We live in a world which is today defined by digital technology, and in fact, our expectations are now almost completely shaped by what the digital world enables, provides and promises. The ‘always-on’ culture means people want what they want when they want it and how they want it.
Every facet of society has faced a need to adapt and evolve to ensure we embrace this new world. Coupled with the greater demand for convenience and a time-poor generation, we have seen how businesses, brands, and organisations have changed what they offer and how they offer it to meet the changing behaviours and desires. No place is this more prevalent than in the world of education and learning.
The Open University was arguably the trailblazer of distance learning and set a new standard to enable people to access knowledge and learning at an arm’s length. But today the whole landscape is considerably more complex, competitive and diverse.
But what are the main benefits in the shift towards digital learning; are there pitfalls to be aware of and what does this mean for tomorrow’s workforce?
The primary benefit for individuals and businesses must be the agile and flexible nature of online learning. In today’s busy world, the ability to build learning around packed lives and work schedules makes for quick and easy access and participation. To offer education largely on an individual’s terms makes for greater responsibility and accountability, but more than that, it enables empowerment. This is a strong motivator which can drive an appetite for learning and improve engagement.
Globalisation in the digital age means that there are limited barriers to access information, from wherever you are in the world. Access to online education has become more democratised as a result, and there are increasing numbers of cost-efficient and valuable tools to improve the skills and knowledge for today, but also for future generations.
There is no doubt that there is a welcome shift towards online teaching but this does not wholly replace the need for in-depth, face to face learning. Both parts can work hand in hand for a more fulfilling and complete educational experience.
Online learning relies on a certain level of engagement and interest from the participant from the outset. It remains true that the more you put in, the more you get out. For this reason, interactivity, pace, and content are crucial to creating the right experience. This is also coupled with higher expectations from students. Therefore, providers need to work hard to get it right.
The user experience needs to be up to scratch, the technology must be robust, and the asks from the participant should be sensible and encouraging. Hours upon hours of online studying might not appeal to everyone so making the content, time and requirements pertinent and relevant is vital to success.
The outcome of an intelligent approach to online education and learning is multifaceted, but in short, we can give greater access to knowledge, expertise and learning to a broader spectrum of people, regardless of location, experience, and skills. In turn, this means we can play a part in upskilling and developing people to expand their minds, their horizons or their prospects. For this reason alone, we must champion online learning as an integral part of the future of education.
Kirsty McKerrow, Founder and Managing Director, Edinburgh Whisky Academy
Edinburgh Whisky Academy provides the only dedicated independent whisky education programme, fully accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Established in 2015, the Academy offers a Single Malt Diploma and an Introduction to Whisky Online Certificate focusing on the full whisky process and industry.