Balancing the methods of E-Learning

We live in a digital world and it affects all aspects of life, including education. It is such a part of the world of learning that it's not even a case of taking steps to embrace it – it is already an integral part of the education sector.

It can take such a vast range of forms from eLearning, webinars, online forums, ePortfolios, eAssessment and remote proctoring, and it can therefore be a welcome addition to enhance teaching and learning. We know that individuals learn in different ways - one size definitely does not fit all - and we also know that there's good and bad digital learning just as there is good and bad live face-to-face teaching.

Of course, we also know that digital learning can be (although is not definitely) more cost effective than live face-to-face learning and can therefore be subject to misuse. Enrolling learners on programme and expecting them to work through a piece of eLearning or participate in an interactive webinar, without any structured form of wrap-around guidance and support, may work for some self-motivated individuals but it's not going to work for all. 

Then there is the issue of outcome. There is the argument that it doesn't matter how a learner gets there as long as they can demonstrate their undisputed knowledge, skills and competence via the assessment process. Of course - there's more than one route to Rome! 

However, what about the journey? What about that essential learner journey, where not only does the experience of learning, hopefully via a diverse range of learning methods, contribute to a positive outcome but also contribute to the perhaps unplanned and sometimes unexpected development of skills which can change lives and enable individuals to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

Which takes me on to our sector, the active leisure sector, an industry that I am as passionate about as I am about education. The delivery of active leisure sector qualifications has been supported by digital learning now for many years.  It's not new - although as with all things digital, techniques are constantly developing and improving as you would expect.

However, let's never forget that these qualifications require education providers to teach individuals to engage effectively with their clients and with the wide variety of groups they go on to teach, instruct or coach. The ability to engage effectively, to motivate individuals to continue to participate in fitness sessions or physical activity programmes not only requires technical skills but also a significant range of soft skills.

We all know what those soft skills are and how they are associated with a person's emotional intelligence. To list just a few, social graces, communication abilities, language skills, empathy, creativity, problem-solving and leadership skills.  We also know that employers in general, and operators within our sector, believe that these are the skills that are sometimes lacking in graduates. 

Although some individuals have the advantage of having a natural ability in these areas, others do not - however we do know that these skills can be taught, developed and improved.

If our sector is to contribute effectively to the health of the nation, then our workforce needs these essential personal qualities. Active leisure qualifications already consist of a combination of content aimed at the development of hard and soft skills, and refreshed qualifications will have an even greater focus on soft skills, particularly in terms of the assessment of those skills balanced with the assessment of technical ability.

So, with that balance in mind, let's all consider the equally essential balance between digital and face-to-face learning, to ensure that we provide learners with high quality interactive opportunities to engage with their peers in real-life settings, to enable them to learn and develop themselves to achieve their full potential.

And more importantly for our sector and for society, to enable them to improve the health and wellbeing of all the individuals and communities that they then go on to work with in real-life environments, complemented of course with the benefits that digital technology can also bring to the world of physical activity.

 Jenny Patrickson

Managing Director at Active IQ

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