We live in unprecedented times that are forcing decision-makers and influencers in all areas of our society to make some tough choices when it comes to instruction, learning, and content delivery in general. In particular, the educational institutions in the United States and elsewhere have been scrambling to meet the needs of students and their parents, instructors, and administration look for quick and cost-effective solutions.
COVID-19 has disrupted normal operations in many school districts across the country. Administrators are currently faced with serious decisions about when to return to the classroom and how to adapt to new ways of delivering an eLearning educational experience. This has left many school districts within the United States confused regarding when K-12 students should return to the classroom; many are waiting until 2021. Many Colleges and Universities are also waiting until Summer or Fall 2021 to possibly start classes again in-person.
Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a common agreement on which strategy to follow and how exactly it should be implemented. There seems to be a merging of coalitions around two major points of view. The first consists of teachers, parents, and administrators who believe that a slow and cautious approach to in-person teaching and learning should be followed. They cite emerging evidence of a second wave of COVID-19 beginning across the world. A high percentage of instructors do not wish to return to the classroom because they fear contracting the virus or worry about giving it to students. Administrators and politicians join in with their concerns and do not wish to be responsible for the negative consequences of opening too soon. Parents share those same concerns and are becoming increasingly frustrated with new and often contradictory policies for virtual and online learning.
The second coalition is made up of those who wish to see in-person learning resumes as quickly as possible because they perceive online and eLearning as inadequate for learners in their current state. There is a belief that many instructors lack the proper technical experience and expertise to adequately use and deliver online learning content. This may be due to several factors such as a lack of sufficient training, unfamiliarity, and distrust and resistance, and the lack of quality and intuitive nature of the eLearning technology being used. They have also cultivated a perception that online courses require more academic work than a normal in-person class would prescribe.
Because instructors and learners have been required to rapidly adapt to a new and changing educational experience, many do not use the eLearning technology in a way that makes that teaching and learning easier for them. What this means is that not only does the technology itself change, but the perceptions of that technology need to be altered to meet the needs of both producers (instructors) and consumers (learners), as well as those whose decisions determine what learning technology will eventually be implemented in their institutions (administrators).
COVID-19 has accelerated decisions in educational policy and has expediated movement toward delivering online and virtual learning. The current health crisis may have been the catalyst, but now educational institutions, companies, as well as public and private organizations are slowly moving to a different model of teaching and conducting business and providing services. Online and virtual learning is not going away; it will not end when COVID-19 ends, so people need to make the best decisions regarding what eLearning content creators and providers to rely upon now.
Any company that wishes to provide eLearning content, support, and services for consumers must strive to understand what issues and concerns instructors are dealing with. Companies must help consumers develop, organize, and refine the presentation of content for these institutions and organizations. Companies with the experience and competency in both eLearning technology and implementation, as well as the ability to offer service and support — all at a low cost — will be well-positioned to lead the online instruction and learning migration.
It would be unwise to focus on a single population when developing a strategy for meeting the needs of organizations and institutions that require eLearning. Thus, a three-pronged approach that concentrates on administrators, instructors, and students would be a superior course of action. Each of these entities is affected by the eLearning technology in a different way and has varying priorities, needs, and expectations. Any company willing to undertake the task of providing eLearning services must use a totalistic approach that addresses the requirements of all individuals involved and that addresses three overriding concerns: the PRICES, the ability to COPE, and setting of an optimal PACE.
To manage the needs and concerns of decision-makers, influencers, and users of eLearning technology, three different perspectives must be addressed and fulfilled for there to be a successful use and implementation of eLearning capabilities:
1. Administrators: Proficiency, Responsibility, Implementation, Control, Expense, and Support (PRICES)
There are educational administrators, administrative department heads, and corporate managers – all with various titles – whose job it is to determine which eLearning systems and content their organizations will use for their employees, students, and members. Many of them are feeling an increased pressure to implement something that works, is cost-effective, and can be put in place as soon as possible. The instruction and learning experience of the users is sometimes considered secondary to the financial needs and time constraints that those who determine the implementation of eLearning systems and their contents. Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken and concerns that can be addressed to assure that administrators, instructors, and students will all be satisfied with the choices made.
