While modern learning solutions are generally leaning toward online so that students can ‘learn anywhere, anytime’, it isn’t the be all and end all. Sure, you get a lot of flexibility and it’s pretty cost effective. You even get to sit in the comfort of your lounge room with reality TV on in the background to offer a distraction once in a while. And you get pretty up-to-date knowledge that doesn’t mean long enrolment processes and boring admin. What’s not to love?
But learning online isn’t the whole solution. At the heart of learning – real learning – is that ability to connect emotionally with what you’re learning. It’s not just about the content but your engagement with the content – how it makes you think, feel and experience things in new ways. Put bluntly, logging onto a computer isn’t always the best way to make the learning experience a human experience.
But it can be. You can make it a human experience. If you’re taking that learning and making it stick by trying it out in real life and applying new skills, you’re humanising it. If you’re building networks, both online and offline, and sharing your knowledge with others – debating, figuring things out and appreciating a new way of thinking – you’re humanising it. If you’re using online content to help you realise your goals – perhaps using coaches and mentors for support – you’re humanising it. In short, the more you work to embed the learning in experiences, relationships and conversations, the more meaning it will have.
It’s up to you to make your online experience one that matters. While eLearning is getting better and better – moving away from static PDFs on a screen to embrace greater interactivity – it can sometimes be a little tricky to get motivated. Self-directed learning is amazing but when there isn’t much accountability, it can be something you put off until ‘you have the time to do it’. An automated message saying you haven’t logged on in a while doesn’t have quite the same effect as a real life lecturer breathing down your neck.
Once again, we can learn from this. When we connect our learning to goals, to conversations we’re planning to have with real people or to workshops we’ll attend, we establish accountability. It’s up to us to learn how to drive ourselves and become responsible for our own growth and development. This is more than just a learning skill, it’s a life skill and can make all the difference between staying where we are and feeling stuck to being able to keep moving and striving for more.
Online learning is only going to grow and expand, but we need to make sure human experiences are what is driving us as educators and as students. Technology is only part of what makes modern learning – it is not the entire solution.
Leanne Roulston – THINKA Co-founder, Learning
(And passionate advocate for NOT cutting arts funding at universities).