The coronavirus is going around and forces more and more companies to let employees work from home. This leads to different consequences on a medical, social and economic level. The forced home office more or less “forces” companies to modern work and digitalized processes. One opportunity that arises from this is online learning. This article tells the story of online learning, which starts earlier than expected, discusses the “pros and cons” of online learning and concludes with an assessment of why now is the perfect moment to start online learning in the company.
What is Online Learning? A brief history
Online learning, e-learning or remote learning are all forms of learning in which electronic or digital media are used to present, distribute and analyse learning materials. The first machine that supported people in learning was Ramelli’s 16th century bookwheel. This allowed up to twelve books to be read without running back to the shelf. Today, thanks to digital technology, we have the ability to read billions of books or articles without walking to a shelf, as long as we are near an electrical outlet and our mobile device is powered.
In 1866 Halcyon Skinner patented a spelling machine for writing and spelling words. In addition to his spelling machine, other approaches to “distant learning” had been around since 1728 when Caleb Phillips offered steganography lessons by mail in the Boston Gazette. As early as the second half of the 19th century, the University of London and Illinois Wesleyan University were already offering distance learning degrees. At that time, “distance learning” was experiencing such hype that even Thomas Edison declared that the American school system would be completely revolutionized by “moving image”. At the time, this was a very bold thesis, but nowadays “moving images” have become an integral part of “online learning”.
The first truly computer-supported course began in 1960 in the form of the PLATO project. Illinois was also a pioneer in this field – but the University of Illinois, and numerous studies were conducted at the university. No significant differences between learning with PLATO and traditional methods could be found, but it was noted by study participants that they could not imagine a complete course through PLATO as “fulfilling”. Following PLATO, many other projects followed, for example SCHOLAR, GUIDON or MAIS.
Online Learning Today
Since the 1990s, online learning has been experiencing an upswing. Of course, this is due to the spread of the Internet and the increasingly low cost of Internet-compatible hardware. Especially against the background of lifelong learning, online learning offers many positive aspects. Online Learning usually has four facets by which it is described:
- Interactivity: The user is empowered to interact with the content by having control or/and intervention possibilities, for example by being able to comment on content.
- Multimedia: Knowledge can be generated in different ways, for example by reading (this blog for example), watching a video or listening to a podcast.
- Multimodality: Information can be received through different senses, for example visual (see) or auditory (hear). These are the predominant modalities in online learning. The other senses are rather negligible.
- Multicodality: Multicodality means that information is coded differently depending on the medium in which it takes place. A book, for example, will not contain animated images, while a video will always encode information as a moving image.
Online learning takes place using different techniques. Classical is web-based or computer-based learning (CBT) in the form of learning software that is distributed using a CD-ROM, DVD or other medium. The younger readers of this blog may remember Addy a very prominent learning software for children up to 8th grade in the 90s. This type of software focuses on self-study and communication with other learners or teachers is not in the foreground or is not possible digitally at all and is very difficult in analogue.
From the computer to the internet
A further development of CBT is the web-based training (WBT). Learning data is retrieved via the Internet and more communication possibilities are offered through this networking. By combining audio, video and text, information can be combined and coded much more flexibly. This also increases interactivity. If chat, wiki or forum systems are connected, one generally speaks of a learning platform. There are two types of WBTs: the informal WBT and the formal WBT, which is divided into two subgroups.
- Informal: Learners are free to choose how they approach a subject area, usually online research is chosen as a means of gaining knowledge.
- Formal: learners enrol in a predefined course. The course is structured and the distribution of material is also structured.
- Pure: All content is available online and all communication takes place online
- Blended: The distribution of content and also some communication takes place in persona
There are popular tools to enhance the learning experience, these are:
- Forums: Discussion forums are very popular with participants to ask questions and initiate discussions
- Chats: real-time communication to make the experience more concrete in time
- E-mail: Main tool for communication between teachers and learners
- Videoconference: Synchronous or deliberately asynchronous communication, very similar to the “classroom” model and often used for frontal seminars
- Internet: Access to the Internet is mandatory for WBTs, this is a big technical difference in requirements compared to CBTs
We at AWARE7 only offer formal WBTs. The blog is a form of informal source of information, as you are free to decide on which topics you want to learn more about. However, our seminars, awareness trainings and advanced trainings on the topic of Digital Risk Management are either purely formal or blended.
Video Conferencing as an Online Learning Alternative
A tool that is also focused in our Online Learnings is learning via video conferencing. Universities in particular today offer a wide range of online services, some of which are freely available on YouTube. A recommendable example of a university course that can be found online as a video is the course by Christof Paar “Introduction to Cryptography”. Platforms such as Coursera, Udacity, OpenHPI or Khan Academy not only provide learners with video material, but also with interaction possibilities that go far beyond a commentary column, for example learning together with other course participants.
