In the evolving landscape of education, there is a growing awareness that the rigid learning models of the past often fall short of meeting the diverse needs and preferences of all learners.
However, recognizing the problem does not always mean the solution is obvious. In this article, we will explore a number of ways to build flexibility into eLearning programs. But first, let’s start by reiterating why flexibility is so important and what we really mean by rigid learning models.
One size does not fit all.
Many online courses suffer from the same problem: they follow a rigid structure that doesn’t fit the unique modes of learning, schedules, and circumstances of individual learners.
It doesn’t matter how interesting or innovative the subject matter of a course is if learners struggle to navigate the course platform or can’t recall what they’re supposed to have learned.
Participants of an online course will interact with the digital interface in different ways, especially those with specific learning needs such as disabilities and accessibility accommodations. eLearning and training stakeholders have an obligation to deliver courses in ways that support their full engagement. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that when we build accessibility and flexibility into online learning programs we provide a better experience for everyone.
Learners want online courses, and organizations and educational institutions are increasingly providing them, but reports show a 20% drop in engagement when online courses are delivered using rigid learning models rather than in-person. This represents an opportunity—we can do better!
The key is flexible online learning models.
Introducing flexibility into online learning models
Traditionally online courses have been taught either synchronously or asynchronously.
Synchronous delivery is when a course or training is delivered at a specific time and place, often guided by an educator. Commonly used by higher education institutions, a potential drawback is low attendance due to scheduling conflicts, illness, childcare, etc.
Asynchronous course delivery, on the other hand, allows learners to access course materials at their own pace, promoting flexibility and self-regulation. The challenge lies in the disconnect between the learner and the instructor. Without access to guidance, real-time answers, and instruction, learners may struggle to reap the benefits of their learning programs.
On their own, either of these online learning models can be a mismatch for a learner’s needs, priorities, and resources. So what other options are there?
The bi-modal learning model
Bi-modal learning gives learners choice and flexibility by offering multiple modes of course delivery and incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in course design so learners can engage with the content and demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes in multiple ways.
In her article “A Case for Bi-Modal Flexible Learning, Part 1,” Kerri Shields describes the bi-modal course delivery options as follows:
- Synchronous online delivery with an asynchronous option for learning
- Synchronous in-person delivery with an asynchronous option for learning
The advantage of the bi-modal learning model is it empowers student choice; they can change how they wish to study at any time without missing important course material. By incorporating multimedia resources, interactive content, and immersive technologies, bi-modal flexible learning also enhances engagement and understanding. Furthermore, it is not as demanding to implement for educators as some other options like HyFlex delivery.
Ravinder Brar, Director, Education and Partnerships at Say Yeah, says a learner-centred approach is key to setting up learners for success.
“We all learn in a variety of ways, and the learning ecosystem should honour and support learner variability. This can be achieved by creating personalized learning that can be accessed in a variety of modes and ensuring content is available through accessible asynchronous modes.”
Filling the gaps with the variable learning model
Building on the bi-modal model, Say Yeah’s variable learning model puts learners first by combining technology and education best practices to support learners in their preferred mode of learning. We create online courses for asynchronous delivery that provide a wide variety of modalities and incorporate interactive elements usually only found in traditional learning environments. These include:
- communities of practice, which allow learners to ask questions and connect with educators/SMEs
- a digital resource toolkit to enable reference, application, evaluation, and analysis as course participants move from learning to their day-to-day and ongoing activities
- accommodations to deliver seamless navigation and access to the course for all learners across different devices, screen sizes, and interaction methods
- inclusive content design to shape language and provide multiple modes of engaging with content to boost learner understanding and engagement with course content
The variable learning model empowers learners to take ownership of their learning journey, enhances motivation, and promotes self-efficacy. Learners can engage in ways that align with their strengths, interests, and learning preferences. The variable learning model transforms education by allowing educators and trainers to reach all learners where they’re at, regardless of needs and circumstances. Flexibility is the future, and the future is now.
Transform your learning outcomes with flexible learning programs and watch learners thrive.
Contact us to discover how we can help you develop flexible and effective eLearning and training programs.