3 Reasons Why My Wife Dislikes Online Learning

Time, control, and relevancy.

April 20, 2017

My wife and I are in a mixed marriage.

I work in online education. She dislikes learning online.

I spend the majority of my time and energy trying to figure out how to leverage technology to improve education. Her experiences with digital learning have been mostly negative.

For my wife, online education equals computerized training.  She’s a doc - an academic physician - and doctors have all sorts of mandatory continuing education requirements. They need to certify that they have received training in everything from patient confidentiality policies to hand washing.  

The method that they complete this mandatory training is through web-based self-paced modules. She dislikes these online modules for 3 reasons:

1 - Time:  There is nothing wrong with mandatory continuing education. Medicine is a highly regulated industry, and complying with government requirements requires that the workforce receive continuous training and certification.  The problem is that she is expected to squeeze the online training modules into the rest of her work or her personal time. Unlike the old days when employee training was done through in-person classes and workshops, online training is intended to be done during the employees own time.  The problem is not so much that she hates the online format, but that doing the online units is an additional time burden on top of the rest of her responsibilities.

2 - Control:  The online modules that she must complete include a combination of content and quizzes. The content takes the form of videos, voice-over slides, animations, simulations, and text. The quizzes are computer graded. The problem - at least for my wife - is that she can’t skip through the content to get to the quizzes.  The system requires that she click through the content screens before getting to the assessments.  This integration of content and assessment conforms to best practices in learning science, but does not work for people who already know the content.  She often does not need the digital curriculum to answer the questions, but is unable to skip the content to get to the quizzes.

3 - Relevancy:  The final reason why my wife dislikes the mandatory online units that she must complete as part of her work responsibilities is about the relevancy of the materials. The online units that she has to complete are not designed specifically for her knowledge, expertise, or job responsibilities. Large numbers of the people who work in her hospital have to complete the online training. Online educational modules that are not specifically tailored to her specific responsibilities provide little benefit in improving her productivity, efficiency, or knowledge.  Unlike in face-to-face educational settings where the instructor can tailor the lessons based on who is in the room, most online educational modules are uniform and general.  (High level adaptive learning and personalization has not made it to the world of online medical continuing education).

Whenever my wife and I talk about her bad experiences with online education, I try to convince her that the online learning that she endures looks nothing like what I work on. 

I try to explain that when I think of online learning, I’m not talking about self-paced web-based modules - but online (and low-residency) courses that are taught by a faculty member.  

In my world, online learning is a method for educators and students to spend more time collaborating with each other - through discussion and feedback.  Some of the most intensive, immersive, and experiential teaching and learning that I’ve observed has occurred in online classes.

My wife knows all this.  She understands the difference between self-paced web training and high quality online courses.  

Still, her experience with online education leaves her with an overall negative impression of the whole idea of digital learning.

How many other people only experience online learning through frustrating web-based training modules?

Do you also dislike online learning?


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