Online platforms: finding the right solution
Finding an online platform that is right for your learners, students and coworkers isn’t always easy. Thankfully, there are simple ways to finding the right platform that will best suit your learners’ needs and goals.
To help you find the right solution, find out:
- What is an online platform?
- The advantages of training with an online platform
- The disadvantages of an online platform
- Key criteria for choosing an online platform
In this article, you’ll find out the concept behind online platforms and how you can use it to create a positive experience for your learners, students and coworkers.
What is an online platform?
An online platform is an e-learning platform that has been created using Internet technology. Online platforms have revolutionised access to all sorts of information. Not only is the Internet used for learning, it is also used in our everyday lives for all sorts of things.
The term “online platform” is used to describe a series of services available online, such as:
- Marketplaces (example: Fnac, Amazon…)
- Search engines (example: Bing, Yahoo, Google…)
- Social media (example: Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube…)
- Online website builders (example: Wix, BigCartel…)
- Payment systems (example: Payfit…)
An online platform is a digital service that uses the Internet to facilitate interactions between two or more separate but interdependent users (whether they are companies or private individuals). Platforms are places where demand and supply meet electronically.
The 3 advantages of an online platform in learning
Online platforms have many advantages to offer students, learners and workers.
Independent learning and technology undeniably go hand in hand. When learners are not obliged to follow the instructor’s pace in class, they are free to use the e-learning tools and various technologies at their disposal and follow their own pace. Most millennial learners and generation Z learners are perfectly capable of using today’s technology with total ease.
They can also build their own customised learning programmes, monitor and check their learning progress and assess their performance using an LMS platform (Learning management system). Distance learning is made possible thanks to online learning systems where instructors can also check on learners’ progress if needed or asked to do so.
Instructors can also use online learning platforms to encourage and promote independent working in other contexts such as in a company, a training organisation or an educational institution by:
|Making sure they have access to learning material||In many respects, granting access to course material is a learning management system’s main goal, so it’s primal they have access to course contents on all devices, when and where they want to.|
|Making sure training contents are relevant||If you give training material designed for your engineers department to your marketing department, then you’ll be missing your target. You must ensure the correct setup of your learning platform so that each group has access to the right lessons and contents and that learners in specific vocational fields can find the answers to any specific questions and needs they may have. Training material can then be added to various course contents, learning programmes and topical channels to help your learners immerse themselves in a wide range of learning possibilities.|
|Providing enjoyable course contents||Although all lessons may not be compelling, it’s important you engage your students’ interest so they go beyond just clicking from one slide to another. Videos play an increasing role in stimulating the learner’s mind both intellectually and socially. Contents can be discussed and shared synchronously or asynchronously with their peers which in turn encourages group commitment amongst learners, students and coworkers.|
|Providing flexible working conditions||For learners to be able to work independently, they must be able to learn at their own pace according to their own schedule. Instructors can encourage learners to take the time they need to study and not overlap on their study-work balance.|
|Getting your users to supplement course contents||You may have experts on the matter in your company but after using the learning platform themselves, some of your coworkers are probably experts too. Why not allow for your learners to put what they have learnt into practice not only at work but also by creating course contents that can be handed out to teams, departments or even the whole organisation.|
|Making the platform easy to use||For your learner to be independent throughout the course, it’s primal the learning platform is easy to use, intuitive and that the learner’s place remains central throughout the learning programme. If users cannot navigate through the platform with ease, it is likely they won’t carry out extra content searching beyond the specific tasks assigned by the LMS administrator or manager.|
Access to learner progress monitoring
Your students’, learners’ or coworkers’ progress is constantly monitored on an e-learning platform where you can access data regarding:
- The number of hours spent on the platform
- Difficulties they may have encountered
- Detailed data on validated and non-validated course modules
Furthermore, other monitoring tools can be implemented so you can follow your virtual classroom’s progress and commitment to the programme.
|Tests based on the study programme||Tests are the most common, tried and tested way to check your learners’ knowledge. Lessons for each subject are given online and learners become familiar with the functioning of each one of them on the platform. Students and learners might also study using books or documents handed to them in parallel. And this is what teachers and instructors will base their assessments on. Testing the knowledge they have gained should not be about asking students to reproduce exactly what they have learnt but more about questioning them in a certain way to make them produce a critical analysis on what they have read and elaborate their opinion on the exam paper. This method however is probably best suited for reading and writing modules.|
|Observation and interaction||Observing your learners’ behaviour during online training whilst interacting with them at the same time is another way of apprehending their learning capacities. Observing your students’ or coworkers’ reaction during lessons online will provide you with insight on how they learn. Interacting with them in parallel will not only motivate and encourage them in the right direction but also help build their confidence and attain their goals.|
|Regular assessments||Regular assessments can be beneficial to your learners by revealing any weaknesses at an early stage. Online learners tend to be quick and flexible so, the earlier the mistakes are found the easier they can rectify them. It will also increase their online class contribution so they can obtain constructive feedback and better assessment results.|
Preparing your learners for exams and certificates with a fun and engaging training course
An e-learning platform will be very useful if your learners’, coworkers’ and students’ are planning to prepare for one of the many renowned certificates. It will be easier for them to customise their training course according to their goals and the certificate they want to obtain.
