Distance learning, while already popular prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, has become even more attractive as our ability to gather en masse and meet for face-to-face educational offerings has halted. Organizations that have historically offered in-person or live programming have transitioned to virtual models involving distance learning in order to continue to provide credentialing and continuing education for professionals seeking to maintain their professional designations or accreditations.
Firms, IIDA chapters, and organizations that typically offer in-person educational programming may find that moving their courses online can offer many benefits aside from overhead cost. Distance learning allows organizations to expand their geographic reach, often accommodating a much larger student base than would be possible in a classroom setting, and offering accessibility to more people. It is also a more cost-effective option that allows for more timely feedback, and a more personalized and targeted training experience through data capture of students. Both the attendee and the organization benefit from coursework that is more accessible, flexible, convenient, and may be accessed at any time from any place.
While historically distance learning involved snail mail correspondence courses, it has grown into a robust virtual experience taking advantage of the opportunity for interactive participation through webinars, virtual seminars, and other methodologies. Today, distance learning employs six primary methodologies for delivering virtual education. The two options most viable, and likely easiest for chapter rollout are video conferencing and synchronous and asynchronous distance education.
Synchronous and Asynchronous Distance Education
Synchronous indicates “at the same time” and similarly asynchronous indicates “not at the same time.” Synchronous distance education is usually less flexible as it facilitates live interaction between educators and participants and requires both to be available during the scheduled sessions. Asynchronous distance education provides participants with the freedom to work at their own pace by using pre-recorded materials that can be accessed at the convenience of each student. Participants can have more interaction with other students in this modality.
Video conferencing, or webinars, for educating participants requires software like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams to provide an interactive setting which enhances the experience for both participants and educators. Video conferencing or webinars can enhance one-on-one interaction with educators and paves a way for these instructors to plan their courses. Participants can also attend missed classes via archived webinars making this modality either synchronous or asynchronous.
Open Schedule Online Courses
This is an asynchronous learning method where participants are given online textbooks for use in conjunction with email and a classroom message board or forum. Participants have the greatest amount of freedom with open schedule online courses, but online course creators carry a much heavier burden in their development. Participants are usually provided deadlines, but may complete their work within those parameters. These are ideal for participants who like to work independently.
Hybrid Distance Education
Hybrid distance education is a combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning in which the participants adhere to a specific deadline to complete their work. Participants can be permitted to complete assignments at their own pace and submit those assignments via an online forum.
Computer Based Distance Education
This is a synchronous methodology where participants are required to meet in a classroom or computer lab at a specified time every week to complete their virtual lessons. Participants are not provided with an open schedule in this type of distance education, and must complete their sessions on-site.
Fixed Time Online Course
This is a synchronous modality where participants need to log-in to their learning site at a designated time. These courses require mandatory live chats in some cases, and are currently the most common type of distance education.
So, you’ve made the decision to move forward with a distance learning program for your chapter, firm, or organization Now what? We know many of your educational offerings were also revenue generators—this shouldn’t change. You should however adjust your pricing model because many large overhead expenses, like venue and catering, no longer need to be built into your budget. You might also consider presenting specific member-only sessions to demonstrate the value of membership. These could also be sold to non-members for additional revenue. Your sponsors are also still seeking ways to connect and network with your community. Sponsorship opportunities should be made available with virtual offerings as well. Again, you will want to adjust your pricing model for these.
We at IIDA Headquarters also want to know what education offerings you’re presenting. As there are no geographic boundaries with virtual learning, you can open your education offerings to the entire IIDA membership base through our events calendar and newsletters. We are here to support your efforts and can help promote your distance education programs. Information on your offerings can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.