Thanks to the rise of cloud-based technology, modern professional development and training have changed significantly, and for the better. Continuing education made a giant leap forward by moving online but the early efforts left much to be desired.
With confusing interfaces and clunky backend systems, the online learning technologies of a decade ago failed to provide engaging environments for the user to learn.
Fortunately, technology has come a long way over the past few years, and forward-thinking providers of continuing education should look for the following characteristics as they relate to the creation and delivery of online learning and training.
Create a Seamless Experience for the End User
Any user who participated in online learning in its early days can tell you that the technology often got in the way. From links that went nowhere to pages that took forever to load, the state of online technology often left even the most motivated online learners wanting to throw in the towel.
Today, technology has advanced sufficiently to provide seamless experiences for the learner. With the right technical foundation, modern online learning sites simply work. Cloud-based tools, single sign-on capabilities, responsive design, built-in eCommerce, branded pages, and other features contribute to user-friendly continuing education environments. The emphasis for the user is on learning, not fiddling with subpar technology.
Provide an Engaging Learning Path
Old online learning sites did not feel modern or engaging. In fact, they felt primitive, poorly designed and uninviting. Today’s continuing education and training providers have access to much better options that make the most of newer technologies.
Modern continuing education courses consist of features much more advanced than PDFs and reading text on a static page. The most engaging courses incorporate streaming audio and video along with exercises that keep learners interested. Real-time discussion with instructors and other students allows a “virtual” continuing education classroom to feel very real to users — who look forward to getting to know their advisors and peers.
Offer Mobile-Friendly Access
Mobile device usage has surpassed desktop use, and the average adult user now spends nearly three hours a day accessing the internet on a mobile device. Fully functional mobile access is no longer optional for continuing education environments, it's a necessity.
With so many types of mobile devices — and a variety of screen sizes — now available, responsive design has become the all-encompassing solution for making sites work everywhere and at every size.
Accelerate the Creation of New Courses
Early versions of online continuing education offerings rarely changed for system admins and instructional designers, in part because creating course material was a lengthy, time-consuming task.
Today, training and education companies can put together new content pages and microsites with simple drag-and-drop tools. Creating interactive features like slideshows, quizzes, surveys, and videos can be completed quickly and easily. In addition to being able to create engaging learning experiences, content creators also can integrate all-important social features to provide a feeling of community for online learners.
Most continuing education organizations offer their services in a variety of models, from free content — to generate interest and loyalty, to premium and paid models. Training and education companies need the flexibility to handle the different use cases, and most importantly, be able to easily include eCommerce functionality into their learning environments. Having a la carte and subscription options can allow for providers to offer customized monthly offers or yearly subscriptions, and being able to promote special offerings like course bundles, coupons, and discounts can help to increase the LTV (lifetime value) of a customer.
What Does the Future Hold for Online Learning?
With the proliferation of mobile devices, the number of online learners participating in continuing education will continue to increase at a rapid pace. Adult learners juggling jobs and families need the maximum flexibility that mobile learning environments provide. And in the next few years, virtual reality technology will make online experiences even more accessible and engaging for a greater variety of students.
Ultimately, the online learning experience has made great strides, and in order to stand out from the crowd when offering continuing education, leveraging modern technology and keeping users engaged is the only way to go.