E-Learning in distance learning institutions is not supposed to be a mere department. It is a philosophy to be embraced by every employee — from the CEO to the administration staff. I’ve been preaching this for years. Yet I’m still surprised that many institutions focused on distance learning don’t recognize the value of training all their employees in the area of e-learning.
For example, administration staffers, who usually interact directly with distance learning students, or marketing staffers, who also need to make sure that the “distance learning taste” is excellent in order to create successful and targeted marketing campaigns, as well as IT-staffers, who often have quantitatively more direct contact with the distance learners than the teachers themselves, are usually untrained in e-learning.
But here is the deal: At some point, everybody is going to impact the students or the institution itself. Therefore, everybody in a distance learning institutions MUST HAVE an educational technology skillset and e-learning mindset, for the institution to be successful in the first place. Distance learning institutions spend hours and days — sometimes weeks — training the teachers, often with quick content-driven events for specific topics. And there’s undoubtedly room for improvement, because ask yourself: how often do teacher, or even learning professionals themselves, take complete learning programs, including the ones from their own institution, to make sure the “learning taste” is good? From my own experience I’d say next to never.
And this doesn’t stop with teachers and learning professionals: every employee in a distance learning institution must participate in and consume the educational and technological methodologies their own organization is using. Especially the people who aren’t trained in e-learning, like administration staffers, are often those who could have the greatest impact on actual as well as potential students and therefore, for the entire institution.
Every time I take a course or participate in an e-learning course, there are immediate “oh” moments for me. I’ll understand the learner experience better, and I’ll align more deeply to the learner’s needs and pressures. Maybe the administrative employees never talks to the students, but what they’re doing on a daily basis, for example, managing the technical infrastructure or the website, does impact the students big time. At a minimum, the employees need to understand the impression their institution is trying to create, and how they fit into a culture that is digital in nature.
And thus, employees should be trained from day one. Every employee must dive into the distance learner’s experience, so they get an in-depth look at the core business — including the technology that supports it and the methodology and strategy that drives the institution. Therefore, consider letting every employee participating in their own distance learning course! It may be not directly necessary for their main job, but remember this: Employees must realize that e-learning isn’t only a tool the students use. For a distance learning institution to be truly digital-focused, an employee must understand how important innovation, technology and media competency is to the institution, and how he or she plays a role in it. This doesn’t happen by accident — it requires training. Every employee in a distance learning institution must be an e-learner!