Andy Richardson, CEO, Dynistics on how online learning highlights the need for dashboard technology in education
The online learning sector recently received further backing when Government technology taskforce Further Education Technology Action Group, (FELTAG) announced that all publicly-funded FE and skills courses should have at least 10% online content by 2015/16; increasing to 50% by 2017/18. Unsurprisingly then, e-learning has been identified as a significant part of the future of learning, with 59% of CIPD respondents to the annual L&D survey stating that they believe their use will grow within their organisations over the next 12 months.
The reasons for this are manifold. Investment in e-learning courses brings huge returns for secondary and FE providers. Online training courses can successfully bridge students across all locations, and also provide a huge degree of flexibility as e-learning modules can also easily be updated or upgraded as and when the content requires it.
In addition, while some academics may argue that online education provides a sub-par learning experience, there are arguments to the contrary. Online discussion forums bring intense focus to course content, as students come together to discuss and expand on each other’s thought processes. Through discussion forums, students can also learn how to accept constructive criticism and back up their argument through citations. An online program also offers the opportunity to become functionally effective with new communication technologies, including new video conferencing tools. Being able to convey a message effectively through a webinar or Skype presentation is becoming essential in numerous industries. Similarly, multimedia tools have been scientifically proven to improve memory by providing strong sensory cues that help us remember what we learn; a textbook is not as memorable as a compelling infographic. Research has shown that when people hear information, they are likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later.However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
However, a key ingredient to learning is the ability to track how it is being used and to ensure that learning has taken place. How can this be achieved without face-to-face interaction? Dashboards make the extraction of learner data easy; instead of gauging responses in the classroom or marking papers, a click on the computer can record student responses and aggregate data into a teacher dashboard. Knowing how students are performing helps lecturers to understand what students are ready for and capable of. Patterns will emerge which will highlight at-risk as well as high-performing students.
Similarly, with the help of dashboards, the learners are aware of their progress every time they log on to the system. Dashboards ensure students are aware of their progress through multiple courses, highlighting cumulative progress across the entire curriculum, as well as presenting a learning calendar to plan for trainings as per individual schedule, every time they log on to the system. With built-in interactivity, students can even be given the option of customising the data to have it presented in the way that best suits their needs. This will increase the utility of the dashboard and the learner’s engagement with the platform as a whole.
In addition, dashboard technology can connect to the institution’s virtual learning environment to deliver a streamlined interface that connects students and lecturers with the functions used most frequently, simplifying the learning experience to save time and put student progress first. By enabling accurate, real-time monitoring and reporting of key performance indicators, dashboards therefore deliver greater visibility. This not only reduces administration time but ensures all data is clearly and easily available in real-time. This delivers continuous feedback loops to students, instructors and course designers, helping to improve teaching and learning outcomes and improve cost efficiency.
Online education can provide a more interactive learning experience, enabling students to develop sophisticated virtual communication skills, as well as utilising multimedia to help them remember what they learn. With the anticipated significant growth in the online learning sector, coupled with the desire to discover smarter ways of analysing and benchmarking online performance together, dashboards can provide the tools to deliver quick and effective insights on key metrics to help organisations pinpoint exactly where they need to focus their attention.
Dynistics and its learning will host a Technology and Innovation event at West Hertfordshire College on Tuesday 14 June which will look at the impact and importance of technology in FE and be an opportunity share, learn and network with senior leaders in education from around the UK.