Ed-tech and online education have seen phenomenal growth in the last decade. They have given people an option to gain knowledge and training from any location, which has become a lot more valuable in the COVID pandemic. Hence, it’s not so surprising that there has been a spike in the number of institutions opening up.
E-learning has the potential to make knowledge sharing and skill development accessible to everyone. Overcoming barriers to e-learning is the first step to amplifying its effects.
One of the biggest problems faced by online educators is increasing retention amongst its learners. Many students do not complete a course before leaving an institution. This is mainly caused due to a sense of isolation and an absence of a platform where a student can interact with co-learners or instructors easily.
When it comes to traditional schooling, students can socialize and share knowledge by meeting each other.
Online communities have become the most effective way to achieve this when it comes to e-learning. They act as a common space for learners, instructors and all related parties to communicate and interact, improving the impact and effectiveness of the learning process.
Let’s take a look at the many benefits of an e-learning community,
How do online communities benefit e-learning?
E-learning communities act as a secondary platform for users to solve and answer each other’s doubts. This also helps them create and develop relationships with other members of the community. As learners know that they have a secondary resource in the form of a community—which is as valuable as the cause itself, they are more likely to stay with the institution throughout the course. It also increases the overall amount of time they spend with the brand, boosting retention rates of every individual member in the community.
Peer to peer review
As students, we all look to confirm whether the answers we have arrived at are right or wrong. This is true whether it is before a test or just home assignments. In an online community, students can get their answers reviewed by other members of the community. Co-learners are directly involved with the training materials and are the right people to approach in such a situation. Peers are also more easily approachable when a student is lacking the confidence to approach their instructors.
Instructors get a different perspective
Even the most amazing teachers have a difficult time getting their students to open up about any issue they are facing in their studies. Online communities give instructors an opportunity to learn more about how their students are faring by observing the conversations they hold. By listening to the pain points that students are facing in their training, teachers have the means to optimize their training methods. At the same time, teachers can also participate in the conversations, further improving their connection with them. After all, who wouldn't prefer a teacher who listens and talks to them?
Takes education beyond the classroom
E-learning communities give students a chance to clear any doubts that they have and continue studying together even after classes. By continuing to study the training materials after classes, it helps them understand more of what they have learnt. Online communities also give students a place to socialize after classes so that they can connect, similar to how break rooms work in a physical educational institution.
Learning can be made fun
Training is much more effective if the process is made fun for the learners. This is also the reason why institutions across the world go out of their way to bring interactive educational systems. Online communities make it possible to introduce games, quizzes and competitions as a part of the curriculum. This competitive spirit encourages students to participate, especially if there is an incentive that they can win at the end of it.
Helps students prepare better
If users find it difficult to understand anything that they are studying, they can always approach the community for answers. A learner’s community is a welcome property for students as most members are better acquainted with the training materials. This easy access to doubt-resolution helps students understand their exercises better, helping them prepare better for tests and applying their skills in the industry. Also, as students come up with their personalised, improved methods to study, they can share them with the rest of the members in the community.
How to set up an e-learning community for your organization
Introduce users to forums
Many communities are dysfunctional because the intended audience is not even aware of its existence. It is extremely important to let students know about the community at the early stage of their training. This gives them time to get comfortable at engaging in the community and voicing out their queries.
The ideal solution to this is to integrate the forum with the institution’s primary learning software itself, allowing users to access the community when they study.
Encourage students to participate in the community by awarding points based on their activity. While it is important for learners to ask about any doubts, it is also important that they are motivated to provide answers as well.
Instructors should always be available to assist students or rectify answers in case they are incorrect, but students should never be made to feel that they are wrong to respond to queries. Appreciate and acknowledge them, further motivating them to be active members of the community.
Members of a community look forward to participating in discussions, but only if they are eye-catching and provide them with value. An online community should be kept active with regular discussions and answer-solving sessions. It encourages students to be more involved with the community. Hence, it’s a good idea to host group-study sessions and webinars that act as auxiliary training for students and help drive conversations.
If long-term engagement and learner retention are goals that you are looking to achieve, an online community is a good place to start.