If you’ve ever taken an online course (from a webinar to a full-blown college course), you’ve undoubtedly experienced some of the growing pains of online education. Particularly when “virtual learning” is meant to symbolize little more than the posting of bullet-pointed PowerPoints and YouTube clips, this can be frustrating and lead one to question whether online education is on par with traditional classroom learning.
As an original skeptic of online education, my early experiences did nothing but reinforce my bias for “brick and mortar” learning. I loathed the time spent clicking through clipart presentations, taught at a third-grade level, that failed to either excite my “inner learner,” or even impart a modicum of new knowledge.
Five years ago, however, I was converted. The source of my enlightenment? Simply put, an educator who “got it,” who understood the unique qualities and benefits to teaching in an online environment.
I’d love to believe that experience stood merely as the watershed moment in adult education when instructors everywhere realized the panacea of online learning. Alas, poor examples of online courses still run rampant on the World Wide Interwebs.
So what’s the difference between mediocre (at best) and high quality online learning? It’s in three aspects:
When these three aspects exist, online learning holds an opportunity to provide for a wonderfully valuable developmental experience. Throw in the cost-saving aspect of developing leaders from their desks, with on-going assessment, and exposure to the ideas and trends unique to their organization, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
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