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Digital Learning: Learning Without Limits - Part 1

At ILX Group, we have been at the forefront of Digital Learning Best Practice, so we are delighted to have been shortlisted with Virgin Media for the e-Learning Awards 2012. To complement the glittering event at the London Marriott Hotel on 8 November we are running a series of articles to demystify digital learning. This is the first in the series.


Advances in digital technology are changing how people want to live and to learn and ILX Group is leading the way in matching their needs and expectations. Gone are the days when learners would sit passively in class in front of a teacher and blackboard or in front of a computer screen flicking through a sequence of slides. Today organisations and individuals are active rather than passive learners. They choose the type, the style and the delivery method of their learning to suit the way they live, work and learn. They are no longer classroom learners, distance-learners, or even e-learners; they are digital-learners.

To help organisations understand how digitalisation is affecting the nature and shape of learning we have produced the Digital Learning for Business report. Our research shows that learning can be social, engaging and interactive and that it can take place on any number of devices from tablets and smartphones to internet-connected TVs and gaming consoles. Learning can involve teleconferences, online training courses, intranet, videos, webinars, wikis, blogs, forums, webcasts, podcasts, simulations, games and more. Learning may be synchronous or asynchronous. Learners may be together or apart, static or mobile, anywhere in the world and in any time zone. Learning is no longer a one-off event that takes place within the four walls of a classroom separate from work and home; it is now a life-long process where the learner actively develops knowledge, understanding and skills and then applies them in the workplace.

Part 1: Synchronous Digital Learning

  • Definition: synchronous /siŋkrǝnǝs/ adjective [from late Latin synchronus from Greek sugkhronos, from sun- syn-+khronos -time +ous from old French ous from Latin -osus- having many or much, characterised by, of the nature of.

  1. Existing or happening at the same time; contemporary; simultaneous.
  2. Recurring at the same moments in time; going at the same rate and exactly together.

When learning is synchronous and digital it happens live, in real time and at the same time between two or more people. Talking in an online chat room, taking part in a webinar and studying via a virtual learning environment are all examples of synchronous digital learning. To see how it can be used to provide PRINCE2, MSP, ITIL and other Best Management Practice training go visit here.

  • Advantages: Synchronous digital learning offers the advantages of the traditional and the virtual classroom to the educator, instructor, learning facilitator, expert guest and student. Learning is almost without limitation.

    Everyone can instruct, participate, interact, debate, collaborate, create, socialise, role play and give feedback wherever they are in the world in an immediate, engaging and, importantly, in a cost-efficient way; our Digital Learning For Business report found that cost is a major inhibitor to training as our infographic shows. It is therefore understandable why 59% of organisations expect to use more or much more live online learning and custom e-learning according to Learning and Performance Institute research.

  • Disadvantages: The few that there are can be overcome or reduced through a variety of means. So whilst scheduling can be a problem where participants are in different time zones, lectures can be duplicated or recorded to be re-broadcast to suit regional time zones. The technological problems that can occur because of power cuts or computer glitches can be overcome through making lessons available on videos and podcasts and through providing transcripts. Students without the latest technology will find that good learning providers will take this into account in their delivery methods. Students with little time or inclination to join in discussions or ask questions can get the support they need through methods such as post-lesson instant messaging, forums and email.
  • Facilitating methods to be used by the instructor: Learning doesn't just happen and there are many ways for instructors to make the learning active and to help all participants reach out to each other through their screens. Ice-breakers assist in establishing a social environment. Emoticons ;-) show people how participants feel about the learning. Games and simulations gain and keep learners' attention.
  • Tools to facilitate synchronous learning: Learning providers and learners can use any number of tools to achieve their purpose. They include alerts that indicate who has entered and exited the digital learning session, instant and private messaging systems, a virtual whiteboard that everyone can use and engage with, file transfer capability, video conferencing, mobile devices, laptops with camera and microphone.
  • Synchronous learning in practice: The hugely successful collaboration between ILX Group and Virgin Media that resulted in our being shortlisted for the 2012 E-Learning Awards, involved creating a world first solution that used synchronous learning integrated with different digital learning environments and media to train Virgin Media employees to ITIL Intermediate level. To see how we worked with Virgin Media and how we could do the same for you read more here.

Useful Links:

  • ILX Group: Digital Learning For Business report and Infographic
  • Chartered Institute of Personnel Development: Learning and Talent Development 2011
  • Learning and Performance Institute: Learning Survey 2012
  • E-learning Awards 2012 Shortlist
  • Full details of the ILX Group and Virgin Media nomination
  • How our training enables organisations to meet objectives
  • The ILX Digital Learning Licence explained
  • The Cabinet Office's Best Management Practice Portfolio