Furthermore, whether their level is beginner, intermediate or proficient, they can adjust their course to best suit their needs by adding level-specific modules. For better exam preparation, they can choose to use the mock exams at their disposal. Mock exams will enable them to be:
- Tested under real conditions
- Tested with the score calculation and question types in line with those of the official exam
In short, e-learning platforms will put your learners under real exam conditions from the very beginning which can help deal with certain downsides like stress or lack of confidence.
An e-learning platform may be by definition, an online learning course but it’s generally more fun and engaging for learners. Video contents come in different formats like:
- Audio-visual materials
One of the major assets of online learning is that it’s accessible to all. So you can easily adapt to your learners’, students’ or coworkers’ learning preferences by offering them an online course format that best suits their needs.
The 3 disadvantages of an online platform
Just like classroom learning, online lessons have a few disadvantages too.
Accumulation of work
Online learning requires self-discipline and organisation. It can be hard for learners, students and coworkers to draw the line between work and online studying, eventually leading to a feeling of being overwhelmed. That is why self-discipline and organisation are primal. Without them, learners will get easily distracted by other activities at home or on the computer.
Lack of human contact
Students, learners and coworkers can learn a lot in the company of their teachers or instructors.
But with online classrooms, physical interactions between students and teachers are minimal which can sometimes result in a feeling of isolation.
It’s crucial companies, training organisations and even educational institutions provide other forms of communication to avoid this type of feeling. For example, online messages, emails and videoconferences can be organised to favour face-to-face interaction.
Concerns regarding prolonged screen time
Many parents are worried about the dangers of too much screen time on their children’s health. And prolonged screen time is one of the biggest concerns and the main disadvantage of online learning.
Learners sometimes end up developing bad postures and other physical problems like sitting bent over in front of a screen or experiencing eye fatigue.
One good solution would be to give your students numerous breaks so they can refresh their mind and body.
Choosing the right online learning course
Choosing the right online course means choosing the right Learning Management System (LMS). Here are 5 criteria you should take into account:
A customisable and easy-to-use LMS
One of the most important aspects when choosing an LMS is its usability when it comes to creation and customisation.
On one hand, the most complex LMSs will enable you to control the different features of your online learning platform ranging from online layout to the visual elements of your course.
On the other hand, if you choose an easy-to-use LMS with predefined templates, you won’t have as much leeway to include customisable features into the design of your online course. Therefore, when choosing the tools for your ideal LMS, ask yourself whether you prefer flexibility or usability.
Defining your objective
When looking for the right LMS, knowing what kind of result you want to get out of it at the end of the day is primal. For example, do you want to include various scenarios based on reality to give your learners practical knowledge? Do you plan to add video contents to create an online course that will gain your learners’ interest? Do you want to introduce a particular type of learning model like blended learning?
Knowing the features you want to include in your course and the results you want to obtain from them are key to finding your ideal LMS.
Keeping your learners’ needs in mind
By keeping your students’, learners’ or coworkers needs and aspirations in mind when choosing your e-learning platform, you’ll be sure to choose the one that will meet their most relevant requirements. For example, if you choose to use a fully customisable but more expensive tool, you should ask yourself if your learners will really make use of all the extra features. Do they need highly interactive video scenarios added to their modules or will online learning be more effective with a more simplistic approach using slideshows?
So it’s primal you know your students’, learners’ and coworkers’ abilities and limits regarding the use of technology and the kind of learning system they feel comfortable with so you can choose the LMS that will perfectly meet their professional needs.
Can the platform you’ve chosen take on the communication media your learners prefer to use?
How do you intend to give classes online to your learners? Will the learners be able to access course contents offline? Will your learners be able to access their online course via a mobile device? The answers to these questions will give you a better idea of the kind of e-learning software you should be looking for.
Determine your online course’s interactivity level beforehand
Do you plan on adding several interactive features to your course such as:
- Images you can click on
- Real-life scenarios
How interactive and immersive do you want your learners’ digital experience to be? A certain number of platforms offer a selection of templates you can use to create highly interactive features whereas others can be more basic with more limitations. So we suggest you define the degree of interactivity you need for your digital course beforehand.
Will you need to monitor student progress and data?
Depending on what you are looking for, some platforms provide detailed monitoring systems that assess student progress and determine the main areas of a module students need to improve on as well as in-depth data on student performance. Other LMSs on the other hand will only give basic student data.
Although the most comprehensive digital platforms are more costly, they do however offer many benefits making the extra cost worth the investment.
Make sure you also check that the platform you intend to use is compatible with the other online software you use on a regular basis.
Written for OEB21 by GlobalExam. Find out more about GlobalExam at the exhibition of the 27th edition of the event, and at https://global-exam.com/en.