No matter how far we progress in formal education, there is always a point at which taught learning becomes optional. With adulthood comes the agency to decide when school or university learning will end. While professional development can mean acquiring new skills, we generally reach a critical point where the frequency with which we learn new information and disciplines slows down.
The growth of the e-learning technology market was predicted to reach $51 billion (around £36 billion) by 2016. This could revolutionise how, when, and where we learn and enable adults to achieve more than ever before.
Accessible learning through gamification
As we grow older it becomes increasingly important to keep our brains busy: studies show that adults who stay active by learning new skills are less likely to develop symptoms of dementia. Bearing this in mind, it’s easy to see that lifelong learning is not only about self-improvement, but maintaining mental health too.
The pursuit of lifelong learning can be difficult for many people. Fortunately, interactive learning and the gamification of education could provide a very convenient and accessible solution.
There is increasing demand for technology that alters the experience of learning. According to the Ed Tech Developer’s Guide, educational apps and games have the potential to improve learning, non-cognitive skills and behaviours such as self-regulation, perseverance and understanding their growing learning potential.
An excellent example of this is the difficulty many of us have learning a second or third language as adults. So many of us say that we simply ‘can’t’ learn a language or we don’t have the time. According to London Translations very young children absorb languages more passively using activities and games in a way that is arguably not possible further down the line. The gamification of educational materials has the potential to change this. For example, Language teaching apps like Duolingo have succeeded because they address our ‘can’t-do’ attitude with fun, bite-sized steps that can become part of our daily routine.
Online learning in the workplace
Technology has already had an incredible effect on workplace learning, which doesn’t usually take place in formal training programmes. With the power to remove obstacles such as the geographical location of employees or clients, technology is making learning more holistic and embedded in daily life.
Sites such as Lynda.com make it possible to watch tutorials and learn skills wherever you are. This is particularly useful for learning how to use new software systems - something that is becoming increasingly important as our tools advance. As Daniel Patel has advised in a Eursap (European SAP recruiters) blog on securing an SAP job, it is vital to keep skills, qualifications and technical knowledge up-to-date in such a dynamic and competitive market. Taking this into account, having the opportunity to learn without leaving the desk could be a very convenient solution.
This format of workplace learning certainly has its benefits, but it is also worth considering its effect on non-cognitive skills. As with gamification, online learning addresses the learning behaviour of adults by promoting independent self-learning. But this independence can have a negative effect on communication skills. According to i2Office, face-to-face communication is key to productivity so effective remote working and self-training practices should include some face-to-face interaction, even if it’s via a webcam.
The limitations of e-learning
Every mode of education will have its drawbacks for particular personality types. For example, introverts and extroverts require very different learning environments. But there also more universal limitations to the way we engage with online learning programs.
One of the biggest problems is that multiple choice questions and memory tests alone aren’t conducive to retaining information and skills. According to Activia Training, organisations using online learning should invest in human follow-up to further understanding. This would give users the opportunity to ask questions, learn from fresh examples and reinforce their knowledge by summarising information.
Some of the problems with e-learning can be solved through engaging users in a more creative and motivational way. In this case, gamification would be useful. However, other limitations come down to the fact that some subjects are simply too complex and require demonstrations, clarification, and practice.
The combination of education and technology will continue to thrive with new apps, games and websites making learning easier and more convenient. However, in order to truly revolutionise the way adults learn, a significant change in our perception of learning, and additional resources for getting the best out of educational technology will also be required.
This article was written by London Translations.