COVID-19 and its Impact on Learning

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There isn’t any way of saying this, the Pandemic will impact all of us, no matter where we are located in the world.  No one can say when it will pass or when we can get back to some level of normalcy. 

This post isn’t about the virus and what you should not do, or where you can’t go, etc., rather it is about the virus and its impact on learning, at the corporate level and education too.

Education

It’s impact is already being felt at schools around the world.  Most are closed or will be in the near future.  This means that a lot of students will be taking online classes and content.

And this means that teachers will have to create content that is meaningful and relevant to whatever topic or topics that are to be covered during this time.  At the university level, at least in the U.S., many are closed, with again, others soon to follow suit.  Each of them, will have students go online to take classes, content and so forth.  And just as in the K-12 sector, professors, instructors, lecturers at the university level will need to create effective and meaningful content.

The Elephant in the Room

90% of the content I see coming out of the education sector is bad. It is boring.  It follows a synchronous based approach using a syllabus.  Linear is the route the majority of schools and universities follow when they provide online courses.  Classroom via a webinar normally requires students to be online during that time frame, fine if you are 10 yrs old or in high school, bad if you are at a university during this time, where the students are not situated at the college itself, requiring folks to now access the “live webinar” during a time zone that likely will not be conducive.

Thus, if you are a university in Michigan, Eastern time here in the states, and you have students on the west coast, which is three hours behind you, and you schedule your live classroom online (via a web conferencing) for say 11 a.m., this means that your students on the west coast have to be online at 8 a.m.  If you have students that are overseas, the time is beyond not conducive.   Hawaii?  Nobody is getting up at 4 a.m. to attend your live class.

Homework is another fiasco when it comes to online learning for education.  Again, K-12 is one thing, for a university where students are not at a central location is another thing. Faculty will need to recognize that it is not the same ol same when it comes to e-learning. If you are following a syllabus and thus linear learning, you will need to create your content ahead of time, in advance frankly, before you have one student go into your learning system and take a course or whatever materials you are presenting.

You will need to give them time to complete the assigned work and/or reading.  Speaking of reading, you must have the reading content ready to go for download with say a PDF format.  You must recognize that not everyone is on high speed, thus, if you have a 5mb PDF, then you should break it down into sub-chapters so it is no more than 800KBS. 

If you are asking students to watch video content, again, be aware of bandwidth speed.  Let’s say at your university the speed is 50mbs or 100mbs.   But in certain states, someone may only have 5mbs.  Thus, having a video which consumes a lot of data, if say someone is to watch it via their mobile device, will in return cost the student money, if they do not have an unlimited data plan.

Typically at the university level, you read material, then post your comments or a review of the material on a discussion board.  Then the instructor/professor/etc. goes online, reviews what you said and respond accordingly.  The problem of this, is that many faculty members are slow to respond.  Some never read all the posts, but get on students when they fail to respond to every post.

Then there are faculty members who will say this is due by this exact time and date, forgetting that someone could lose their net connection, or there may be issues with the professor’s e-mail account, or setting a deadline time is ideal for the professor, not everyone else.

Setting a deadline is fine, but as an educator you must allow people to submit material that is 10-30 minutes late.  You must recognize that there are factors out there, and this is not your physical classroom.

Uh Oh

As noted earlier 90% of content via HE and even K-12 is horrible.  It is static, with lots of texts, maybe a video or two incorporated and pictures.  Whippee!  It is rare to find universities adopting asynchronous based learning which is where someone can bounce anywhere they want to in the course, focusing on what is relevant to them.  The course is self-contained as we say.  And it can be done at any level, although it is ideally suited for higher ed.

Mobile can be leveraged as well.  Have your students create a one minute or two minute Tik Tok video on some subject matter you are covering.  Maybe create an Instagram page or some other social media site that is popular with students in higher education.  Have them incorporate these types of sites into their learning.

Add a gamification component. You want students online?  You want them engaged? You want to show them that knowledge is fun?  Then tie a gaming piece in here, with a reward or benefit at the end.

