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Working from Home? Try Some Learning from Home.

portrait of Chris Scadden

May 1, 2020
By Chris Scadden
Head of Training

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Creating the Greatest Learning Opportunity of a Lifetime for Some

With many of us home during this COVID-19 crisis, it may be a good moment to take some of our newfound free time to advance our professional and personal growth, improve our knowledge base, or prepare for that next promotion or job opportunity through online learning or e-learning.

Just like students, nearly all corporate training, whether for employees or customers, has moved online during the crisis. What we used to do in in classrooms, customer labs, or training centers is now being deployed via video conference.

So, if you are looking to level up on 800G coherent optics, or just want to brush up on your knowledge of disaggregated routing, a little e-learning may be just right for you and your team! And while e-learning may sound like an obvious choice, read on to find out several reasons why it has never been as suitable as it is now, as well as what makes good and bad e-learning.

The Right Time

The most obvious reason e-learning is practical is time!

You’ve been told to complete some learning, or maybe you have just been putting it off. Or you’ve been wanting to do professional development but up until now your time has been constrained with meetings, deadlines, last-minute work emergencies, and other distractions.

Sure, everyone always has other commitments competing for their time, but for many there is now a glimmer of hope for some time to get started.

The Right Place

Your environment also impacts your decision to start learning. In open-plan offices and cubicles, there are often distractions that can hinder learning. Background noise, conversations, people stopping by to talk, coffee breaks, etc. can make it difficult to focus on learning, or even to start in the first place.

Those of us who are now at home may have easier access to a quiet dedicated space and maybe some earphones. Once you get set up, you won’t have to worry about colleagues dropping by, and you can turn off your online status on messenger apps to avoid being disturbed.

Most e-learning is on demand as well, making it very accessible. No one has to travel to get to a class, and learning can be done entirely at your own convenience – anytime, anywhere. So, if you find your normal routine difficult to manage and you can’t plan your day easily, then you can at least know that e-learning can be done at any time of your choosing.

Make Sure to Invest in Taking and Creating Good Lessons

You may have heard about different approaches to learning for individuals who are classed as being auditory or visual learners, those who prefer details, or who are left-brained vs. right-brained.

Actually, research shows that cultural and physical circumstances may affect how we engage in learning, but the mechanisms that trigger learning appear to be universal. In other words, we are more similar than we are different!

An instructor can spend a good deal of time considering learning styles – measuring them, what to do about them, and how to use them in his/her content or class development – but well-designed e-learning is based on a common set of principles in order to be effective. There are some that we all know: the why, the what, and the reward.

The most important e-learning principle, and the reason why most sessions fail, is lesson structure. It is absolutely critical because, while many companies lay training at the feet of subject matter experts because of their deep knowledge, those same people often lack any expertise or real experience developing content for and delivering training.

Content Is King

Lesson content is also very important. It’s no use just dumping all the information in the session onto learners. First, it takes too long, and second, and more importantly, the learner will not retain it.

Most of us seek some kind of order to things – it’s why we see shapes in random patterns, like Elvis on a slice of toast or a face in oak flooring! And research shows that the clearer the structure, the more easily learners retain it.

Good e-learning should clearly state the journey the learner will be going on, what they will learn, and why. It should break down a large concept into small blocks and then build them up one at a time into a whole.

I prefer simplicity and staying strictly with objectives.

Beware of Sizzle without Steak

Be cautious with e-learning that uses too much media aimed at your senses – animations, music, flashy graphics, videos. These can overwhelm your sensory system and have a detrimental effect on learning. While they have an initial wow factor that looks impressive and professional thanks to their expensive studio-type production, suckering L&D teams into buying them, experts have found that attractive elements just add noise and have a negative effect on learning.

My team creates content that looks simple yet is very effective in introducing and explaining key principles. Why? We deliver it in small, bite-sized chunks. Nobody wants to sit down to consume an hour’s worth of content. We don’t have the time, and even when working from home in the current situation, nearly all of us have other commitments: kids to entertain and home-school, a dog to walk, shopping for a relative, etc.

Look for content that is minutes long and covers just one or two objectives. Bigger topics can have multiple e-learning modules as part of a larger set of curricula to complete.

Time for an Assessment

Once you have completed the learning objective in this structured way, there is one more thing to consider – the assessment.

Assessment will let you know if you have understood the principles or not. It will clarify your learning so you will know if you will have achieved the objective.

Assessments can be in the form of a short test or a longer exam. E-learning is well-suited to tests. There are some obvious reasons why: the test can be taken when the learner is ready, questions can be randomized, and the learner gets the result immediately.

However, assessment is another reason why e-learning is effective. Some people just don’t like answering questions in an open classroom. This is often the case in some cultures where workers do not like to answer questions posed by the instructor in case they get it wrong, worrying about how they will look in front of colleagues or their manager. If they have to take a written test in the class, then there is the possibility they won’t look good when the instructor announces the results. E-learning allows the learner to answer questions in the privacy of home.

If you are someone who has been laid off because of COVID-19, then now is the time to prepare for your next job opportunity. If you are working from home and you want to get into gear for your next promotion, then now is the time. Autonomy is a key adult learning principle. Adult learners do best when they take control of their situations. The more they take charge, the more value they get out of learning. E-learning is ideal for this as you can utilize it when you want, where you want, and for as long as you want.

Author bio: Chris Scadden is one of Infinera’s technical training gurus. The Infinera training team offers open and on-demand learning, as well as scheduled sessions for customers around the globe. If you are interested in helping your team level up their knowledge, visit Infinera’s training page.