Online training is a rapidly growing area. It seems that every day, there are new organizations offering interesting courses or there are new ways to access those courses. The rapid growth of Web 2.0 applications has made learning readily and freely accessible to almost anyone with an Internet connection. Learning is becoming increasingly portable and mobile. It is an exciting time, and it certainly seems that the excitement will continue for some time yet. Our Trends in Online Learning module talks more about the many exciting directions online learning is currently going in and it links to some of the brightest trend setters in this area.
The final question in the GO research asked respondents for their views on the future of online learning in their organization. In short, the responses strongly indicated that both those who deliver and those who participate in online learning in Canada see a very positive future for online learning.
Many organizations that already deliver online training want to explore new technologies that they can use to offer that training in new and more creative ways. For example, training that was previously only text-based could be expanded to include synchronous audio-visual two-way communication using Skype and webcams. Web 2.0 technology, i.e., social networking tools including blogs, YouTube, wikis, podcasts, is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to add interactivity to online training. (For more information about specific online learning platforms and technology, be sure to visit the Technology module.
In the ever-changing area of online learning, it is important to stay current. The field of online learning is continually evolving and growing. What was "state-of-the-art" technology just a few short years ago may now be considered virtually obsolete. As people become increasingly familiar and comfortable with the emerging user-friendly technology that is so readily (and often freely) available, they will expect to make use of these simple and fun tools as part of their online learning experience. If we fail to keep up, we risk lose participants in our training.
Many of the GO survey respondents also indicated that they hoped to increase the amount of online training they were offering. Their current offerings were being well received and had positive evaluation results, and their audience was asking for more. Because they as training providers had experienced success, and because their training participants demanded more options, they believed it was important that they continue to explore and learn about online learning and to offer additional training opportunities.
Some respondents also indicated that not only did they want to expand the online training they offered to their current participants, but they also wanted to explore the possibilities of offering training to new target markets. For some, this meant expanding their reach beyond the local area or even province they currently serve to a wider Canadian or even international audience. For others, it meant going beyond the literacy field to offer training. Reaching out to additional participants was especially important to organizations whose members or audience were in remote locations or did not have easy access to learning opportunities.
A number of respondents also wanted to enhance their current online learning opportunities not only through technology but also by updating and improving the design of the course itself and or the content. Some felt that they may not have taken enough advantage of the possibilities that online learning can offer – they may have been so used to delivering traditional face-to-face learning opportunities that they essentially tried to recreate that type of course online. Now that they had gained experience with delivering online learning, they felt they were ready to "push the envelope" further and take additional advantage of the activities and teaching opportunities that technology can provide.