At evolCampus we have a lot of experience helping our clients to take their first steps in the world of e-learning. The features of our platform make it particularly interesting for those who are coming from the face-to-face world, and in fact most of our clients started online training with our platform without any previous experience.
The emergence of Covid 19 worldwide has led to an increase in the demand and a change in the profile of the potential client who approaches us today, logically motivated by the practically global confinement we are experiencing and the almost widespread suspension of face-to-face education at all levels: academies, in-company training, official centres, etc.
This has brought about a significant change both in the urgency of this new client profile and in the level of knowledge, being a potential client with much less information and with a much more imminent needs.
Until now, most of our clients started a process in which they were gradually absorbing information, researching, taking small orderly steps, establishing milestones, in a reasonably natural process that culminated in the start-up of their e-learning project.
Given that these exceptional circumstances force us to reduce these deadlines as much as possible and to assimilate information in record time, in this article we want to provide you with information that will help you to make the best decisions from the most objective point of view possible, with a view of accelerating as much as possible the process of getting started in e-learning training with minimal knowledge.
Do I need to engage in e-learning and is it the best solution?
Surely this is the main question you should be asking yourselves. And it has no easy answer... it is very unique to each case, what we can do is to explain to you what we are now experiencing in our daily lives.
The global pandemic has put us in an exceptional situation in which previous experience is of little use to us; no one has any guidelines on what to do, because we don't even know what is going to happen in the short and medium term future. We don't know how long the confinements will last, we don't know how fast the return to normality will be, we don't really know to what extent it is feasible that the virus will reproduce itself again after a few months and activities will have to be closed down again.
In a situation like this, there are few solutions when there is no possibility of continuing normally. Those of you who are responsible for a business will logically be struggling with the accounts, calculating expenses, without many alternatives to hold on to.
In such a situation, e-learning appears to be at least a feasible solution. Certainly, those who already planned to expand their face-to-face programmes with e-learning and have been gathering information and working on the project for some time are the first to have begun, but there is a huge number of people who have found themselves on that edge where they don't know where to start, with the aggravating factor of not knowing what e-learning implies and the steps to take.
In case it might help you, these are some questions that we think you should answer:
- Is e-learning a solution for me?
- What other options do I have?
If I decide to engage in e-learning now?
- Do I use it as a temporary solution?
- Should I only think about it for projects that are already in progress and have come to a halt?
- What types of e-learning are available? What type of e-learning should I choose to do?
- What tools/materials/organisational changes do I need?
- How do I get the employees to carry out functions that they have not been involved in up to now?
And for the future...
- Do I take advantage of this to create a new, stable line of business in the medium term that will protect me in case the problem happens again?
- On that basis, do I plan to attract new students who demand such a service?
The time factor
When the expense counter is ticking over and there is only uncertainty about how long the situation will last, the time factor becomes vital.
From what we have seen, speed of action is working well with clients who have taken the initiative to communicate quickly with their students or their clients to quickly provide them with an alternative to maintain the service. It has helped them to minimise casualties and project interruptions.
In this respect, I believe that there is a generalised positive reaction, and that people are more understanding than they would otherwise be. It is clear that we have not asked others to be prepared for a situation that we ourselves are completely unprepared for.
So if you have decided to engage in e-learning, our advice is not to wait until everything is perfect. At this time, speed of action, knowing that there is a plan to continue providing a service, is much more important than the quality of the service itself, which we all know has been improvised.
Your student will not take into account if the beginning is a bit precarious, as long as from then on you are continuously improving. Of course, in a normal situation it would be completely inadvisable to enter the market without a minimum of quality, but considering the time required, you would probably be too late.
Keep in mind that we are first of all talking about addressing what you already have and creating a new service that is good enough to serve as an alternative for your students or employees at the moment. And from there, you will have to decide whether that service will be extensive for the duration of the confinement, or whether it can be extended in the future as a new line of business or a value-added service.
Face-to-face training and e-learning are not only different in the way they are provided, but also in the business involved, which is very different. We will elaborate more on this later.
One point that usually creates some uncertainty is the potential reluctance of the staff to use technology, when the team includes people who, due to their lack of experience, low technological level or age are not particularly inclined to learn how to use new tools. Unfortunately, given the situation, this obstacle (which at other times would be significant) ceases to be so when the survival of the business is at stake. As mentioned above, the overall predisposition to understand the situation and tolerate mistakes will also make learning less demanding, but it is obvious that the changing of the mindset is not optional.
Videoconferencing vs an e-learning platform
An e-learning platform is a complete online learning system, in which a course is created with content (with videos, PDFs, tests, etc.) that the student must complete.
The system has tools for creating these contents, enrolling students, and for communication between teachers and students via messaging, chat and forums. Everything that happens during the training is recorded in the reports.
An e-learning platform is based on asynchronous training, which means that the students enrolled in a course can complete these activities whenever they wish, depending on the deadlines that have been set. Beyond the fact that this learning is fairly structured in time (which is possible with the tools that the platforms provide), the power of e-learning is that the student studies at the pace he/she wants and at the time he/she wants according to his/her circumstances.
Videoconferencing is a tool that allows two or more participants to connect in real time to have a live class and be able to share audio, video and files.
If all we want to do is simulate a face-to-face class, a videoconference will be enough. Some providers you can look at:
The differences between these providers are not really significant; their prices and features are reasonably similar.
What do you really need?
