What Exactly Is eLearning Anyway, And Why Does Context Matter?
eLearning has become a large part of our daily lives, so much so that we’re sometimes unaware of it. I just came back from Dev Learn Conference in Las Vegas last week and I can assure that there is so much more to this work than you can imagine. But before we dive into that world, I thought we might cover some of the basics. Like what the heck is eLearning anyway?
When was the last time you tried to fix something yourself by watching a YouTube video tutorial? Or helped your kids with their homework by looking something up on your phone? It was most likely pretty recently. This is an example of eLearning, albeit an informal version. The content might not have been presented to you in a structured format, but the end-result was that you learned something from an online source. Nevertheless, these are forms of eLearning because you are gaining deeper knowledge on a particular topic.
Formal eLearning provides a more structured learning environment and is usually part of a learning management system (LMS), a platform used to administer, track, and report the delivery of educational and training resources. An example that might come to mind when we think of an LMS is Lynda.com now known as LinkedIn Learning.
There are three basic types of eLearning: text-driven, interactive and simulation. Text-driven eLearning is the most basic form with minimal use of words, graphics and audio to convey information. Interactive eLearning is a step above text-driven with more emphasis placed on visual components such as images and videos. On the rise in eLearning is simulation content that relies heavily on graphic content and gamification to reward learners for their experiences. A popular eLearning platform that uses this model would be Duolingo, where users can learn up to 27 different languages through repetition games and puzzles.
There’s a lot of content out there on the Web, and as we all know it’s easy to generate content and find it. Look no further than YouTube, where more than 5 billion videos are viewed every day. However, when it comes to truly relevant eLearning, one key component missing is content that is presented in context to the learner.
Content is mainly general information and most often not presented in a way that is relevant to the learner. Contextualized learning, on the other hand, takes the subject matter and connects it to applicable, relevant situations. By contextualizing what is presented in eLearning courses, the user gains a deeper understanding of how to apply the concepts in real-world, industry-specific scenarios.
To illustrate my point, you can find courses on LinkedIn Learning like InDesign CC 2018 Essential Training and InDesign: Advanced Styles. These are great if you’ve never used InDesign before but, for the printing industry, these courses are not presented with any sort of context.
In comparison, Printing Industries of America’s eLearning platform, the eLearning Center, contains courses that tie directly into our industry and are presented with context. For example, the eLearning Center has a course titled InDesign for Prepress. In this course, we’re not going to teach you how to use InDesign, but how to use InDesign's tools and built-in features to uncover and repair digital prepress problems before they become a disaster on-press. Now that’s contextualized learning!
Look for more tips and tricks about eLearning to come every couple of weeks from me and for more information on Printing Industries of America’s eLearning Center, visit printing.org/eLearning.