Distance learning is in vogue. Online courses are seen as a way to give fresh perspectives to people everywhere.
How Many People Take Online Distance Learning Courses
No More Scheduling Offices Here: There are no more stop-and-start office shifts. On the new 4-week deadline for traditional education, workers simply do not have time to sit down to study in a given room. And yet an estimated nine million workers study online through MOOCs (massive open online courses), often with colleagues sitting nearby. Since 2009, MOOCs have grown in popularity — they’re now available in 58 countries and many offer learning from multiple classrooms and lectures at different times. But does MOOCs provide an accurate answer to workplace learning?
For those unable to get to a nearby classroom, MOOCs may be the next best thing. In her current master’s thesis, Linda Young Fuchs, an associate professor of economics at New York University and co-author of the book Hoarding Culture in Work, investigated workplace learning by examining how online courses differ from classroom learning experiences.
“We learned that there’s a unique kind of appeal that’s pretty effective in online learning because we could be anywhere in the world, any time in the day, and our peers are right there,” she says. “There’s an engaging quality, and almost the learning is going on not in a classroom environment, but through a meaningful, real-world situation.”
The effect of workplace learning on future performance was similarly striking. “If you’re learning on your own at work, or at the office, then you’re much more likely to forget some of that learning,” she says. “Whereas if you’re learning during a group environment, then your peers can make sure you keep on the trail, make sure you have the exposure you need, but have an opportunity to offer criticism and help them along the way.”
3 Qualities of Workplace MOOC Learning Experiences
Phenomenal Momentum: Set times and times precisely for learning can make online courses feel like a natural extension of our workplace work environments, allowing us to engage in new kinds of classroom learning. Then, we can learn seamlessly with coworkers and pursue the questions we might not have thought to raise in a small classroom or teacher-led setting. Opportunities to Communicate: Typically, learners in MOOCs are connected to teachers, peers, and classmates through video, so they can all interact in ways not traditionally possible. Moreover, people can freely discuss any concerns — from challenges to solutions — with others. Courses are tailored to each learner, too, so research found that flexibility and content are a great feature of online learning.
And after all of that? The follow questions follow:
How innovative is workplace learning? Although many workplace MOOCs integrate technology innovations — via screen names and digital platform integrations — the still-limited knowledge base may not support a meaningful understanding of others. Could a better approach help your child learn the fundamentals of computer coding?
The Digital Divide: An example cited by Fuchs: Usually the first thing workers learn in an online workplace learning experience is to keep the Internet on or on a laptop outside the work space. With different needs from different employers, some workplaces offer more reliable Internet access at the work space. Might additional action be needed?
Posting Study Results: Ultimately, the economy needs workers that are knowledgeable and well-trained. How can workers advance toward a more advanced workplace learning experience?
Do It On Site: How much of a role should employers play in training employees for future professional advancement? More and more studies suggest employers should assist or discourage staff from seeking their own additional training. An employer’s decision could affect a newly hired employee, too. Can employers assist a worker find out what training opportunities are available from the employer and how to ensure workers properly complete requirements?
Understanding the strengths and challenges of online learning can help us explore additional options for workplace learning. Together, we can empower individuals with the abilities to become more successful and productive while supporting employers with the skills they need to find the best candidates for their roles.
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Originally published in Medium.
Zachary Gordon is a marketing consultant with more than a decade of experience as a millennial marketer and sales director for an advertising agency. In addition to writing his 25-years of marketing education blog, Read a Book, and writing the Young Entrepreneur Council’s bio-based children’s books Rules of Civility and Reflect, he regularly teaches classes about marketing, writing, and social media at Ivy University School of Communications.