Tuesday, 14 July 2020 14:58

Online, Self-Directed Nightmare Nobody Talks About

Written by Carrie Van Daele and Jeff Amstutz


How many times have you tried to learn a skill by reading or listening to instructions online, only to end in struggle or failure?  Michael Jordan didn’t learn online.  He was instructed by a live, in-person Instructor throughout his career about how to improve and never give up after being cut from his high school basketball team.   If you want to excel, you need a live, and in-person Instructor who will observe your performance for improvement.  He or she will regularly give you live, and in-person explanations you understand to implement to help you stay at the top of your game.  Professionals, top athletes, musicians, teams and other successful people in any career look to learn and improve by critique, live and in-person.  They do not look to their computer for their guidance, exclusively.

The Indiana Leo Botbosses robotics team, who represented the United States at the 2019 VEX-IQ Worlds Championship, took seventh place against 400 teams from around the world.  This team was instructed by live and in-person coaches who guided and motivated them.  The coaches used a variety of learning tools like books, online materials, a white board, pictures, video, observation of other teams, field trips and expert advice from engineers.

At several live and in-person practices, Leo Botbosses huddled around a table of robot parts and pieces with one person getting shafts, another picking up wheels and large chassis corner connectors; working closely together to build their winning robot. Their coaches were physically available at every practice for live and in-person instruction, criticism and encouragement, when needed.

Leo Botbosses spent time with each other for support, hands-on building, clear explanation and collaboration.  A computer screen, alone could not give them that attention to detail and quick recovery from mistakes.

Online, self-directed learning without a live and in-person Instructor is failing our learners.

Live and in-person Instructors can adapt their lesson plans on-the-spot to fit the needs, personalities and emotional quotient of all learners.  They can check learners’ understanding, and then modify their lesson plans to re-teach for clarity of skills and concepts.  Online, self-directed learning cannot do that.

How did you learn to drive?   To lower your insurance premium, you probably attended a classroom course with other students instructed by a licensed driver before taking the BMV written and driving test.  The live and in-person Instructor used a variety of learning methods to help you earn a state license, giving you verbal explanations and visual demonstrations with several hours of practice driving on concrete roads.

You can watch a video on how to play a guitar or Trumpet.  But if you want to be good at an instrument, you need regular live and in-person lessons from an Instructor.

Think of learners as a marching band getting ready to perform at the homecoming football game.  To perform at best, each part of the band is broken down into small sections and practiced over and over for mastery.  While the band performs, live and in-person Instructors listen and watch for mistakes.  They give constructive criticism to help the band improve.  I am sure you have heard the phrase, “You have to practice like a champion to play like a champion!”  A top performing band will never stop training or reviewing their plays, and how to accomplish their goals.  …same with learners.

Some learners lack the focus or motivation needed to complete online, self-directed assignments by virtual reality simulations, interactive videos, e-learning, mobile learning, books and emails without a live and in-person Instructor.  Learner mastery of a skill or concept increases dramatically with a live and in-person instructor who constantly checks for understanding, and modifies his or her teaching methods to accommodate different learning styles.

Online, self-directed learning cannot stand alone.  Learners are “at risk” in 2020 and beyond with this push for online virtual learning classroom; it’s not a classroom.  Learners have different learning styles; not everyone learns the same way and the computer does not have the intelligence to adapt to a reluctant learner, give encouragement or read a student’s body language.

Learners are falling behind in performance with online learning because of the little to no support from their busy superiors, poor internet interruptions, failing to meet multiple specific learning styles needed for success, no instant visual communication or checks for understanding by Instructor, students not understanding what is expected or how to problem solve what is needing to be done.

In a recent article, Justin Brusino, director of content at the Association for Talent Development (ATD), wrote that “the element that ties all the technology together is people.”  Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, there has been a surge to overuse digital learning tools, like e-learning, and replace in-person instructors, leaving companies without improved performance on the job.

Online, self-directed learning is like a blackboard; a tool to be used by the Instructor-led classroom.  Here are some reasons why Instructor led classrooms have been proven in all areas, to get the best results.

(1) ILT classroom has fewer distractions and keep students or employees on task;

(2) ILT classroom provides more different approaches or learning styles to help with understanding and help complete learning objectives;

(3) ILT is about personal interaction with the employees and understanding how they learn;

(4) ILT causes more retention of knowledge and skills with an immediate return on investment and performance;

(5) ILT practices new skills immediately in the classroom for physical practice and troubleshooting;

(6) ILT is adaptable to all skill  levels, personalities and learning styles;

(7) ILT allows follow-up questions, more dialogue and checks for understanding;

(8) ILT builds closer relationships in a single company with complete understanding of what needs to be accomplished;  

(9) ILT invests in learning from others, not just the instructor which increases performance, consistency and lowers frustration which makes it more cost effective by economies of scale. 

(10)  ILT helps build relationships with employees which in turn helps eliminate frustration, increases motivation and helps with encouragement and motivation of employees to push through which increases production/performance!

Learners deserve more direct instruction with increased support as opposed to turning on the screen with the idea that one learning style fits all employees with the exact motivation to learn.  One of the biggest advantages of ILT is that people get to interact face-to-face, ask questions, collaborate and physically apply newly taught material under each other’s critique.

Being with a live and in-person Instructor and peers creates social pressures of acceptance and benefits that can help motivate learners to be competitive to do the work and be engaged.

A live and in-person Instructor will have a high success rate of learners whose performance will be demonstrated on-the-job.  If you want training to work at your company, use Instructor-led Training [ILT]. If the pros use ILT, why don’t you!

If a company wants to break old habits and start new norms that will stick, they will have to invest in Instructor led training.  The best teams and companies train and re-train how expectations of the company are to be done!  They win, not because they are the biggest or smartest, but because they constantly practice under an instructor’s direction.  They understand that this is a marathon, not a Sprint!

Carrie Van Daele is president and CEO of Van Daele & Associates @ http://www.leant3.com [Train the Trainer System] and http://www.vtrain.us [Leadership Development].  She also is the author of 50 One-Minute Tips for Trainers, published by LogicalOperations, and several magazine articles about workforce.

Jeff Amstutz is Training Associate of Van Daele & Associates @ http://www.leant3.com and http://www.vtrain.us.  He has managed classroom functions in public education and robotics winning GOLD ratings and awards from State Departments of Education.

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