The companies on such platforms are not bound to IT security. There are many exciting courses on such platforms, for example courses on artificial intelligence, business management or design. You can usually pursue your interests on these platforms without any problems and continue your education. However, there is often a lack of low-threshold overview courses on offer. Especially in the area of IT security, there are rarely beginner courses that cover more than e-mail security or encryption on the Internet. We at AWARE7 fill this gap with our awareness courses and seminars. These are impressive on site, but can also be conducted online without any problems.
Advantages and disadvantages of online learning
Whether online learning can completely replace traditional forms of education is currently at least controversial. However, it can certainly be seen as a useful support in the learning process and through the combination of online learning and traditional approaches, the learning itself can be optimised. A main aspect for the processing of online learning are the economic aspects. Spatial and temporal dependencies are to a large extent dissolved, it is easier for the teacher and the learner to simply connect online instead of, for example, driving across Germany from Munich to Gelsenkirchen and back after the seminar. The mediation is independent of personal location and especially through platforms like YouTube aspects of “lifelong learning” become much more flexible and thus more accessible.
A disadvantage of online learning that should not be underestimated is the fact that self-discipline is often more necessary than in classroom training. In addition, there are often media hurdles on the part of the participants who do not know how to deal with modern forms of publication. Access to the online learning environment must be as intuitive as possible and the motivation to participate in a course should also be high. The exchange of information in online learning is even more essential than in traditional training courses. The teacher has no audio-visual feedback on his course and what he explains. If no questions are asked, it is assumed that the participants have understood the content of the course. Another big disadvantage of online learning is the dependence on third party technology, for example, if video conferencing does not work, there are hardly any alternative ways for the teacher to get in touch with the learners. In the case of classroom training, it is possible to continue working “analogously” even if the technology fails. This possibility is limited or even impossible with online learning.
The Right Environment aka. Home Office
You want to send your employees to your home office and offer them the opportunity to work from there and participate in online learning? Then make sure that you and your employees know what is essential in the home office. We have listed the most popular points of our employees in the home office for you here:
- Laptop: To be able to work you need your work laptop or computer. You should have enough space on a desk for this. Think also of possible external devices such as mouse and keyboard
- Screen: To work really comfortably at home, you should connect an external monitor to your laptop. This helps you with online learning, as you can read on one screen and write on the other
- Phone/mobile phone: If you need to be reachable, redirect your office phone to your home office or to your mobile phone
- Headset: A headset is important for undisturbed phone calls if you have your home office facing the street
- Location: Especially at home it is important and especially easy to create a pleasant professional atmosphere. If possible, create a place where you consciously go to work and are not tempted to “go to the couch for a moment” in between. Place a plant on or next to your desk and place your desk near a window.
- Printers: Printing out documents so you can go through them at your leisure? Then you need a printer. If you don’t do home office frequently, a black and white printer is sufficient. Pay attention to the appropriate printing specifications for shredding in your company
- Shredder: If you own a printer, you should also purchase a shredder to shred sensitive documents. Pay attention to the appropriate security regulations for shredding in your company
Why now is the correct time to try new learning strategies
Often companies need a lot of time when introducing online learning within their individual structures. Work processes or workstations have to be adapted and a lot of educational work has to be done with the employees*. In the context of the current corona crisis and the associated increase in the number of employees in the home office, however, this expenditure is manageable compared to the introduction of operational processes. To map an operative process digitally often means the involvement of external consultants or experts in order to map it as efficiently as possible. Online learning is therefore often introduced first, a detached process that can be easily integrated into the company afterwards. The courses of AWARE7 consist of a video conference and digital accompanying material, so that your employees* can participate from anywhere and afterwards prove their participation in the HR department or the corresponding position in your company.
Why Awareness by AWARE7
With over 600 awareness shows and seminars held in the past two years and a doubling of the number of lectures last year, AWARE7 is one of the leading providers of awareness shows and seminars in Germany. We are happy to share our knowledge about cyber security issues with you and your employees. We do not depend on being on site, but can also conduct our seminars and shows via video conferencing. We offer you and all employees* a unique online experience. We use either your own video conferencing technology or ours and provide you with a wide range of materials on the topic of awareness. From printable kryptonizers to websites for phishing recognition to classic posters or wallpapers that your employees can hang up in their home office. Make yourself comfortable in your home office and get ready to take an educational trip into the world of cyber security.
The Corona crisis is currently forcing many companies to reorganize their processes, for example by dividing individual areas of responsibility into groups or the increased use of home offices. Coupled with the high training requirements of employees in the area of cybersecurity, this offers a unique opportunity for companies to make a virtue out of necessity. The awareness training and seminars of AWARE7 can be carried out completely online via our infrastructure at special rates. Book your online awareness training today via the contact form or by mail to info(at)aware7.de.
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)