Prior to 2020, online learning was seeing a high growth and adoption in the global market, with various online learning channels like EdX, Coursera, Udemy, etc. offering high quality courses. However, most online learning channels, or MOOCs, were more individualised and self-paced online courses, where participants have the freedom to learn whenever they want, depending on their work-life commitments. It also means that students are mostly learning in isolation unless the course happens to have live classroom sessions too. However, live sessions come with a cost and there are very few affordable online courses promoting interaction between students as a method of learning (which is common in classroom courses). This could have worked out well when it was easy to meet with others in classroom, at work or anywhere else, but now that we are constrained, the need for social interactions in any learning process is amplified.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 brought drastic lockdowns and social / physical distancing measures leading to a halt in classroom learning. Globally, learning sessions, workshops and conferences were moved online from the physical space. The online learning industry saw a massive growth in 2020 owing to the pandemic, with video classrooms, self-paced learning and similar alternatives becoming easier to access. However, the learning modalities did not change much, and most online courses remained individual affairs, with very few providing opportunities for human interaction.
With this challenge in mind, Bee Skilled launched its first Collective Learning Certificate in Supply Chain for Health, in the month of November 2020. The objective of the online course was not just to deliver content on health supply chain to learners, but also for learners to learn from each other along the course. To do that, we invested in creating an online Learning Management System which doubles up as a social media site for the learners, enabling them to learn from the course materials and fellow participants. Over the course of 4 weeks, the digital course materials available on the site (videos, articles, slides, tests, infographics etc.) were supplemented with:
- Live Video Classrooms organised with the Instructors of the course,
- Group Discussions on various topics linked to the course materials,
- Individual and Group assignments for the learners; and
- Various assessments for learners to test knowledge and progress on the “Leaderboard Challenge”.
As the course came to an end in December 2020 and participants obtained their certificates, we reflected on the 4 weeks of course delivery and also took the help of our participants to give us their feedback on the course delivery mechanism. All the participants who finished the course were positive about the ‘Collective Dimension’ of the course, where participants could know and interact with the course instructors and each other. All the participants reported that the 4 weeks spent on the course were fully worth their time, and that they would recommend the course to anyone who is beginning their career in Health Supply Chains.
Key lessons that we learnt from the first cohort of the course were:
- Self-paced courses are quite popular since learners can learn in their own time, and therefore learning platforms should be fairly intuitive in managing this functionality. However, live classroom sessions are extremely important in encouraging participants and should always accompany self-paced course materials,
- Social dimension of learning is critical for learners to reflect upon their own situations and contexts, analyse, compare and describe their systems, and then gain deeper understanding of the issues. This shall enhance their ability to apply their new knowledge,
- Gamification can result in higher engagement from learners, based on the fact that humans are competitive in nature. However, rules of engagement must be clarified from the beginning and the collective benefit should always come first,
- Iterative feedback cycles are crucial to understanding what works well and what needs to be improved and must be embedded within any online course. This agile approach to digital learning is also contributing to its social dimension by empowering learners.
With these points in mind, we are launching the next cohort of our flagship Collective Learning Certificate: Supply Chain for Health on 17th May. The course is now further enriched based on the feedback received from the participants of the first cohort, has more peer-peer interaction opportunities, more streamlined live classroom sessions, standardised rules for gamification and awards for participants, and most of all, a globally accredited CPD certification upon completion of the course.
Furthermore, new courses are in pipeline which are being developed based on global CPD imperatives and course development principles (e.g., EQF). They will be launched later in 2021.