"The problem with eLearning isn't eLearning; it's motivation"
Stephan Atsou has long worked as a teacher, and has years of experience in online learning. He specialises in vocational corporate training, and runs operations in Continental Europe for CrossKnowledge, a company that provides distance learning solutions for personal development within organisations. He recently delivered a keynote speech at the EQUEL Innovation Forum in Granada, titled “From e-learning to we-learning…”
How did you enjoy your time at EFQUEL?
What struck me the most was meeting people from a very different world, who nonetheless deal with similar challenges and stakes. Many of the participants and speakers work exclusively in education and higher learning, whereas I dedicate myself to vocational training; we don’t always speak the same language, but we’re dealing with the same issues. Motivating students, for example.
What difficulties regarding motivation are specific to eLearning?
Most company employees today hate online learning. And that’s because most programs involve spending hours and hours reading large volumes of documents online. Generally speaking, you encounter real opposition to this kind of learning, since it doesn’t offer a format that caters to adult needs.
So what should corporate learning look like today?
30 years ago, organizations didn’t go through much large-scale transformation. It’s only recently, I’d say in the late 90s, that changes have accelerated, making old training styles obsolete.
Why don’t traditional formats apply anymore?
Well, the solutions that HR used to give are no longer relevant, because it takes too much time to educate everyone in the traditional sense. It implies setting aside time to gather everyone in classrooms, travel time…it was manageable when there was only one big change every 2 years, but now businesses undergo transition every 6 months, and we have to adapt this new scenario.
How does your approach differ?
Our solution is to create a learning ecosystem, or a learnscape that incorporates continuous learning (not just two or three classes a week, as it used to be) and lots of short, frequent teaching moments. Furthermore, because real learning takes exchange, interaction, and sharing, we also try to create classroom moments within the broader online context.
How do you achieve this with an online format?
Many programs have traditionally been limited to seminars at top business schools, several times a year. We don’t eliminate this valuable classroom time, but we add informal elements to deliver a blended approach.
So, students can meet online before the seminar, then, after the session, they can discuss what they’ve learned and how it applies to their particular situation. So there’s preparation, there’s the creation of a community, and then working on projects with your peers.
What are the challenges that vocational eLearning faces at the moment?
Really, the problem with elearning isn’t elearning, it’s motivation. Most online programs hinge on motivating learners through external expectations—you take an online course because…you must. Because your boss says you should, because you need the certificate for professional advancement, etc. So of course there is a problem with motivation.
How does CrossKnowlege address this issue?
What we’ve done at CrossKnowledge is ask ourselves, “Why don’t we use the same tools we use instinctively in the classroom?” So we’ve developed learning activities that address the different factors that motivate adult learners: social interaction, external expectations, social welfare, personal advancement, moments of escape, and knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
We’ve made it our business to discover what triggers people, so we know what they’ll enjoy.