Are Online Education and Training Becoming One and the Same?

In Symbiosis:  The New Paradigm in Online Education and Training, author Chuck Dull (Associate Dean of the IT Center of Excellence, Cuyahoga Community College) raises some interesting points about online education, training, and new technology. Let’s look at some of these ideas now as we consider that new technologies today no longer drive transformation and growth in online learning and training. Instead, the focus is on effectiveness and a fit within a larger offering.

We can look at this idea in light of quality pioneer W. Edwards Deming’s statement that, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” How can we apply this statement to today’s world of online learning? We can do this by seeing that survival today means that online classes are becoming similar to training courses designed for professional development.

We see a blending of assessment technologies with learning. Outcomes are mainstream. Online education is tied to performance and productivity.

What Deming suggested is that a dynamic is needed in an organization to provide the basis for sustainability. Deming would support that idea that continuous learning and training are part of organizational survival. As a proponent of the process of continuous improvement, Deming would argue that learning, innovation, and creation are needed for continuous improvement. These are also needed for survival.

We see today’s colleges closing. Those that fail are those that fail to change. Schools are closing for a number of reasons including an inability to meet the demands of a changing student demographic or an inability to improve operational effectiveness.

The schools that survive are the ones that change, innovate, and improve. Schools in turn help people learn to innovate. Schools provide training to improve productivity. Here we see a symbiosis. Learning, training, and innovation become more and more related. Some call it double loop learning.

We can remember when online learning evolved because of new technologies. These technologies allowed for education and training. This meant bridging gaps due to location or resources. But today, new technologies do not mean as much in online education. Instead of a focus, for example, on how much we can do with Adobe Connect, we now focus on the quality of the connection, cost, and service.

Adaptive learning is another concept we should look at, now. Adaptive learning deals with creating learning maps for an individual. It does not deal with building learning for a group. We are looking now at how to make this adaptive learning approach more effective.

As online learning grows, we see the need for instructional designers who can use technology to build effective assessments, create performance-based learning objectives, and understand what constitutes an effective learning experience.

Rubrics remain a useful tool. By automating rubrics to grade assignments, we can provide immediate feedback to students. Online learning now becomes more of a production process. The instruction has timelines and deliverables. Instruction becomes facilitation. Assessment is part of the design. That is what becomes effective online learning today.

Today’s online learning technologies focus on repositories. These repositories curate content for measurable and effective delivery. We discuss about whether a video conference would be helpful not whether it is possible. We focus on the content and learning objects, not the technologies.

Learning management systems design has become more fluid. Course room designs in Canvas and LoudCloud provide a fluid and seamless learning experience. You can now add a design factor to the learning management system, assessment, presentation, content, conference, assignment, and delivery. The learning management system for training and education have everything in common. Training has learned from education about advances in learning management system design. Education has learned from training about measuring learning and outcomes.

Ideally, technology should not drive education. Technology is a means of delivery. It is a tool for measurement. It is also an enhancement to content. It provides an opportunity for connecting to available resources anywhere. What counts is a personal connection. That is what people still want and need. This is regardless of how electronic or digital the world has become. We all try to make a personal connection whether it is through chatting, Instagramming, social media, streaming, the WikiPages of an LMS, or journals.

For more on the topic of online education and training, please see Dull’s posting – Symbiosis:  The New Paradigm in Online Education and Training. The graphic above is also from this site. Also, be on the lookout for a similar article scheduled to be Intercom, the magazine of the STC.

By Jeanette Evans