eLearning- Lockdown Opportunities
The lockdown presented us with many difficulties, but also with certain great opportunities. Here's a wonderful piece by Ciaran Williams on his experience with eLearning during the lockdown.
With the recent restrictions, lockdowns, and a lack of simple stimulation from everyday activities, many of us have been confined to our homes. Unemployment has risen and economic uncertainty is looming, but let's park these scary thoughts just for a moment. By staying at home, many of us have been handed a surplus of time, one of the most valuable commodities there is. Through eLearning, this time can be converted into opportunity.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (Dr. Seuss)
For the purpose of this blog, we will define eLearning as online learning, or learning via the internet. eLearning has a very broad scope to it these days. From access to free videos on sites like YouTube, to more established university online degrees. In recent months, I have spoken to numerous candidates who have added online courses to their work day, and those already enrolled in onsite education have had their classes switched to online formats. In this blog post, I would like to explore eLearning, and what it can do for you.
Benefits and Challenges
- More options
We live in a world where not everyone has the same opportunities to learn and be educated, empowered, and inspired. An increase in access to education and less expensive learning content online must be seen as a positive step forward in society. If you have a willingness to learn and upskill, there are endless possibilities in almost all subjects.
The flexibility of eLearning has not gone unnoticed, with many universities adopting online and distance learning courses in recent years prior to COVID 19. Students are no longer restricted to a fixed location or timetable, they can adjust their education to work around their own lifestyle.
eLearning can be highly scalable, as it can be accessed by a much larger group of people compared to a classroom. Teachers can record classes once, and not have to repeat them regularly. Furthermore, with a paperless format, eLearning can be scaled up without harming the environment.
Many skills do not need to be achieved through an academic degree. eLearning can provide alternative platforms to access shorter courses, often with less financial investment. For those uncertain about which career path they will take, eLearning can give an opportunity to dip in and out of different content, without making long term commitments.
Many financially attractive online courses do not offer accredited certifications. While they can provide skills for your personal and professional life, employers may not be able to verify your learning and it can dilute its significance on your CV. Accredited online degrees from universities remain expensive.
The scalability of eLearning brings challenges to the authentication of its users. While online proctoring has been shown to be successful for invigilating exams, it limits the number of people that can access a course. Peer review of assessments is an approach taken by many online learning platforms, such as Coursera. This involves classmates correcting their fellow students’ assignments. Ultimately, it is difficult to ensure that an individual is really doing the work themselves. This difficulty in authentication can also make it difficult to advocate for increased accreditation.
- Social interaction
We all learn differently, and some individuals may benefit more from social interaction than others. Furthermore, education often gives life experience by meeting fellow students and building relationships and networks on a personal and professional level. I think this can simply come down to personal preference and the type of learning involved. You might be an undergraduate student looking to meet new people, or perhaps a full time employee with an hour or two on your calendar to learn fundamental skills.
- Technological challenges
Educators need to be educated as well when it comes to eLearning. It is a new concept for many teachers and lecturers. Online video classes can often make it more difficult to demonstrate experiments in subjects where physical space is needed. Also, a simple weak internet connection can derail a live class in full swing.
Options - What type of eLearning is for you?
It can be overwhelming to choose between different online learning opportunities. Do you choose something that is free and could be a great learning experience? Do you choose something more expensive, with accreditation for your CV and career? Or is there a sweet spot, of a credible course that would provide you with an enjoyable learning experience and career progression at an affordable rate? I have broken down some examples of how you might want to decide, depending on what you are trying to achieve.
- Formal Certifications and Education
From my experience recruiting in the Irish IT market, educational requirements on job descriptions often remain focused on formal academic experience. Bachelor or Master Degree level qualifications are usually sought after by many companies. When it comes to upskilling post university, accredited certifications are often required. For example, I recruit for cyber security related positions, where certifications such as CCNA and CISSP are in high demand.
These university and accredited courses are often now available online. Despite this, they are expensive compared to other eLearning alternatives. If you are considering a career change, or different areas to upskill, it could be worth testing out less expensive, shorter eLearning programmes before committing to an expensive degree or certification. If you are in a place where you are ready to commit to an accredited program, the good news is that it will likely be worthwhile, as employers do seek these qualifications.
- Free (or less expensive) online courses for personal development, or curiosity
Flexibility to dip in and out of different topics and courses is a liberating aspect of free online learning. Those who are unsure of a certain topic can learn a little amount before diving into a long term commitment. For example, myself and some of my colleagues recently completed a free 5 day coding challenge organised by the Code Institute. As IT Recruiters, we wanted to get a taste of software development, and put ourselves in our candidates’ shoes out of curiosity. This has improved our understanding of the terminology involved in software development, and has helped us to better communicate with candidates in the field.
Less expensive eLearning courses can be fun also, why not pick a topic you enjoy and still gain the benefits of some brain stimulation that we so desperately crave during this lockdown. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be worried about achieving a certain grade, you’re doing this for yourself. For example, I have always had an interest in sports, and I took up jogging more regularly last year. During the lockdown, this has been a great source of normality, even if I couldn’t go further than 2km from my home at times. Finding myself with more time on my
hands than usual, I completed an online certificate in Exercise Science from Coursera. I found the knowledge I gained to be very practical and beneficial.
- Career enhancing and affordable eLearning
There are numerous courses available that can support both your personal and professional development, and not be a financial constraint. For example, why not improve your Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint skills with an affordable course? In GemPool, we have employees completing a range of different courses that are relevant to their work. Examples include areas such as Sales Training, Graphic Design, Employment Law, and Recruitment specific courses. Furthermore, even prior to COVID 19, plenty of our training for work purposes had been transferred to eLearning, allowing each individual to complete their learning at a time that suited their schedule. We have used platforms such as Social Talent, and TRN World.
There is a time and place for all types of eLearning, depending on what stage you are at in your career, how much of a commitment you wish to take, and of course your financial situation. Whether you are a Director of a multinational corporation looking to improve your Excel skills, or an entry level candidate looking to specialise with an accredited certification, I wish you the best of luck with your own eLearning journey. Feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and share your insights.