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Why hybrid learning experiences may or may not made the grade

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Why hybrid learning experiences may or may not made the grade

D2L customer experience

John Baker has clearly been asked to comment on what happened to the student experience during COVID-19 before.

Sitting on the stage at this week’s Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX) Summit in Toronto earlier this week, the president and CEO of Desire2Learn (D2L) was being feted as a technology success story. After all, it offers a platform that has made it easy for everyone from educational institutions to corporate HR teams to offer courses that would otherwise have required sitting in a physical classroom.

As any parent who had to navigate their children’s studies amid lockdowns could tell you, however, the virtual learning experience . . . left something to be desired. Like engagement, ease of use or simply enjoyment.

“What you’re talking about is not online but remote learning – where it’s happening synchronously, in real-time,” Baker corrected the CIX Summit session moderator when the topic inevitably came up. “That’s a hard experience. It’s not what we want for online learning in the future.”

The rise of hybrid learning models
What D2L envisioned instead – and what he says is now happening – is a world in which postsecondary students might be on campus for some classes, but who also take on-demand courses at home during other periods of the day. This is a model that doesn’t just potentially meet the needs of students, but lifelong learners within companies who want to reskill or upskill in order to further their careers.

“There is not a CEO I’ve spoken to that doesn’t recognize learning is something they’ve got to fix,” Baker said. “In a sense the vision (of D2L) hasn’t changed. We want to break down the barriers that get in people’s way and inspire people to achieve more than they dreamt possible. That’s the most important problem I can solve.”

What has changed, of course, is the world of work. As D2L shifts to focus more on hybrid learning for business professionals, its target audience is still trying to figure out how often they want to be in the office or elsewhere. This could rapidly affect how they pursue professional development opportunities like training and taking courses.

Possibly the days spent at home, for instance, will be the days they take courses via D2L because they aren’t as likely to be taking in-person meetings. On the other hand, you could argue that it’s better to take online courses at work and save the time to work remotely when you need to focus on achieving business goals.

Lingering CX perceptions to overcome
The interesting thing about companies like D2L is that the perception of the CX they offer will be strongly influenced by what happened during the pandemic.

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Even if there is a huge difference between real-time and asynchronous learning, everyday people might continue to conflate the two, requiring more convincing before they commit to giving on-demand online learning the chance it deserves.

Baker sounded confident D2L could win over students who are now making their way back into lecture halls.

“They want to see the future being a combination of (studying) in class and being fully online,” he said. “They want both as an option as they build out their schedules. If we can do it in an asynchronous way, we can get them back up to speed on what they missed during the pandemic.”

As those students potentially get caught up, the question becomes whether business professionals will be as eager to use asynchronous learning to get ahead.

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