We all know that online learning is on the rise. There are many reasons for this trend: greater adoption of mobile technologies, the convenience of self-paced learning, reduced training time, and lowered expenses when employees don’t have travel to learning sites, to name just a few.
But what are we doing to support learners in the online environment? In an article in the latest issue of International Journal on E-Learning, Thomas L. Schultz and Ana-Paula Correia (2015) report the results of their study of the factors involved in supporting online learning. Based on their review of the literature on corporate online learning published over the past five years, they identified what they called “support styles” that must be present for online learners to succeed. Let’s take a look at these support factors and think about how we might apply them to our own online learning environments.
- Monetary Support: Companies need to invest in employee development, and the research shows they’re doing just that. What does your training budget look like? Are you serious about employee development? If so, you need to budget for it.
- Organization Support: Companies need to implement policies that give their employees the time and resources (including technical support) necessary for success. Do your organizational policies give your employees learning time, or is learning something they have to squeeze in between meetings?
- Technology Support: Companies need to keep up with the times. The LMS you implemented five or ten years ago might not provide the social learning tools today’s learners expect. With the rise of mobile technology, learners can (and want to) learn on the go. Are you giving them the tools to do that? Are your online courses responsive and mobile friendly?
- Learner Support: This is a more personal, social type of support. Peer support includes social learning and collaboration, often among learners who are geographically separate. Do your online courses foster interaction and support among learners? Motivational support involves keeping learners engaged and motivated to learn. Is your online training relevant to your learners’ jobs? Does it provide opportunities for them to engage not only with the content but with other learners? Finally, manager support is critical. Do you encourage your employees to learn and give them the time to do it?
These are the critical support factors identified by Schultz and Correia. In a future post, we’ll look at the authors’ findings on the cost vs. gain of implementing these methods of support. In the meantime, think about your own online learning environment. Are you giving your employees the support they need to succeed?
Schultz, T. & Correia, A.P. (2015). Organizational support in online learning environments: Examination of support factors in corporate online learning implementation. International Journal on E-Learning, 14(1), 83-95. Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).