LXPs are ideally suited for these challenging times, because they can allow the students to pick their interests and/or topics they want to learn.  You as the faculty member can set up what topics are available.  Numerous learning systems offer the playlist or channel option, whereas again, as a university or even a school, you could tap into. Many of your students are listening to Spotify and similar sites, so the playlist angle makes perfect sense.

As an educator, the worst thing you can do, is present boring content.  Just because you have a captured audience – i.e. required, doesn’t mean that you should bore them.  There won’t be any retention here, because boring doesn”t drive it.

Instead of tests, ask students to complete a project that they can post online.  Engagement here is essential during this time, not stagnation.  Maybe have your students say in 3rd grade, create their own puzzle or something that is easy to do within your learning system.   Many learning systems in the K-12 range offer teachers unlimited resources via a repository, where the resources may come from teachers located globally or more often than not, other teachers in other school districts that are on the system.

So why not the kids themselves?  Have them do an assignment that is creative and then post those items in a repository too? Maybe they create a set of steps for how to make a paper airplane (OK, i haven’t been 12 in a long time), then have that placed in the repository for other students.

Create a series of teams with students being in a team.  Then the team competes with the other teams.  Allow the students to create their own nickname.  You in turn create the “Event” that everyone competes in.  I can tell you from experience at the high school level, this works (I have done this personally at the HS and college level).

The onus is on you the teacher.  Not the student. Not the parent, but you.  Take the time, change the narrative, create engaging and fun and your students will love it.  Especially during this time.

Corporate Impact

There are people who enjoy working from home, and others who struggle to work from home – a TV, the internet, nobody is watching me, so I can take a nap. 

The virus is impacting the corporate market as we speak. Offices and establishments are being closed, with employees working from home.

E-Learning will pay a very big role in these coming months and the virus’s impact on learning will be visible.

Say so long to ILT for the time being

Face to face learning in a classroom, board room or wherever you hold your sessions is no more.  At least not for a while. Webinars will need to become the new solution (if you have not done so before).  What is a plus about webinars is even if a person cannot attend in real-time (i.e. live), the webinar is recorded so that someone can view it on a latter date.  You could even add the webinar recordings to your content, so that folks can re-watch them at anytime, and multiple times as well.

The webinar recording can include the questions that people asked. If you want to take it an additional step, people who view at a later date, could submit questions to the presenter and they – the presenter could follow up directly with them.  Any materials can be shared, and even placed in a repository for future sharing and viewing/downloading.

Skills Development and People’s Interest

Workers will have a lot on their plate, but research has shown that most people access a learning system out of the workplace (excl. hourly, union, retail, seasonal).  We should focus on the skills development and building angle, rather than on the job role, which is the current approach.

This job role angle is heavily skewed to white collar workers, which is fine if is your only group, but not fine, if you have a mix of white and blue collar workers.

By focusing on skills development for your entire workforce, and what skills they are interested in acquiring, regardless of their job role, you are now offering your employees a great opportunity to gain new knowledge or build upon their knowledge based on their interest.  This is where an LXP can really work.  Other type of learning systems could as well, as long as they offer a way to provide a playlist or similar for their end-users.

Maybe your learning system (LMS) cannot have it so folks can pick their interests or topics up-front.  No worries.  When the end user logs in and goes to their home page, the administrator could ask them to complete a survey that will identify their interests/topics of interest, then from there the administrator can put together a catalog of content for those folks who prefer this topic or that topic and the content contained within.

Or if your system offers skill ratings, and skills development, then use this component or components to identify topics or areas of interest your learners want to learn.

Now is the not the time to push compliant or regulatory content as your only option for your learners.   If you must, then have it, but make sure there is more personal and professional development content.  If you have proprietary then yes, include that as well, and assign it to the folks who will need to take it.   But offer it and frankly all the content with a table of contents, so that your employees are not forced to watch the whole video or the whole course, because, they won’t. 

