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Considerations of Online Learning:

Web-Based Training There are many considerations when creating online learning including media content, development tools, file size, bandwidth, access, connection speed, file formats, platforms, browsers, navigation, and usability. And while that all can seem overwhelming, it’s not even the most important consideration when creating online learning.

Online learning assumes that the course is actually delivered and taken while online. Not shipped, or even downloaded.

There are two types of online courses: asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous refers to a technology-based instruction where there is no time requirement, or structured timeline for starting or stopping. Synchronous is exactly the opposite. It refers to a technology-based instruction where a structured timeline or schedule is established and followed. Both Web-Based Training (WBT) and virtual classroom courses are technology-based distance learning.

Web-Based Training is self-paced and self-study (asynchronous) online learning. WBTs are delivered via the Internet, so they are available globally 24/7, and there is no waiting for software or textbooks to be shipped.

Virtual Classroom courses are fixed pace, leader-led (synchronous) online learning. Virtual course classes are scheduled and delivered by an instructor. There is also a hybrid of these courses called blended learning.

With a blended learning approach, some of the course content is delivered through WBTs (or eLearning), and the rest is instructor-lead, delivered either in a traditional classroom or a virtual classroom. Typically, the leader-led content is for orientation and motivation, difficult content, practice, and presentations. The eLearning portion consists of content that is background information or prerequisite training, or possibly additional topics for individual advanced learning.

Although there are some great advantages to providing online learning, such as the convenience, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness for learners, there are some definite challenges. Some of these challenges are the technology challenges, such as bandwidth, access. These types of challenges may be the only challenges you face in delivering virtual courses online. However, there are many other challenges, which are not technological, that have to be overcome to produce effective WBTs.

So what is the most important thing to consider when creating WBT? Why it’s the learner of course! You must make sure that the online course will actually produce learning. WBT is different from classroom-based courses, in that there is no facilitator there to motivate and engage learners; provide guidance and support to learners; or to even challenge students, answer questions, and give feedback. All of those things still need to be incorporated into WBT.

One of the biggest challenges of WBT is motivating learners. Learners who are not motivated, rarely learn. Some strategies for motivating learners online are including a high degree of interaction to engage learners, using real-world examples and scenario-based exercises to give the course relevance to the learners, challenging the learner by including problem-solving exercises, and creating an environment where exploratory learning can happen online - giving the learners complete control.

Other ways to engage learners are the use of video and animation. Analogies, case studies and simulations can also provide real-world relevance. And online quizzes and tests certainly should challenge learners.

A WBT course is like any other. Start with the basic principles of good instructional design. Ensure there is the right amount of information presented in such a way that learners will actually learn, and make learning measurable. Don’t underestimate how much impact things like media elements, interactions, and user control can have online. And of course, don’t forget about all those other considerations such as an understandable navigation structure, reasonable file sizes, and obstacles to accessing courses such as firewalls or plug-ins.