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The Future of eLearning

This White Paper from Scotland’s leading digital learning and assessment developer, eCom Scotland, details the future of this method of learning following developments in such technology as artificial intelligence, and cultural shifts in attitude towards hybrid working and climate change.

Dedicated educators are finding it hard to keep up with the latest learning trends in what is an emerging sector called EdTech, expedited by the impact of the pandemic.

Current digital education trends like AR/VR and gamification grab and hold learners’ interest as well as Educators, although it can all seem quite daunting to take a leap into a new learning reality with a realistic budget.

It is no shock that Covid-19 has rocked the world, and affected the education of many across the world. At the height of the pandemic, rather than a ‘nice to have’, online learning took on an urgency and drastic decisions were taken for the protection of all. Although now in the recovery phase, we have an opportunity to take a strategic approach to education facilitated by technology.

The key word here is ‘facilitated’. Any technology interventions must make things easier for the learner and the educator, whist maintaining or improving the effectiveness. So in this new way of working and learning, what can we do with technology that does indeed make life easier and solve some of the ongoing issues we are seeing in education?

One of the main things that the pandemic highlighted was the need for positive social interaction.

Face-to-Face has been largely impossible

As a society, we have done everything online this past year, from parties to meetings, job interviews to quizzes. Face-to-face training has been largely impossible, with organisations having to adapt their delivery model to work within in this new normal.

Technology facilitated much of this with Zoom and Teams as the platform front-runners. Many had not even heard of Zoom prior to March 2020, yet Zoom has been around since 2011. A lot of the issues that Zoom experienced in the early days of the pandemic was due to the platform having to scale at pace to meet demand.

What we are seeing now is the integration of Teams and Zoom into Learning Management Systems to ‘join the dots’ of learning interventions.

A Learning Management System (LMS) creates easy delivery and monitoring of your online learning. You can track a learner’s progress and identify any areas where they might need to upskill or reskill, without needing to spend hours manually filling out paper-based reports.

As part of a blended approach, learning that can be accessed from anywhere via a LMS can now also have Learners book onto face-to-face training (either Teams/Zoom or Face-to-Face activity) within the learning environment itself. Trainers confirm attendance within the same platform, all recorded and reported within the Learning Management System as part of the wider learning engagement. Simply bringing all the data into the one place for the learner and the educator.

This capability creates the flexibility for many who are utilising face-to-face learning interventions as part of a blended learning programme. Creating a step change for the learner or as a check in to discuss the next tranche of learning. Ensuring engagement and progress.

Technology can facilitate more than just the learner to educator communication, there has been an up take in Communities of Practice across Educators, particularly across International tutors sharing best practices on such topics as learner engagement and collaboration, widening out the selection of programmes available
to individuals.

One of the common themes discussed within Communities of practice is Accessibility

At a time when more and more organisations are looking to take their training online, it is essential that we consider the needs of learners with disabilities and that we do not discriminate in any way.

The newest regulation is the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, which requires for online delivery to meet level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) as a minimum and to work on most commonly used assistive technologies that includes screen magnifiers, screen readers and speech recognition tools.

Technology is facilitating this in many ways from hardware to Learner experience. Including usability and accessibility in your learning management system (LMS) has three aspects:

  1. Selecting an LMS that has accessibility at the heart of its design. It’s no good having accessible content if it’s in a poor container.
  2. Selecting tools to design and create learning materials that have accessibility as part of their design. Some tools may help you develop incredible looking content but they do so at the expense of usability. Tools may produce content that is not device responsive and doesn’t work well with native device or browser tools like zoom or text-to-speech.
  3. Considering the content you create, thinking about who will use it, and how, as part of the design process. This should all be part of the working practices of an instructional designer. Small changes like, considering the size of targets to click, or simply changing “click green button for OK” to “click green tick for OK” (this helps those with colour vision difficulties too) are simple to implement.
Good design has an added bonus of working well for everyone who needs to access learning resources. It’s not about making it more accessible for the few, but usable by all

As part of the new law, you are required (Government and Public Sector only although best practice for all) to have an accessibility statement that explains how accessible the service is. This is where you can add considerations where aspects were not feasible to make fully accessible due to impact on time or cost. They key is to remove any barriers to learning.

Cost effectiveness and using a budget to its full potential is something that can create a number of barriers relating to financial pressures.

Procuring and procurement can be complex although new approaches have made purchasing software easier. Channels such as the Governments G-Cloud and Council Digital Frameworks that include already vetted vendors. The detail includes transparent framework pricing that the vendor must adhere to for the budget year. You are still required to request three quotes as best practice, although in some cases where the project is so specific, you can target one provider.

