Social context: individual
Self-study e-learning might sound like a recent invention, but in fact has its origins in the computer-assisted learning of the late 1970s. Although delivery has shifted from floppy disks to laserdiscs to CD-ROMs to web browsers, the essential model is the same: the learner works alone, progressing at their own pace through a series of lessons delivered by the computer. These lessons are likely to include expositions of learning content – using text, graphics, and sometimes animation, audio or video – as well as questions, exercises and assessments.
When well-designed, self-study e-learning can be engaging and highly-effective; it delivers content clearly and consistently; it can provide multiple opportunities for practice and provide instant and individualised feedback. Although relatively time-consuming and expensive to develop, self-study materials require little support during delivery and can therefore be highly cost-effective for larger audiences. And evidence of progress and achievement can be automatically recorded using a learning management system.
At its worst, self-study e-learning can be tedious, text-heavy and lacking in meaningful interaction. Clearly this is not a problem inherent in the medium, but rather a consequence of poor design skills. Having said that, these design skills are not easy to acquire and the majority of l&d professionals would probably rather leave this work to enthusiasts and specialists.
Self-study e-learning is:
- at its best when clear and to the point, relevant to the job, highly interactive and well supported by relevant images and multimedia;
- best avoided when the subject is unsuited to self-study, it’s long and laborious, text-heavy and short on meaningful, challenging interactivity.