Peer to Peer sharing will offer a great opportunity for your employees.  Get people involved in sharing playlists, sharing content, sharing ideas on this or that, even with their interests, which most employers ignore when it comes to “sharing”.  People are more likely to relate to someone just like them, so a warehouse worker is more likely to take content if another warehouse worker recommends it, more so than if the division head recommended it.

Sharing

One topic to instantly share is best practices to work remotely.  You can create a quick course in any authoring tool and push it online, but what I would do is – if you have coaching – push out the question, “What are your recommendations for working remotely” or something along those lines.   Encourage responses by tying in gamification.  Assign points to anyone who responds.  Share it with another learner? Points.  Create a mini video and publish it with your ideas? Points.   Collaborate on something, points and so forth.

Remote Newbies

Create engaging and interactive content.  Look people that work from home are either experts and doing so, or are newbies.  The latter group will either have folks who will actually work, and then it will have folks like my nephew who worked from home, a bit back, which consisted of him watching online movies and surfing the net for the entire day.  The only time he worked, was responding every once in a while on Slack, but since the work wasn’t something that was visible online, he respected that process, and responded by doing no work.

He is 23.  I think you see where this is going.  I know people who are in their forties who are not into remote work and would do similar for as long as they can get away with it.  Thus, knowing that output for some folks will drop, push online learning as part of their weekly work schedule.  

Have them pick content that is of interest to them, or put a catalog together of all types of content, and notify that employee that they are expected to use the learning system each week to acquire knowledge and learn.   The spin is necessary otherwise, it will feel as though your most hated school teacher is back and staring right at you with their coffee and cigarette breath.  You know who I am referring to.

Mix up your learning acquisition

This is to say, offer more opportunities for various types of learning (webinar, courses, micro or other, ebooks, podcasts, etc.) for folks to take (but they do not have to complete).  If you have been waiting for the right time to launch your interactive courses, now is the time.  If you have been waiting for the right time to launch your VR or AR course, now is the time. 

I do not see any challenges from the customer training aspect, since many customers who take B2B online do so from elsewhere.  Thus, since Starbucks and many other coffee houses are closed from walk-in and relax on uncomfortable sofas,  these folks will access the content from their abode. 

The biggest challenge for remote working and e-learning will be blue-collar workers. But with the content that ties into their interests, it can be achieved.

This is an ideal time to start your coaching online program, which many learning systems have some component of it today (not all mind you).  Some systems offer a robust coaching capability, so if you haven’t used it in your system, and it offers it, now is the time to do so.

With blue-collar workers, make sure that you offer experts or those defined as “experts” within the coaching capability, are in similarity.  You could also have an expert in say Management that is available to any end-user, even those with blue-collar jobs.

The Time is Now

When you visit this blog, i.e. mine, you will notice on the main header “Free Resources During Pandemic“, this is a new section to the blog, where you can find a list of vendors offering free content (for your system or as a standalone), free access to their learning system, free authoring tool or other e-learning tools, and/or a discount.

I created this page as a way to bring the entire e-learning community together to share resources and provide additional resources to help along the way.  Every vendor who is on the list, and it will continue to grow, recognizes that we are all in this together.

Most of the content is not COVID-19 prep in case you are wondering, rather it goes all over the board. 

The page will be updated continuously, so check back often.

Bottom Line

I found it somewhat odd that many in the media and in politics are making out online learning as this new concept in learning, that is new and who knows if it will work or not.

The fact is this:

It does work.

It can be very effective and more engaging than OJT, ILT or reading a manual.

But you need to bring it to the workers.

By pushing topics of interest, their interest – not yours, and what they wish to learn to acquire new or build upon skills. 

Onboarding is still very doable.  Reskilling? Doable.

Upskilling? Doable.

Learning that will work for all?

E all the way.

As in e-learning.

E-Learning 24/7

 

 

7 comments

  1. “Thus, if you are a university in Michigan, Central Time here in the states,” Michigan is on the Eastern Time zone

    Like

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