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A Technical Instructor's Perspective of Online Learning

Posted: Jun 2, 2017
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A Technical Instructor's Perspective of Online Learning

Our students and potential students often have some doubts about our “new” Online LIVE (OLL) class delivery modality, and I thought I would offer a few observations from the instructor’s perspective to allow some greater understanding of online learning.

While many of these ideas have been covered in other New Horizons blogs (The Benefits of Online Courses & The Perceived Disadvantages of Online Courses), I thought I’d chime in from the delivery side of the house.

Online LIVE (OLL) is Not New and Offers a Complete Learning Experience

First of all, OLL, which is instructor-led training delivered virtually, is not new - instructors like me have been delivering training like this weekly for years. I have about 4 years x 52 weeks of online delivery experience (and over a decade of traditional classroom delivery before that).

The perception that online delivery is “new” or “radical” needs to be laid to rest. From my perspective, I’ve delivered online training weekly since 2012. Figure a couple weeks for vacation, prep time, etc., and I’ve delivered roughly 240 weeks of online training. And multiply that by the number of available instructors.

Trust me - the system has been tested.

With OLL, students are able to engage with their instructor directly via email, chat, and mics. The instructors want the classes to be interactive, and it’s a common perception that online training is non-interactive. There are plenty of communications channels - microphones, chat (both public and private), as well as regular email. These are used for questions, comments, student examples, notifying the instructor of appointments without disrupting the class, etc. The instructor is even on camera, so you know you’re dealing with a “real person.”

Not only can you use the communications channels to talk to the instructor, but also to interact with other students to follow-up on points or ask direct questions about their environments.

Online LIVE is a Virtual ClassroomThink of OLL as a Virtual Classroom

Many students worry about enrolling into an online course because they feel they need to have an instructor with them in the room. That's totally understandable, but OLL instructors can still virtually look over your shoulder. The classes are fully interactive, including labs. Instructors can still connect directly to your lab environment and help you specifically with your question. You’re both looking at exactly the same output in exactly the same way. This is exactly the same lab environment used in traditional classroom delivery.

The Real Student Benefits of Online Delivery

  • Access to More Instructors. With OLL, highly-qualified instructors are drawn from a broader pool, which means you have access to a number of courses, regardless of where you are located. In a traditional classroom training, the facility has to have an instructor on staff qualified to teach the topic you need training in, who is available when you’re available. This isn’t always possible or realistic, but with online training, New Horizons can draw from a much broader pool of qualified trainers to meet scheduling and specialization delivery needs.

  • More Course Availability. Additionally, not only is New Horizons drawing on a larger pool of instructors, but also on a much larger pool of students, meaning that uncommon classes can be delivered more frequently when the potential audience is nation-wide or world-wide. That means the classes you need can be offered much more frequently rather that relying on a local demand that may be very small.

  • OLL Courses are Recorded. Traditional classroom courses are not typically recorded. However, many online courses are for later viewing, which can prove invaluable, and even give student peace of mind knowing that if they are  interrupted during the delivery by family or work emergencies or by appointments, etc, they can still go back and view the sections of class that they missed. Plus, they are able able to view sections of class that maybe didn’t sink in on the first round. 

  • Information is Preserved. Most IT professional are visual learners, and most instructors will do a lot of sketching, diagramming, and annotating to help deliver content. These sketches can be saved by the instructor and shared out to the students, making for a much more convenient method of preserving information.

  • Online Training is More Effecient. Online training is typically much more effecient, as time and energy are not wasted with travel, traffic, etc. Furthermore (even though I don’t like this idea from an educator’s perspective) it is well-understood that many students are still “working” at the same time they are attending class. They multitask between the instructor’s delivery to complete some of their day-to-day responsibilities. This may impact their learning, but at least they get to attend class at all.

Classroom Training Still Has Its Strengths

Since we discussed several benefits of online learning, specfically OLL, I thought that it's only fair to address the flip side of the coin.

  • As an instructor, one of the biggest changes I had to make in my delivery was in my own body language and movement. I used to roam the front of the classroom, avoiding the podium and making eye contact to better engage my students. Sometimes it’s nice to see the instructor in his or her natural habitat. Still, since I utilize a web cam, the virtual classroom can be just as engaging.

  • Traveling to a training facility may allow the student to escape distractions at home or at the office and more fully concentrate on the class content. Sometimes that isolation makes for a better experience. However, students have the option to travel to a New Horizons center to take their OLL course. So if you prefer to get away, you can.

  • It's how we’ve always learned. There’s something to be said for the comfort of “how we’ve always done it” and especially for those of us who’ve been in the work force for a couple decades or more, we’re just used to the teacher standing in front of the room with students in rows of desks. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable, it’s well-understood. Remeber, you have the option to audit one of our classes to experience it for yourself. You may find that it is a preferred method for you. You won't know until you try.

Some Closing Thoughts

From my perspective, as both a current trainer and a past Network Administrator, I see very little negative in online delivery but a lot of positive aspects. Sometimes the familiar environment is more - well, familiar - but there are significant advantages to online training. I encourage you to leave me any questions below, and I look forward to seeing you virtually!

Damon GarnAuthor: Damon Garn, Technical Instructor
MCT, MCSA, MCITP:SA, MCSE:S, CloudMASTER, RHCSA, ITIL, Linux+/LPIC-1, Security+, Network+, A+

Damon has nearly 16 years of experience as a classroom and online instructor, specializing in Windows Server and Linux courses. He is an experienced admin who enjoys empowering students with knowledge and ideas. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and playing guitar.


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