Well, this is probably the first point you should look at. They are not mutually exclusive options, some e-learning platforms such as evolCampus have integrated videoconferencing systems so that you can combine both formats.
Keep in mind that we are not talking about things that can be directly compared to each other. A videoconference is a tool, similar to a telephone, but with more options, while an e-learning platform is a complete system to manage e-learning.
Using video conferencing is as simple as signing up and using it straight away, it requires no training, as a technology it is very simple and can be a very useful way to work your way out of a situation. If what you are looking for is a temporary measure in an attempt to provide 'something' in terms of a service to your clients, it can be a good start and above all it can be quick.
However, it is not going to be useful if you are trying to create something stable; a videoconference does not enable you to organise the activity, you cannot organise the students into courses, it does not allow you to do exercises, you will not have a record of its use... it is not a system.
Therefore, if you are considering a solution that goes beyond the imperative need, you should set your sights on an e-learning platform or LMS. In fact, when you get into e-learning you will notice that videoconferencing, which is a great tool but also has its downside, since it has the disadvantage of restricting the learner to a calendar with a timetable to follow and this eliminates the main advantage of e-learning, which is flexibility, and there is a significant volume of demand for it, but it is not the only one. And there is an important volume of demand that expressly seeks this flexibility with added value, for pleasure or out of necessity.
NOTE: in some countries, such as in Spain through FUNDAE, or in Chile, through SENCE, there are some subsidised training courses that require certain requirements imposed by these institutions. If this is applicable to you, please contact us so that we can guide you.
Which e-learning platform should I choose?
At this point we can't obviously be objective, for us and without any doubt our platform evolCampus is the most suitable for such situations.
But no matter which one you choose, we would recommend you pay special attention to the needs you have at the moment:
- That it is in the cloud. There are other formats, open source platforms. And under no circumstances would we evaluate whether they are 'better or worse', in the end each model is valid for different needs.
- But in situations like the current one, using a platform that you would have to be responsible for installing, configuring and programming yourself would result in an enormous slowdown and would increase the probability of technical problems, as well as a much higher initial investment.
- It must be easy to use. Probably the biggest drawback of e-learning platforms a few years ago was that they were not very usable. Challenging yourself and your team with a difficult software with a very long learning curve is the last thing you need now.
- Support. And by support we are not only referring to possible incidences, but mainly to having a means of communication that enables the resolution of questions in a quick and efficient way, especially in the beginning, it can make a huge difference for you.
Adapting content to e-learning
You have decided to take the plunge, to engage in e-learning and to work with an e-learning platform. The next question is... where do I get the content from?
You will probably be working using face-to-face content, and obviously an adaptation process is needed to change the format, which is called virtualisation.
In this virtualisation, there is a technical transformation, but mainly a conceptual transformation; online contents must have a series of basic characteristics in order to be effective. For example, the activities should not be long, they should be varied, try to make them as visual as possible....
If you search on Google it will be very easy for you to find blogs dedicated to explaining the best way to do it thoroughly. You can also consult this article from our blog
As an important point, remember what we have mentioned previously; at this point your student will understand if the contents you start with are not the best in the world. But of course, you should be aware that they will require constant work until they are of a decent quality.
In our evolCampus platform you will have the advantage of creating content extremely fast, and you don't need any special knowledge to create it. Again, if you are looking for other options, try and consider this point very well because using a platform where content creation is slow and cumbersome can be a huge disadvantage.
If you have the means or the time or if you simply want to have other options that can help you, there are tools for content creation in SCORM (a standard accepted by all 'serious' platforms) that will allow you to create attractive and easy-to-use content in a very fast way. For example, these two:
The focus on the student
Although the service in training is obviously vital, it is probably not the point you should be most concerned about at the moment.
And I am saying this from a logical point of view; if your first action is to try to provide a service to a client who already knows you, this will give you enough leeway for you to learn how to handle them in future cases.
Certainly those of you who do not have any experience will have to adapt to a different way of working and be willing to learn at a good pace. In case you find it useful, we will also provide you with another link to our blog where we talk about general aspects of what changes in terms of teaching between face-to-face learning and e-learning.
The business behind e-learning
This is probably what will cost you the most, and what will require the most learning. Yes, you may have taken the first step towards e-learning because of the current circumstances, but if you have decided to invest in it as a new line of business or simply to anticipate a very uncertain future that no one can predict nowadays (long term deconfinement, possible future relapses...), you will have to learn the basics of the e-learning market.
It is not the most important thing, because the first phase is to attend to your clients, even if you have a service that you will continue providing with your usual means of marketing.
But from there on, and in the medium term, you should know that the business surrounding e-learning is quite different in almost every way from a face-to-face business.
While your 'lifelong' student is usually from your locality, located within a reasonable radius around your institution, in the e-learning world, geographical location is irrelevant. Because the student to whom you offer online training will not care if he/she is 30 km away, 900 km away or at the other end of the world.
Of course, this means that your target audience will multiply by unimaginable amounts, but it also means that your competition will multiply as well. It is no longer another institution that is reasonably close to you that can compete with you for students, but hundreds of institutions around the world that can offer similar services to yours.
That is why you have to distinguish between offering e-learning to those who are already your customers, or to those who are similar to those who are already your customers in order to create a new system to attract the new demand to which you aspire.
The rules are different, you will have to study your competition and look for new ways to get to those students who may be interested in your offer, even if they don't really know in which region you are located.