The word “method” implies a scientific approach, which, in relation to the e-learning industry, has not always been fair so far. The matter is not so much in the youth of the sphere, but in its constant evolution and the emergence of new forms. Therefore, for the description of the approaches in e-learning, it is better to use the usual words as “type”, “variety”, or the word from the sphere of art – “genre”.
Genres, which are just methods of e-learning, help to describe the variety of e-learning materials using understandable words.
Overview of e-learning methods – what genre to choose?
The methods divide e-learning into groups by a primary way of supplying/perception of the information material. Each type may also include other elements, just like in movies: action films contain elements of comedy, thriller and horror. We distinguish the following types of e-learning:
1) Textual (“to read”). They are historically the first and up to the present day the most common. They are books, which differ from their paper relatives by comfort of navigation, interactivity and ability to be updated without republishing. They can be:
• Completely textual – the text is split into paragraphs and has hypertext navigation. It is better never to use such type;
• Illustrated – also known as “text + image”. Depending on how the “pictures” are processed they can be “a little bit better than textual” (which is still poor) up to textual courses with diagrams, illustrations, comics and interactive inserts, the most common today;
• Wrapper for the video – if each slide in a textual course contains a video with test tasks after it, it is considered the wrapper, not a textual course, and should be evaluated according to video standards.
2) Video (“to watch”). The courses in simple forms are easy to make (just to videotape a presentation given by an expert), so the method is popular in e-learning. Complex, more elaborated forms prevail in courses on personnel management, as well as in advertising, image-building and ideologically directed projects. They include, as follows:
· Video lectures – despite the simplicity of the format, they contain illustrations and diagrams to support the speech of the lecturer;
· Video of augmented reality which is similar to a lecture, but more saturated and “polished”. The presenter, against a green screen, works for a viewer (not the audience), and the script includes the interaction of the real world and computer graphics;
· Educational video contains training scenes involving actors. The script resembles a short film, there arise some issues related to the production, such as facilities for filming, props, makeup, transportation, crew catering. As a rule, these large-scale projects refer to courses on interpersonal disciplines (negotiations, mentoring, work with clients, etc.).
3) Games and simulations (“to do”). This genre is also very diverse. However, one thing in the method is common – that is “placing into circumstances” (realistic or fictional) and stating the problem, that must be solved according to the situational rules. This genre includes the following:
• Software operation simulator, which is the simplest simulator that shows how to operate the program. They are very popular for training the personnel in operation of corporate databases or specific company software;
• Process modeling is complex business models, packaged in online form. They can have game graphics or “technical” form of numbers and charts. Their task is to check the understanding of some process using a definite example with specified parameters;
• Involving games are the so-called relatives of entertaining games. Involving games use the elements of competition to arouse the students’ active interest to understand the game’s plot or mechanics and through this interest to reinforce the required knowledge. Such games are common in “ideological” and courses on processes.
Thus, there are numerous e-learning methods to solve any problems. In case the learning task can be solved by the combination of several methods, you can safely use all the genres, because such combination lacks the technical constraints.
There is also the fourth possible genre, which is very rarely used in corporate training:
4) Audio courses (“to listen”). Audio courses are very specific. Technically, it is a dictated educational text of good quality and in an easy to listen form. Such materials can be useful, but initially they are intended for using outside the workplace (on the way somewhere or at home). Audio courses stand separately from the traditional system of corporate training via LMS’s, as there is a risk of materials leakage, due to which companies do not demand them.
The advantages and disadvantages of different methods of e-learning
There are no fundamental flaws in the genres, as the success of any learning material depends on the quality of realization and the audiences. Different materials may be more or less suitable for one or another genre, for example, a video course on working with clients will be better than any instructional text. At the same time, the business process is better shown in the diagrams than when described with words. So when choosing a method, better consider the possible specificity.
Choosing a wrong format is an unpleasant, but not a critical situation: well-prepared material in any format will be useful to listeners and will fulfil the objectives of learning. More harmful is the reverse situation when boring, low-quality training course in any format does not teach the audience but gives them a bad impression about the company training system.