Proficiency: To make sure that the eLearning product performs in a way that both the instructor and learner will be satisfied, those tasked with making decisions regarding which eLearning course creator to work with, as well as which eLearning product will operate best for them, must ensure that the company is not only knowledgeable in dealing with a particular subject matter, but also have the technical capability, experience, and expertise to produce the desired outcome.
Responsibility: It is imperative that any company producing eLearning courses, content, and ancillaries, must stand by their product at every level of the technical, production, and user experience. All to often, companies will blame users of their products as the reason while it is not working well for them. A company should strive to understand each customer’s needs and make sure they are met before, during, and after the eLearning solution is delivered.
Implementation: Any eLearning solution created for a particular market must allow those organizations using the product to apply the technology and content seamlessly into the normal operations of their structural environment. This means that on the back end, the technology must be created using common standards that have been reliably tested and utilized with success in the past. On the front end, the user interface must be intuitive and accessible to a diverse user base representing many different levels of technical competence.
Control: The last thing any individual choosing an eLearning solution wants is to feel they have lost control of the very product they have opted to implement. Customization is what separates an adequate eLearning experience from one that learners will appreciate using and perform in a manner that exceeds the instructor’s expectations. Regardless of the type of content being employed, it must allow the organization, the instructor, as well as the student to make alterations if and where needed to maximize the instruction and learning experience.
Expense: Regardless of how good an eLearning system is, and how competent a technology and content creation company is, the cost of the product is always in the front of any decision-maker's mind when it comes to choosing a solution for an organization. In fact, many will often choose an inferior product that results in negative consequences simply because of cost considerations. This is why selecting a company to provide virtual course services must have a commitment to producing a high-quality product at a low price point.
Support: Any company is only as good as the customer support it offers to its client base. This means it must have the ability to train those who are responsible for information, training, and educational technology, as well as those on the instructor and learner end. It is important to choose a company that is available when you need them with a patient and competent staff that can provide help when it is needed most.
2. Instructors: Content, Organization, Presentation, and Examination (COPE)
Any eLearning content and technology is measured by those who are tasked with using it as a tool to train or teach. Trainers and teachers need technology to act as an extension of their instruction abilities, especially now that there may be little or no in-person interaction. This means it must be accessible to those in both the teaching and learning process in a way that allows content producers to maximize content management, comprehension, and appearance.
Content: Without engaging content, an eLearning course is of no use to either the instructor or the learner. How content will be presented and delivered to potential students, employees, and trainees must be an important consideration. Questions centering on how your content will be arranged and presented; how your content will be constructed; how user-friendly your content will be, and lastly; how the audience connects and interacts with the content. Content must come in many forms to adapt to a diverse audience. Some are visual learners (video and animation), others prefer traditional modes of learning (reading text), while some like the challenge of interacting with the material. What you want your “learner” to know: Whether lessons on an academic subject, learning for a vocation, instruction, and preparation for a profession, or mandatory employee training in an organization, the nature of the content and the context of the learning environment must be taken into account.
Organization: Understanding what elements to incorporate in a well-constructed content design is key to creating an effective eLearning environment. This means utilizing all the tools that make learning and training online a unique and rewarding experience. Just like an in-person learning environment, keeping students interested and participating is essential. Types of content, as well as the evaluation process, are two crucial areas that should be considered when constructing content for online consumption. Introducing content in an organized and logical manner will keep people engaged and reduce frustration.
Performance: Because the instructor or trainer is no longer in the same location as the learner, trainee, or employee, it is important to understand how the information will be arranged and presented. One of the main concerns of all those who teach is how the learners will receive and comprehend the information presented. The most effective educators and trainers all know that making the material easy to access and understand, as well as making it relatable, are hallmarks of comprehension and retention. An online experience that is user-friendly is essential when designing an eLearning environment. Introducing content in an organized and logical manner will keep people engaged and reduce frustration.
