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Our Blog

Myths Associated with Online Learning

September 14 2015 - by Joan H. Underwood, CLP's Co-Facilitator

This month marks the launch of the CLP’s fifth cohort in its Leadership Development Programme (LDP).  This is our second cohort offering the fully blended version of the LDP.  As the new group of public sector leaders from throughout the Region comes together to form a learning community, the virtual classroom will represent a new experience for many of them. 

At the same time, the members of Cohort 4 have transitioned to Part 2 of their LDP journey.  This component will take place in a completely virtual environment.  Further, both cohorts 4 and 5 will be joining CLP’s Continuous Learning and Development Network (CLDN) which also operates primarily in a virtual environment. 

Based on the foregoing, I have opted to use this week’s blog to highlight – and hopefully debunk - five myths associated with online learning.  In doing so, the intention is to address some of the concerns of those now venturing into this environment and to highlight some of the exciting experiences that await you.

Myth #1: Online learning is impersonal with little interaction with the facilitators and other participants.

There are several online learning platforms available.  At CLP, we utilize WebEx which enables attendees to communicate via audio, video, chat (both private and group) and email.  These highly interactive features help to ensure that participants are not just interfacing with the computer but rather have a genuine connection with the facilitators and each other.

Myth #2: Learners don’t participate in the online environment.

The fear of speaking publicly features prominently when persons are asked to identify their top 10 fears.  In the virtual classroom, the use of technology helps to mitigate this fear as the social and cultural barriers are somewhat diminished paving the way for persons to share their ideas and experiences in a relatively non-threatening environment.  The availability of multiple channels – i.e. audio (with or without video), live chat, polls etc. – help to ensure that participants have access to a channel with which they are comfortable.  Skilled facilitators can also utilize ice-breakers and interactive tools to help to increase participants’ comfort, confidence and level of engagement.

Myth #3: Online learning doesn’t provide the opportunity for peer sharing or team projects.

In adult learning, everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner.  This holds true in the virtual classroom.  The use of breakout rooms provides the opportunity for small groups to have more intimate discussions and sharing.  In fact, most of the action learning components (BDAL 2.0) in CLP’s Level 2 LDP are conducted virtually.  Action Learning Sets of six leaders from different countries and/or regional organizations meet virtually to support each other as they work on their respective Leadership Stretch Projects (LSPs).  The ability to share documents and to collaboratively create and edit them reduces the time required and eliminates some of the challenges associated with version control.

Based on the feedback received from Cohort 4 participants, the interaction between Set members proved invaluable as persons learnt by doing and achieved major breakthroughs resulting from the skilful use of questions by the other members of their BDAL Sets.

Myth #4: Online learning is less demanding or complete.

The learning objectives associated with the virtual components of CLP’s LDP are just as rigourous as those attached to the face to face elements.  Virtual sessions (webinars, check-ins and peer sharing sessions) are strategically utilized to share knowledge, address critical issues and improve performance.  Participants are then expected to transfer and apply the lessons learnt – just as they do for content delivered in the face to face environment.

Myth #5: Online learning requires less time from participants.

While the use of the virtual classroom does minimize travel time and costs, the time devoted to the actual learning activity is not diminished.  In fact, it could be argued that virtual learning requires participants to spend more time on individual assimilation of the material. 

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As organizations throughout the Region grapple with shrinking budgets and the increasing learning and development needs of our human resources, we are confident that the strategic use of online learning and skilled virtual facilitators presents an affordable, effective and sustainable response. We invite you to join us for our next webinar on September 16th[1] so that you can make your own assessment of this claim.

What are some of the barriers to your own use of online learning and/or collaboration?

What additional myths/concerns are preventing you from capitalizing on the use of online learning/collaboration?

Given the significant challenges associated with intra-regional travel, what is stopping us from deploying virtual platforms as a medium for regional meetings and learning activities?


 

[1]Please visit the CLP website for further details and to register for the upcoming webinar: Ethics and the Use of Social Media by Government Officers.