Online delivery of learning does require initial investment (time and money), it has however proven to bring cost efficiencies

Examples of where technology can facilitate cost efficiencies are in the delivery of online assessment. The creation and administration of traditional paper based examinations is typically costs 40% more than online delivery.

One of the biggest savings is through administration of exams and certificates. Online Assessment significantly reduces the administrative burden on the educator and on the organisation by automating many of the repetitive processes.

In the lead-up to an exam, time is saved on printing and distribution of exam documentation and time spent marking post-exam or coordinating the delivery or results is simplified with automatic marking. The technology facilities ease for all when large numbers of candidates are involved.

Online Assessments bring benefit in a more robust level of scoring and reporting on question bank performance, learner performance, instant feedback and scores.

Logistical challenges involved with issuing paper certificates by opting for an online Assessment solution which includes a digital micro-credentialing approach, where digital certificates or badges are issued in recognition of skills and knowledge gained takes this one step further. No more printing and posting!

One particular organisation have their own app, holding candidate’s eCerts (Digital Badges) to prove certification in the case of a security check. In this scenario, the traditional method was typically a crumpled paper certificate that easily counterfeited. The technology here facilitates ease for the learner to prove status and simplicity for the educator to be confident of the integrity of its certificated membership.

A common misconception is that online Assessment is only for bigger organisations holding large numbers of exams every day, but that is not the case. Size does not matter when it comes to using online Assessments as they can easily be adapted to work and scaled up easily if required.

Switching to online Assessment enables exams to be taken easily no matter the location – from the comfort of learners own home or at a testing facility.

Latest technology means exams can be accessed via a mobile phone, tablet, or PC giving candidates the flexibility to use the device that is easiest for them or that best suits the assessment type.

The opportunity to go paperless, from printing to transportation, to traveling to and from exam locations means greatly reducing the carbon footprint.

Holding question banks, candidate details and much more can come with concerns regarding online security. A good vendor, and approved supplier on the G-Cloud will hold a Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation. This essentially means they are meeting the security requirements in keeping data safe and secure.

Quality vendors will be ‘white listed’ ready approved to provide into the local government network. They will likely work with local colleges, schools and health boards. These vendors provide support on the different privacy settings required to support learners under thresholds such as Under-13 particularly when it comes to accessing external links and connections.

Whilst security is a big aspect, one of the biggest barriers to learners and educators is fast, reliable internet connections

As the use of the Internet is exploding and everybody wants to connect to Wi-Fi, the reliability, security and level of performance can depreciate dramatically. In addition, if you are a mobile worker, how secure is the public Wi-Fi you are connecting to?

A swift poll of the typical workplace, the standard Wi-Fi router is handling at least 10 PCs/laptops, 8 Smart Phones, 2 Printers and a couple of other peripherals such as external hard drives or a security camera. All this for a device, which is designed to only take four or five connections.

Wi-Fi handles all this traffic pretty well as the concurrency is still low, but when there is a need for constant connection, to upload files to an Internet site then performance issues start to crop up.

That is why; some of the best innovation that has happened in recent times has been those that offer on and off-line delivery with asynchronisation of learning and assessment.

Google, Microsoft etc introduced off-line extensions to their products as they see the business and education world changing.

Having both on and offline capability in the one solution has opened up opportunities for organisations in areas that were previously unreachable by technology. Examples include high security prisons, remote locations or areas where connectivity is insecure or unreliable.

Traditional face to face methods to reach these locations requires extensive travel for Learners or Educators. With a Green agenda and in the aftermath of a pandemic new approaches and mind-sets are open to how technology can facilitate adopting solutions.

An example is with one of the largest education providers in the world. Their traditional strategy of 80% face-to-face learning and 20% online learning has been flipped in this new world of learning bringing benefits of:

  • Both online and offline capability
  • More appealing, engaging and contextually appropriate learning experience
  • Avoid the logistical challenges of shipping paper – based resources to numerous locations, which will also lead to financial savings
  • Fully accessible at any time, on whatever device the user chooses, regardless of their location
Deploying Learning tools with a purpose brings sustainability and can help drive government agendas

Your purpose may not be ready for automation and artificial intelligence, which could seem a daunting option. You team may also be concerned that educational technology could make educators redundant.

What you need to consider is how digital learning technology will support your teams and educators to deliver their activities better. Facilitating skilled teachers to spend less time on administration and repetitive tasks, dedicating their energy to delivering thoughtful and effective teaching in this new way of working and learning.

For more information on many of the projects mentioned, please visit

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