Making Online Learning More Impactful

Shivani leads award-winning products and teams at the intersection of business, tech and education. Her experience is multidisciplinary, and my passion is product and business management.

Online Learning is Here to Stay
Covid-19 and the lockdowns were a transformational period for the world. Since that period, many business operations have moved to fully remote or hybrid modes of working. L&D decision makers have discovered that online learning not only allows reach and equal opportunity in training of employees, but it can be as or even more impactful than traditional methods of training. So, what makes an online learning programme impactful? This is something we in the British Council ask ourselves everyday as we deliver and develop our English Online courses for the workforce of the future. Through our extensive experience we have identified a few things that stand out in an effective online learning course.

Engaging Learning Design
Online learning has come a long way. Even in language learning, with video meeting technology it is easy to provide learners with interaction and practice of productive skills. However online learning also offers an opportunity to make the best of technology by using a flipped classroom model to get the most out of the live class environment. A flipped learning design requires the learners to study ahead of class using video, audio or text. However, this can be made more engaging via an online learning platform that requires learner to complete online exercises and get instant feedback on them. So, on English Online, when a learner books a class, they get access to pre-class preparation exercises. And they are then rewarded for attending the class by getting access to more post class practice exercises.

Interaction & Collaboration
The biggest myth about online learning is that it is all one way communication. However online platforms today provide several ways to allow for interaction. It can be via be group classes with a small cohort and a teacher or private one-to-one classes that provide more targeted and specific input to the learner. In addition to these in English Online we also offer Live 25 webinars which are 25-minute teacher led presentations to a large group of learners on a grammar or phonology topic. These are extremely popular as in addition to the practice and feedback in the class, these give learners the opportunity to go in depth into a language topic they are struggling with and receive input from the teacher. These webinars are a great addition to even our selfstudy course, giving learners a sense of community and the impetus to log into the course platform. We also offer sharing sessions, where at the end of a regular class a teacher sets a speaking task to the group and allows for free group discussion to further develop learners’ spontaneity and fluency while using English.

Building Learner Autonomy
Learners learn best when the learning goals of the course align with their personal development goals. Therefore, it is important to scaffold learners with support, learner training and choice by encouraging them to take responsibility for learning and helping them develop learning strategies and study skills. In English Online, through a comprehensive learner on boarding process and help videos we ensure that when a new learner joins the course, they get to know how to make the most of the course. Our course design offers them choice of topics, teachers, class times so that they can focus on exactly what they need to improve and learn as per their schedules. Providing a global community of leaners 24/7 student support via live chat has proven instrumental in making sure they never feel stuck. The impact of implicit and explicit learner training is evident in our learner and client feedback and high consumption rates.

Communicating a Sense of Progress
A critical part of keeping learners engaged is ensuring they can see and measure their progress. Whether it is micro assessments within the course, certificates and badges rewarding good learning behaviour or learner dash boards, we find this to be a critical part of our course design in English Online. In addition, each lesson has clear objectives that are conveyed to learners, making the learning experience more transparent for them. In addition to the usual criteria such as quality of content and teachers, L&D managers selecting and curating online learning programmes for their organisations should keep in mind these four areas as well. The absence of these features can lead to low learner engagement and high course drop out. However online doesn’t have to be a diluted version of in-person training delivery. By making sure these aspects are integrated in online learning, the learning experience can be exciting and inspirational for learners and online programmes can deliver a high level of impact and ROI at scale for organisations.