Brainformative Blog

Adult Interaction in Online Learning

If you had to guess the completion rate for online learning what would that guess be?   50%?  More? Less?

                        Would you be surprised if I said under 5%? 

That is a sobering thought if your business relies on “e-learning” to train its workforce.  “But John, we have the attestations to prove that people finished the course.”

                          Uh huh.

And we all know those attestations are a measure of content consumption, right?

Anyway, the stats on “e-learning” are pretty dismal. There are a number of factors that impact the engagement, retention and persistence of learners once they enroll in an online course. But the first and dare I say biggest drawback to e-learning is; it is the worst of all learning worlds.

                        Let me explain.

Classroom learning’s primary strength is group dynamics. It capitalizes on our core human drives to refine our thinking with feedback and socially integrate so we can capitalize on other people’s knowledge.

adult interaction-1

Adults come to every learning event with an enormous amount of knowledge and our first effort is to locate the intersection between the “filling system” of what we already know and the new ideas being offered.  In the world of cognitive psychology our “filing system” is called schemas. These schemas are crucial structures into which all ideas are integrated. So when we encounter new ideas we seek to find others who have already organized those ideas successfully into schemas and then habituated those thought patterns into actions. We call this expert habits-of-mind.

 With this in mind you can understand why, in adult learning, the group interaction in a classroom is so crucial. Adult learners are smart enough to avoid reinventing the wheel. We play off of each other’s filing system and use that as the lever to build our own schemas.

If you think back to some of your best classes, you likely had an excellent facilitator who helped correct your errors and who was able to shape the discussion so that ideas could be shared. It wasn’t a generalized bull session but a very focused, guided tour where people shared their habits-of-mind and others were able to integrate those ideas.

 If you understand why this dynamic contributes to a rich learning environment you can immediately understand why e-learning has such low completion rates. It places the learner in a fundamentally isolated environment where they have no ability to try various ways of organizing knowledge. They are left to “reinvent the wheel” all for themselves.

 For the last year, plus or minus a few months, Brainformative™ has been seeking to solve this problem, (and a number of others) implicit to online learning. Our full vision is pretty bold. Think virtual reality classrooms where you can see everyone real time and scents permeate the experience to neurologically anchor memory and exponentially increase retention. Obviously technology has not caught up to that  . . . yet. But the technologies that do exist, with some creativity,  can improve the underlying weakness of the online learning space. This is what we've spent the year building. 

Check out our flagship course: Death By Bullet Point . . . No More! (Foundations).


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