Does E-Learning Provide a Social Atmosphere? You Bet!

E-learning Misconception of Social Interaction

I’ve heard a number of times that e-learning’s main weakness is the lack of social interaction. I would like to attempt to dispel this common misconception.

Social interaction in any setting is dependent on the structure of the course. A live training can have little to no social interaction if the instructor does not foster discussion.  A live training may be so packed with information that an instructor simply cannot allow discussion in an effort to stay on time.

If anything, a properly structured e-learning course can create an atmosphere of deeper discussion.

Let’s use an example of the EnergyLogic Academy HERS Rater Training. In the screen shot below you will find our structure for each module in our training,

E-learning Module Structure from EnergyLogic Academy

Let me do a brief run down on the module structure. First, each module is worth 100 points. Each module has 4 distinct sections. Each section is worth 25 points.

  • Learning Resources – These are SCORM compliant narrated flash files with interactivity. These are designed to educate the student on the topic being discussed. In this case, domestic hot water.
  • Activity – In our course we have activities around the topic. These range from glossary construction, uploading work files, research, and in this case our class project. The class project is the creation of a from-plans rating. In this section we work through the REM/Rate entry of water heating systems.
  • Social – This is where we foster social interaction. As you can see we have 14 unread posts in this Rater training. This is where the rest of our discussion will focus.
  • Quiz – Each module finishes with a quiz.

Social Interaction

Let’s focus on the social interaction in our course. We foster discussion. In fact, to pass our course we require social interaction. It is important to note that we focus on structured social interaction. Each social will have a set of instructions for that particular topic. For example:

Social Interaction Menu on EnergyLogic Academy Course

As you’ll notice the last instruction is that each person is responsible for starting a discussion and responding to a colleague.

Now let’s look at the discussions:

E-learning Discussions for ELA Course

 

You’ll notice we have seven distinct discussions. Each of those discussion has at least one reply. And you’ll notice on the right the last person to comment. This is a great example because Mark Jabaley is a very experienced Rater, an EnergyLogic partner, and in this course as a guest instructor. In addition, our lead trainer Scott Doyle has weighed in.

Now let’s dive into one of the discussions.

 

Discussion page on EnergyLogic Academy Course

The discussions can include links to more information, videos and images to help describe the topic.

Our teaching style is social constructivism. The idea is that students work together to build knowledge of the topic based on discussion and activities. What we have found is that students will go as deep as they want. We give them the basic instructions but find that willing students will bring back great information. In fact, I’ve learned a lot from these students. It’s truly a remarkable thing to watch as our students become champions of the course and seek to help their colleagues to learn the material.

Please don’t tell me that social interaction is not part of e-learning. As educators, we require it!

Matt Thornberry
Deputy Director of Energy Professional Services
EnergyLogic Academy

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