Sunday, September 27, 2009

Zero face-to-face learning works

Spent a day listening into a wholly online training ‘learndirect’ service on basic numeracy and literacy where there is ZERO face to face interaction. You sign-on online, get a telephone call, do a diagnostic online, choose a course and get online and telephone tutor support. TESTMYPC checks their PC operating system, browser etc and the learners also get support from others where experiences are shared.

What struck me about the learners was how grateful they were for the service. They mostly want to get some basic qualifications to get a job and clearly had a bad time at school. This is their second chance and they’re motivated.

The tutors are excellent and know how to motivate and help with problems the learners experience. This is the way to go. Why get people to turn up to institutions at place distant from their home at specific times that may not suit them? In this service mothers with young children do their work at all hours. They like the fact that they’re not getting loads of face-to-face stuff. There’s even specialist tutors for those with problems such as dyslexia.

The only time they see a real person is when they have to turn up to an assessment centre to sit the exam, and it’s this that causes most fear. The assessment process is primitive and does more damage than good. Rather than accepting a more continuous form of assessment, it’s all down to this exam in a centre that can be up to 30 miles away. Curiously it’s this one face ton face experience that causes most problems.


Dick Moore said...

Glad you liked it Donald, listening to some of the calls its hard not to be convinced. I am sure that there are some techniques that we can do to make summative assessment better but as you say portfolio and evidence based assessment has to be the way to go for lots of this.

Mark Frank said...

If people are motivated they will learn under a very wide range of conditions. It may be enough to point them to a book. I bet you have taught yourself out of a book in the past.

The challenge is when the learners are not motivated - which is often the case in industry. Consider rolling out a new IT system without any face to face contact to an audience that doesn't see the need for change and has had bad experiences with prior systems. Try doing that without face to face contact.

Donald Clark said...

I agree Mark. I wouldn't universalise the proposition, but there are plenty of learning professionals (the majority in my experience) who see face-to-face as a necessary condition for success. Not always. Indeed most of what we learn is in the absence of a 'teacher'.

Bob Harrison said...

Spot on again Donald...and I agree with the assessment issue...primitive is the only word for it.... as for "real" people I will turn again to Kieran(my 16yr old teacher) who when challenged by me a few weeks ago to "why don't you turn off that computer and go and meet some "real" people?" Kieran replied "Who the f*** do you think is at the other end of the computer...... unreal people!"

Donald Clark said...

Kieran makes a point that seems to escape people in education and training. They seem to think that being onoline is being in touch with the supernatural.

Anonymous said...

Im one of those tutor's and just wanted to Thank you for writing about what we do. Our job is to motivate learners and your little article has motivated me... So a big thank you from me.


Asha Chauhan
Learning Support Practitioner

Rina said...

It is always a pleasure to come to this space and learn of so many new things. Am indebted top you for so many things I learend here, if you ever lad up in India I owe you many meals for all the problem solving that happened here for me. Just as I can vouch for all the learning that could happen across distances and this new model will definately work. Even when the pupils travel miles to take the exams, the very fact that the commuting time on all other days is negated. This is a big step towards empowering those who missed learning new skills. Thanks for sharing the information.