Lessons from Education

by | Oct 19, 2007 | Articles

Organisations in the education sector appear to be less successful at a number of measures associated with e-learning than those in other sectors.  The Towards Maturity study reports a 10% less positive measure for business impact availability and uptake for the education sector compared to others.  (See Figure 10.1 in Towards Maturity: Facts and Figures).

This is far from being the complete picture. In a recent article in ALT News we describes examples of e-learning achieving high levels of business benefit for local companies; specifically reducing the time it takes an employee to gain a qualification.  Whilst the existence of tools such as City & Guilds Learnxtra and SmartScreen provides much of the foundation on which educational establishments can build their responsiveness to local employers, it is the leadership shown by College staff that makes the difference.  The importance of leadership by personal example is identified in several places in the Toward Maturity report.  The example described at Walsall College shows how enthusiastic leadership can make a significant difference.  Local work-based learners are halving the time it takes them to become qualified because of the improved support they gain from technology and through technology from the College.

The Towards Maturity study indicates that leadership by example is less frequent on the Education sector than in others although there are things that organisations in the education sector do better than those in other sectors.  They lead the field in using e-learning within programmes achieving qualifications.  This is not unexpected since the performance measure of many educational establishments is the achievement of qualifications, rather than some other measure of business performance as might apply to those in other sectors.

What educational organisations do well

Organisations within the education sector are twice as likely to support learners who are using e-learning.  Organisations use a variety of methods of support, including email, telephone and in person.  This support is provided both before and during learning.  In the case of virtual classrooms educational organisations are almost three times as likely to use them as those in other sectors; almost one-third of respondents in the education sector used virtual classrooms to support learners.  The provision of technology support is also more likely in the education sector.  The difference is less as, interestingly enough, organisations in all sectors are far more likely to provide technical support to users of e-learning than they are to provide learning support.  Companies in the educational sector are also twice as likely to use both moderated and un-moderated chat and blogs and wikis.

The inference is that educational organisations use e-learning more as an adjunct to learner support than as a means of providing learning by itself.  e-learning in all its various forms is perceived as a means of linking the tutor and a learner in more productive and timely interactions.  This appears to contrast with non-educational organisations that may perceive e-learning more as a means of self-study.  The difference may also be due to the education sector recognising the value and importance of collaborative learning and therefore provide tools that make such collaboration easier.  It then becomes a simple matter for a tutor or coach to take part in that interaction with learners.

The techniques and methods that the education sector use less are those that are more specifically job-related; competency management systems, electronic performance support systems and job aids are used less within the education sector than elsewhere.  There is less of a difference when we consider the means by which learners are assisted in consolidated learning in the workplace; putting it into practice.  Line management coaching and feedback support is almost equally likely to occur in either sector; perhaps because those providing education and training to learners may have had some difficulty in interpreting the question.

The education sector is more likely to use e-learning to support programmes leading to qualifications.  However, the difference may entirely be due to the fact that the education sector is more likely to be focused on delivering qualifications.

Why then is there a 10% difference on four key measures of success with e-learning with the education sector considering themselves to be less successful. The study is aligned to business benefit, perhaps the educational sector is focused less on performance and more on knowledge and attainment. This is perhaps appropriate for full time students but those in work receiving work-based learning have to improve their performance as rapidly as possible in response to the demands that business places on everyone. Walsall College and City and Guilds are able to demonstrate they can do that given the right support, in this case through e-learning.

Article contributed by Howard Hills, part of the Towards Maturity research team.


This article was originally created by the Work based e-learning project at e-skills UK and is reproduced with kind permission.

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