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Modern Learning - Q&A with Andy Stopps

Learning & Development, Business Articles

After our Learning & Development Thought Leader's Conference, we've put together Q&A's with some of our speakers, based on customer questions.

Below we speak to Andy Stopps, Director of E-learning at Maguire Training. Andy has been involved in digital learning for the past 17 years. When he first started the challenge was getting video to play that was the size of a postage stamp through PCs that were connected via dial up modems that used to make those dreadful cranking noises. A lot has changed since then and the challenge is now keeping up with technology and trying to make e-learning an engaging and memorable learning experience.

Andy has also written a great blog for us about e-learning and the traits of a modern learner.


Can you define e-learning?

There is a 'traditonal' sense of e-learning - in a modular format, probably authored to SCORM standards, viewed on a computer. However, it is possible to widen the definition to include any learning done digitally. This opens up the arena dramatically, but poses the question of how that learning becomes trackable and recordable in the same way that the traditional sense is.

When should e-learning be scheduled in? During work time or during the employees own time?

We get asked this quite often. We see the best results and the best usage statistics when the learning time is part of the working day and learners are supported effectively. Clients have specified periods of the day to undertake e-learning and some have set up areas for it to take place.

What are your thoughts on social learning where the interaction and Facebook experience are the attraction over the learning content?

Think about classroom learning - what emphasis do you put on the interaction between delegates in the training room and at the breaks? If this helps to embed learning and enhance the learning experience then that's a good thing, isn't it? Social learning (or peer-based learning) can have the same effect - it allows for conversations, feedback, questions and opinions to be aired that may improve the learning experience. The difficulty comes with the monitoring this and ensuring it's not abused.

What can you do to encourage/motivate employees to use e-learning?

A client once had a competition to see who could watch the most - this isn't the answer! The content should be relevant to that person's job role and their development firstly, whether this is prescribed (given by you) or self selected. By understanding the learning outcomes, you can identify if it's the right content. From there, the format needs to be aligned to the learning style of the person undertaking it. If you use a variety of content - video, audio, interaction, research then you have more chance of appealing to more learning styles. Not everyone will embrace e-learning though, but some will!

Now we understand that a learner can only hold attention for a short amount of time, how are you combatting this with conventional e-learning?

If research is to be believed, then attention spans are getting shorter, and technology is playing a part in this. The average person touches their smartphone 2617 times a day! So what do we do? 1) Remove the distration - make people learn in an environment away from their phones, 2) Make the learning engaging - remove the temptation to stray and 3) Don't create learning that's too long - split modules into smaller chunks and make these fit with learners who are time poor.

Apart from tests, how else can you tell if people are engaged with the learning?

e-learning has many tools that can be utilised to engage with the learner. From polls, quizzes, branching, videos through to the emergent technologies such as virital reality and other tools. It's important to also gain feedback and reflection from all forms of learning and encourage discussion with a line manager to identify how the learning may get applied back in the workplace.

Do we need to worry about 'fake learning' just as we have 'fake news?

Fake learning is a problem. With the wealth of information on the web and the ability to publish 'viable' content it has become easy to fool people with mis-information. As I mentioned, a client gave a team a research project and one delegate created a wikipedia page which was then copied or referenced by 18 colleagues. In a world where everybody can claim to be an 'expert', you may have to dig deeper to look at their credentials and the level of research that goes into studies.

What is your opinion of gamification and VR?

It's important to relate all learning back to the learning outcomes and determine whether the delivery format helps to ensure they are met. We see 'Gamification' more as a tool for recognising and rewarding digital learning in a similar format to levels and badges on a game, and this is an important function. 'Game-based e-learning' is an engaging learning format - the questions remain - does it help to achieve the learning outcomes and does it make the learning stick?. The same can be said with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Both of these emerging technologies have great potential if used in the right way. It's about identifying the best ways to utilise them and link everything back to the question "what do I want my learners to learn?".

Who does Google ask when it doesn't know the answer?

Google always knows the answer! If someone can input a search that comes back with 0 results then I'd like to know what they are searching for. It's whether the answers it gives are correct that's the bigger concern!

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