Evaluation: A vital area of content construction is the evaluation which includes things like exams, quizzes, essays, and exercises to complete. Because some content will be required for credentials, degrees, or training certificates, it is important to develop ways of assessing whether the learner comprehends the content and to see if they are able to use it in the context for which it was intended. All assessments should be able to conform to the district, administrative, or instructor standards.
3. Student: Presentation, Assessment, Competency, Ease (PACE)
Often forgotten in the process of choosing an eLearning course are those that will be on the receiving end of
the technology and content. They are not only expected to work closely in the virtual environment, but they must rely upon this technology in the absence of an in-person teacher or instructor. If the technology is subpar, this will cause the learner to fail to perform, but it will also reflect poorly on both the instructor and the individual responsible for the implementation of said technology.
Presentation: To the users of this content delivering technology, they expect to have information arranged and presented in a way that they can easily understand and use. This means subject matter must be constructed in an intuitive and user-friendly manner to connect and interact in a positive fashion. Because of their diversity in background and learning ability, content should come in many types and styles to allow students to adapt to an eLearning environment. An online experience that is user-friendly is essential when designing an eLearning environment. Because people learn differently, it is essential that there be a focus on how content is presented. Online material should encompass audio-visual, traditional text, and interactivity all in a well-organized and intuitive presentation.
Assessment: Learner evaluation is an essential part of educating because it establishes whether the objectives of content instruction are being understood and applied correctly. It will establish determinations about grading, placement, advancement, instructional needs, and curriculum. The right types of assessments help us to answer important questions about the eLearning experience. Any institution or organization wants to make sure that they are passing on knowledge in a way that is both accurate and understandable.
Competency: It is not just about evaluating knowledge retention through exams, quizzes, essays, or exercises to complete, learners must also display that they know and can apply specific knowledge relating to subject matter that will be needed for credentials, degrees, or training certificates. An in-person classroom environment makes it easier for an instructor to convey information in a relatable, and clear and concise way; one in which the learner is able to comprehend and show they are capable and comfortable with the material. An eLearning environment can make that task more challenging but nowhere near impossible. In fact, if done properly, learners may be able to internalize more in a shorter time.
Ease: The term “ease” when discussing eLearning does not mean playing into the common association of virtual learning with the perception of online courses being “an easy A,” or not having to pay attention or show up for class. Ease is meant to convey the ways in which an intuitive user interface and logical presentation of the subject matter will allow learners to internalize and understand crucial content the way the instructor wants them to at a manageable pace.
The S4Carlisle Difference
There is now a growing sense of urgency to increase instruction online – not only in the educational institutions at the primary, secondary, and higher educational levels, but also government and private organizations are also seeing the increasing need to move online. What is needed is a company that can provide multimedia services quickly, efficiently, at a low cost, with unparalleled customization and customer service. S4Carlisle utilizes top multimedia developers who can create interactive programs using a variety of interactive techniques. Multimedia elements are designed using software or hardware programs for various purposes. We combine both computer and artistic skills, as well as can collaborate with other media and marketing specialists.
Because there is so much to consider when transferring from an in-person or paper environment to one that is either a hybrid of traditional and eLearning or one that is completely online, it is important to have a company with the experience, cost-effectiveness, and customer service elements that will make this process as trouble-free as possible. S4Carlisle will work closely with educational institutions, vocational schools, and both private and public organizations to make sure content is designed and presented in an appealing and successful manner.
S4Carlisle has decades of experience in content creation in all eLearning types and formats. Our well-regarded technical expertise combined with years of experience allows us to create visually appealing and compelling content for each client’s specific requirements. Of course, skill and visual appeal are not enough, S4Carlisle’s unparalleled customer service means that we work closely with each client, putting their vision into real-time subject matter eLearning content. Using animation all but guarantees to make an impact and allow for seamless integration with other eLearning content as well as evaluation methods. S4Carlisle provides services in multimedia components, ancillaries, accessibility, and translation to any eLearning area where an organization needs to get content delivered online to their personal specifications. Because of our years of experience doing this, we can do it faster, cheaper, all while offering customizability and quality customer service.