We believe in e-learning!
Who would invest in classroom instruction today if it did not already exist?
In a class for forklift truck operators, for example, students who have been driving for several years can be seated next to students who never climbed into a truck before. Some students may be on a break from university studies, while others in the same group might not have finished secondary school. There may also be students who have a different native language.
All of these students are expected to gain the same knowledge in the same amount of time. Is this even possible? As a minimum, it requires skilled instructors.
Different learning styles taken into account
Another drawback to classroom instruction is that people actually learn in different ways. In simple terms, educators usually talk about three different learning styles:
- Visual. Learns by seeing and reading. Usually independent; sits with their task for a long time.
- Auditory. Learns by listening. Involvement is important. Must work at own pace. Not as much endurance as the “visual” learners.
- Tactile. Learns by touching and doing. Involvement is important here as well. Often restless; does not like sitting still for more than a short period of time.
Classroom instruction in forklift truck operation works relatively well for group 1 (provided that the environment is calm and quiet). BUT, the two other types of learners would most likely not be able to learn in a way that is suitable for them. These two groups generally represent an absolute majority of the students.
We'll discuss how well e-learning and e-Truck suit the learning styles a little further down.
Today, e-learning is growing worldwide, both in volume and within new areas. E-learning is being used to train doctors, pilots, military personnel, security personnel, etc. It is also very common for the theory portion of driving licence courses to be done via e-learning. In all of these examples, the quality requirements are just as high as for forklift truck training.
How does e-learning compare?
There is currently a lot of educational research being conducted around the world to measure the effectiveness of different education systems. The findings can be generally summarised as follows:
- E-learning has economic and environmental advantages over classroom instruction.
- E-learning results in greater learning on the part of students compared to equivalent classroom instruction.
- E-learning requires less time for the students to absorb the same amount of information than with classroom instruction.
Why is this the case? The economic advantages may be the easiest to understand. E-learning works just as well for a class of 200 students as it does for a class of two. The flexibility results in lower costs. The need for classroom space is eliminated to some extent. Environmentally, the reduced amount of travel required is considered a benefit.
But, how is it possible for the students to learn more in a shorter amount of time – as shown in study after study?
It's here we come back to learning styles. The key is that the students work at their own pace.
Visual learners can sit as long as they need, read without the disruption of others, and often finish relatively quickly.
Auditory learners do not have to read. The text is instead read aloud. If there is a storytelling element (an element incorporated to a great extent in eTruck), it works very well with the group's need to get involved and experience situations.
Tactile learners work at their own pace – often short sessions with several breaks. If more time is needed to finish, it's not a problem.
For this group as well, the storytelling and the spoken text are important elements that help them achieve good results. (For this group, the practical training – the hands-on element – is always the most important element.)
Good and bad training
There are good and bad teachers. Their teaching will produce different results. It's the same with e-learning. There are both good and bad e-courses.
Generally, try to avoid “PowerPoints on the web” that masquerade as e-learning. You should instead look for e-courses that are varied, that offer both written and spoken text, that contain different types of exercises, and (perhaps most importantly) that get the student involved. Just like a good teacher does.
Training contractors, instructors and students all win with e-learning
Everyone in the training chain benefits from quality, thorough e-learning:
The training contractor gets better training at a lower cost. One of the biggest reasons is that student absence from regular operations is shorter.
The instructor monitors the students' progress during the e-course and knows what weaknesses to focus on when the class later meets as a group. This enables the instructor to focus on what's important and unique in their role – for example, conveying an understanding of how important it is to have the right attitude towards risks – rather than simply providing factual information.
The students get training tailored to their own way of learning, and a more engaging course – one that they can do at their own pace.