Online learning on a keyboardOnline learning has been around for a long while but its popularity has exploded over the past few months as people use their time during lockdown to build their knowledge and skills. Indeed, Google has reported a 300 per cent rise in searches for the term ‘online courses’ since the pandemic took hold.

And rightly so. Online learning has huge advantages, both for the people who want to learn and the organisations who want their teams upskilled:

  • It saves time,
  • It can be done any hour, anywhere,
  • It cost less than traditional classroom teaching,
  • It has scale and reach,
  • Learners typically get stacks of resources at their fingertips.
  • People learn at a pace that suits them and in surroundings that make them feel most comfortable.

At Digital Unite, we have learnt a thing or two about what makes brilliant online learning since the launch of our Digital Champions Network seven years ago. Our award-winning web-based platform combines e-learning with volunteer and project management and we built it from scratch. It now has over 20 courses and masses of resources that support and train people to be Digital Champions.  

Excuse the brag but we are hugely proud that our course completion rate stands at 50% compared to the national average of 10% and 97% of those who use our online training would recommend it.

An image of a blank recipe card depicting the ingredients recommended for great online learning.Along the way we’ve learnt that online learning is not without its challenges. Staying motivated, feeling isolated and needing extra help can all be barriers for people to nail this self-education. So, what does make a great distance learning experience that inspires and educates? Here we share the essential ingredients we have discovered make a recipe for success.

  1. Slice it into different-sized chunks

Lack of time can put people off even enrolling on a course in the first place, let alone seeing it through to the end.  Breaking e-learning into small bursts of content makes it far easier to absorb and helps people feeling like they are making progress. Some of our most popular courses are those that take between 5 - 10 minutes and our longer ones are chopped into short sections that can be stopped and started at any time.  

  1. Stir in self-perception

Never mind gaining new skills, some people don’t think they have the skills they need to even get started on a course. Or they are out of practice and don’t have the right learning mindset. This lack of self-belief stops them gaining the full benefits of online learning. The training should recognise and acknowledge these views with thought provoking questions and positive messaging so learners feel they are progressing and understanding well.

  1. Add a large helping of motivation

Motivation is probably the biggie when it comes to barriers. Any number of things can stop a person studying so online learning must maximise its armoury to keep them going. Badges, certificates, professional accreditation, a dashboard that tracks how they’re doing. They all help to nudge the learner along, which is why we utilise the whole shebang on our Network.

  1. Whisk in a generous portion of community involvement

Some people associate e-learning with isolation or loneliness. Quite simply they don’t want to learn on their own, so some community involvement is essential.  We have over 3,500 Digital Champions in the Network who can come together  from across the UK. Whether that is via our chat forums or webinars, they share questions, ideas and stories and often with people they would never usually get the chance to meet.

  1. Don’t forget a taste test

The best way to prevent boredom with online learning is to know your learners and know them well. Run regular surveys, understand their challenges and address their needs. Team up with subject matter experts who truly know the audience you’re teaching. Involve your users in the content creation through focus groups and peer reviews. We’ve worked with partners such as Age UK, UNISON and NHS Digital as well as our Digital Champions and we’ve scrutinised every single course feedback form we’ve received, 8,011 and counting.

  1. Gently warm mentor support until it simmers

Not even the best online course in the world can replace the need for human contact. Some people might need help getting through it.  Many of our learners breeze through our e-learning on their own. For those that do need a hand, we have mentors at the ready, a live chat tool for just-in time support and training for managers to help guide their teams through.

  1. Lightly sprinkle a feeling of happiness and serve generously

It’s a fact that learning at work makes people feel better[1]. Happy even. Definitely more confident and more empowered. The best bit about our learners is they use what they learn to teach others, setting others off on their own learning adventure. With all these benefits and more, why wouldn’t you encourage your teams and yourself to do more online learning? And if Digital Champions are your thing, then our Network promises a distance learning experience that you and your organisation will be able to dine on, for many years to come.

Share our learning adventure

Learning never ends so why not be part of our adventure in this? You can join our Digital Champions Network, sign up to our newsletter or follow us on the usual social media channels. See you there.


[1]Josh Bersin / LinkedIn



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