The Future of e-Learning: Putting People at the Centre

March 30, 2021 by Alessia Mesutti

“We are living in extraordinary times and they call for extraordinary measures.”

For the past 55 years, ILO“s international Training Centre has been an innovator in the field of training technology. In fact, in the 1980s, the Centre was already making its first forays into distance learning.

Fast forward to 2020: this pandemic caught us all off guard. The Centre reacted in record time, with the help of innovation.

These were the extraordinary measures that the Centre carried out:

From moving courses online towards publishing e-manuals in support of the delivery of massive online formats, upgrading the institutional eCampus infrastructure, introducing digital credentials to build a paperless future of learning and training and finally accelerating the uptake of new learning modalities such as Virtual Reality and Virtual Fairs.

I understand that it’s no easy feat. Therefore, “Tech it easy, Tech on” has been my mantra since March 2020 (see my article published on Linkedin arround one year ago!)

My personal reflection after 12 months of digital transformation, digitization of content, evolution of technologies and creation of new online modalities is that more than ever we need to put learners, people, at the center of any project.

What I mean is that despite new trends and ongoing shifts in tools, we need to take a balanced approach that has the primary goal of serving learners and supporting the entire learning cycle to build meaningful learning experiences that are supported by technology.

Creating online learning experiences is not only about the delivery of sessions online.

We need to avoid jumping immediately into technocentric solutions, even though we are urged by the emergency.

The following is not a list of how to best use technology for learning purposes.

It is rather a compilation of how to keep a positive attitude towards technology without losing the focus on what really matters: designing meaningful (online) learning experiences.

  1. If you are a teacher/trainer and you believe you are not a digital mainstream user: don’t stress.​
    Being a teacher/trainer, you have strong communication and organizational skills, you are adaptable, you have advanced research skills, and finally yet importantly you have enthusiasm for learning. You have shown it already. Build on your strengths and find a new way.
  1. Put learners at the centre.
    No matter if you are converting a face-to-face course to an online workshop or designing a massive virtual event from scratch: the final beneficiaries are human beings with tangible needs, concrete interests, varied learning styles, and access to different technology. Keep them in mind. Always. But not only: get in touch with them at any stage of your development process.
  1. Identify the e-Learning modality.
    In the COVID-19 era, everything is online or partially. You might have to design a self-guided online project, deliver a MOOC or plan a virtual reality session. Learners’ needs will dictate the best modality, so it’s key to consider their inputs to inform the design of your project.
  1. Guide e-Learning design
    Selecting technology, producing content, defining interaction complexity… don’t start here! Begin with the objectives, then define learning activities, and finally identify content to build meaningful experiences.

​I believe that keeping in mind the above principles is the way to create measurable impact.

Technology plays a crucial role however, the primary focus remains on how content is organized (sequential order, logical structure, facilitation of meaning, etc.) and why learners should access it.

If interested in joining a hands-on online lab where the above aspects are discussed and contextualized, ITCILO is launching the e-Learning Design LAB on May 4, 2021. You will also have the opportunity to receive coaching on your institutional e-Learning project.

Photo: @giphy, @unsplash

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