could make or break your e-learning. 

Six conditions

Designing an effective learning hub has six conditions:

  1. Meaningful contexts and/or authentic tasks fitting for the interests

  2. Targeted

  3. Individual control

  4. Team up

  5. Variety in learning with diverse learning materials or sources

  6. Reflection, feedback and assessments suiting for the tasks, learning goals and skills

     

Condition 1: meaningful contexts and/or authentic tasks fitting for the interests

Putting users behind a computer doesn’t automatically lead to meaningful interaction, knowledge construction and better learning achievements.

What does this mean online?

First of all, ensure you make as much use as possible of ‘real’ contexts online. So, preferably no fictive assignments, but search for the connection with the practice. Create a direct ‘I-can-do-something-with-this-felling’ among your users. Secondly, it’s good to ask what’s going on and what the expectations are. You can process this input into the online offer. An online learning hub offers many options for adaptive learning. A learning platform can provide suggestions what else can be practiced to achieve a certain learning objective, or provide learning activities based on interests. In this way you give your users the opportunity to make meaningful choices in their learning process, but you keep control.

Condition 2: Targeted

A key focus is that the learning hub is designed to achieve clear formulated learning objectives. 

What does this mean online? 

Ensure that your users know what they must do and why they must do it. When this misses the user will quickly lose their motivation and resistance will appear. Online learning platforms luckily offer many possibilities to integrate learning goals. Moreover, it’s good to make the user aware of the differences between reading and writing online compared to reading and writing on paper, just like the risks of distraction, a good study spot and procrastinating. 

Condition 3: Individual control

A condition for a positive effect on learning achievements is that the user gradually gets and takes more responsibility of their own learning process. This autonomy must grow and differs per person, dependent on former learning experiences. 

What does this mean online? 

Learning completely online asks much self-discipline and self-regulating. You must take this into account in your design and didactic. You can encourage this by clearly structuring your online course, by preparing users on online learning by monitoring online learning activities. The analytics of a learning platform show the dedication of the users. How often have they logged in, how often do they contribute to a discussion and what are their test results for example. It’s good to think on how to encourage the users to really perform the online learning activities. You can for example make use of badges (a kind of medal or points you can gain) and most of the platform offer possibilities to lock activities until the user meets certain requirements. For example a success rate, participation obligation, or submitting an assignment. Moreover, you can send automatic reminders when a user hasn’t been online for a longer period of time, and you can make a digital calendar or task lists available. 

Condition 4: Team up

Research (Ros, 2007) proves that learning together leads to better learning achievements when you can speak of exploring the meaning together, reproducing knowledge and frequent feedback. 

What does this mean online? 

Working together online is certainly not the same as working together face-to-face. Keep in mind that when you’ve interaction online you’re dealing with different rules of conduct and the energy level is lower than when you’re in the same room together. It’s more complicated to let a discussion or meeting take place with a larger group, but it’s certainly not impossible. Think beforehand on which cooperation forms you want to use and search targeted for tools which suit that activity. Do you want to brain storm, meet, work on a document together or keep an intervision?

Condition 5: Variety in learning with diverse learning materials or sources

“Users remember information easier when it’s presented in both words and images than when you only use words. This principle is based on the fact that verbal and visual information are processed in two separate (but simultaneous working) processes in the working memory, and next up integrated into the long-term memory. This makes learning less stressful and more effective.” (Tim Surma cs, Wijzen lessen; 12 Bouwstenen voor effectieve didactiek, 2019)

What does this mean online? 

Variation is always good. Both for physical as mental health. The advice is to look away from your screen for 20 seconds after looking at it for 20 minutes. Besides, you must be aware for a cognitive overload. When your content is too much, too long and too monotonous, this will be less effective. Try to cut your e-learning as much as possible in learning bites. You can variate these concerning the content form: reading, make assignments, watch videos and work together, but also in kinds of process assignments so various solution strategies are explored. You can use this determination table to find a suiting tool. You can make use of the Pomodoro method as a guideline of a learning bite block. This has as starting point 25 minutes studying and a 5 minute break, again 25 minutes studying and a break of 5 minutes. After three or four bigger blocks you must take a break of at least half an hour. You can also focus more on meta cognitive skills of the user, such as planning, concentrating, learning strategies, monitoring and evaluating. This can be done in a playful manner such as integrating hints or short instruction videos. 

Condition 6: Reflection, feedback and assessments suiting for the tasks, learning goals and skills

Feedback is one of the most powerful interventions to stimulate learning, but also one of the most difficult. Briefly; feedback must be clear, simple (not too simple) and specific. Feedback isn’t aimed at the person, but at their actions and must stimulate thinking. 

What does this mean online? 

You can also integrate many possibilities for reflection online. This can be individual, with a supervisor or with colleagues. It can also be done in various forms: automatically generated (for example a grade or a default answer), written feedback, spoken feedback, or feedback with visuals. You’re easily tempted online to look at easy measurable results. Think of knowledge intake, success rate, or the activity of the user. It’s also important you look at (personal) learning objectives and the way to this (the process). This can be done on various moments, beforehand, during and afterwards, and in various forms: e-portfolio, intervision, 360 degrees feedback, peer-to-peer feedback or self-reflection. 

Lastly

Use these advantages of online learning in your favour. Look where you can enable the phenomenon flipping the classroom : make a clear division in what users can do individually as preparation and what must become the interactive part. You ensure that the contact time online is always valuable.