About Me

My photo
United States
I am a M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology. Most of my experience has been in human resources and change management. My passion lies in employee assessment, organizational development and employee opinions. Website: www.IanMondrow.com LinkedIn Profile: http://linkd.in/drBYoC

Friday, February 3, 2012

Trainee reactions to learner control: an important link in the e-learning equation

Summary by Ian B. Mondrow, PHR

The evolution of e-learning technology has revolutionized employee development for corporations due to its convenience, electronic record keeping and learning management. The benefits to e-learning include reduced delivery cycle time, more convenience for learners and consistency within training among locations. E-learning also opens the opportunity for learner control, or the degree to which a learner is given control over the course features including pace, content and structure of courses. This allows the learner to modify the learning experience to their liking.  It may also assist in comprehension of learning content because a learner is able to review unclear information or provide additional details on areas of interest.

In this quasi-experimental study, 237 undergraduate students at a large public university in the Eastern United States were recruited as participants. Participants were put into one of two groups: training with interactive features (no learner control) or training with or without interactive offered at the learner’s choice (learner control). Participants in the group with learner control were asked if they would like to complete the course with interactive controls. 8 individuals in the learner control group opted out of using learner controls and therefore were not included in analysis. In the sample offered learner control, users could chose the number and order of videos to view, utilization of a video progress bar, interactive transcripts, access to an interactive outline and pop-up windows to highlight key learning points.

Reactions to control-based features offered were evaluated using 10 items developed by the researchers to measure affective-based reactions and utility-based reactions on a 5-point scale. Affective-based reactions were used to measure the emotional responses from participants (i.e. if they liked it, annoyed by it, etc.) while utility-based actions are based on their perceived ease of use (i.e. difficult, easy, etc.). In addition, four items were used to measure learner satisfaction on a five-point scale.  Finally, learning was measured using a multiple choice knowledge assessment with 12 questions.

Participants completed the study during a regular class period of their management class and completed the course with 20-35 people in the room at the same time.  Results showed that were was no correlation between control condition and satisfaction as the statistical analysis was not significant. However, a statistically significant correlation was found between learner control and trainee reactions (r = .13, p < .05), suggesting that learner controls created an experience that had more positive reactions. An independent samples t-test confirmed the difference between the two learning conditions, t (225) = -2.00, p <.05), with the no control condition (m = 3.58) and control condition (m = 3.74).  It was also found learner satisfaction was positively related to course reactions (r = .42, p < .01). Training satisfaction was then examined to determine if it positively affected learning satisfaction. Findings were significant using a hierarchical regression on training program satisfaction and learner GPA (β = .14, ΔR2=.02, p <.05).

The study introduces a variety of findings. First off, it shows that overall satisfaction is not enhanced by control but participants are more likely to prefer an e-learning program with learner control, even if makes the training more complex. As a result of the findings, learners are likely to be more satisfied with a learning course that provides control, thus increasing the overall perception of learning.  However, several limitations are present in this study. First off, the sample used is composed of college students, who are generally accustom to web-based technology. In addition, they are not working professionals so their preferences for learning may be different. Furthermore, the study only included students from one university, and therefore cannot be applied to the population.

The study introduces some fascinating findings that are applicable to both training and instructional design professionals. It shows that learners like to feel as though they are control of the online training. To increase the overall reactions, it is suggested to provide learners with a variety of options within e-learning modules. This can include the option to obtain additional information, controlling the speed of the presentation, and providing different learning options (i.e. audio transcripts, outlines, etc.), and the order of information.

These findings show how important it is for organizations to utilize instructional designers. Instead of just creating a basic slideshow, instructional designers can create innovative online courses that grant learners more control of the content. Instructional designers are knowledgeable about the tools offered in software, such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate, and can design intricate learning.

One easy way to achieve learner control is develop e-learning that is not sequential. Therefore, learners can cover different sections of the training as long as they complete it all. This allows learners to first learn about the content that appeals to them most. Online training should not feel like participants are watching a slideshow that only allows them to move forward. Give learners the option to replay, review and pause. This can be easily achieved by providing a table of contents on the side of the training. This allows for easier navigation for the learner.

If learners are offered online courses that provide them more control, it may be suggested that learners feel more empowered in their learning; thus, resulting in more positive reactions towards training offered and increasing their satisfaction of the overall learning experience. This is crucial for learning organizations that emphasize employee development and want their employees to continue to utilize learning resources.

Source: Fisher, S.L., Wasserman, M.E., Orvis K.A. (2010). Trainee reactions to learner control: an important link in the e-learning equation. International Journal of Training and Development, 14 (3), 198-208. 

1 comment:

  1. Elearning library and systems become a major contributor in the creation of effective training controls and trainee reactions to learn more about their courses, control, etc. It might also help in developing self-disciplined areas of learning.