Education is an interesting and exciting sector for me. I love learning new things, and I love teaching.
When I learn something new, I feel powerful. This feeling is as strong as success, achievement and love. And most people who read books, do online courses, and hear audiobooks would agree with the fact that learning something new is the most satisfying things you can do in our week.
The internet has made it easy to learn from videos, blog posts and other channels of communication with the trainers. Apart from the trainer being able to teach a student from a distance, the trainer is also able to replicate the information to execute one-to-many mentorship efficiently. With the power of the internet, education has been revived to suit the learner’s need and style.
I expect my life’s work to be in the education sector. And I keep looking for answers that will help me contribute better. I keep wondering about the finest details of online education. This curiosity has led me into a series of questions about how people learn from the other side of the screen.
We bloggers, authors, YouTubers, information product creators, do not think too much from the shoes of our customers (students) because we do not meet them often. It is hard, but it is important.
Fortunately, I am in a position to get answers to these questions from a large sampling size, and we can confidently average out the insights about education for the whole country, and to some extent the whole world.
I posted a series of questions on my Facebook Group – Learn Digital Marketing, and in this blog post, you will learn what I learned from the results of the surveys.
If you are an online trainer, or a company in the online education space, you will find these answers extremely insightful and could guide your product creation to align with the needs of your customers (or students).
1. What do you think is the future of education?
One of the questions I asked my audience of 125,000+ members on the Facebook Group was – what do you think the future of the education will be?
Most of the people voted that projects are more important than anything else. When you do a project, you are able to prove that you not only know how to do the project, but you can also execute it.
I agree with the results. It doesn’t matter if the training is offline, online, live, simulated live or hybrid. The only thing you need to grow a skill and prove that you have that skill is to do a project.
Seth Godin says the same thing in his book: Linchpin. Resumes prove what you have learned, projects prove what you can do. Certificates and graduation from well known institutions are no longer markers of execution skills.
Startups and big companies alike are looking for people who can execute. And the best way to show you can execute is to do a project. Your project is your resume.
If you want to learn digital marketing and get a job in digital marketing, start a blog, write content, do SEO, build email subscribers, build social media following and do paid ad campaigns for your own blog. You would’ve proved that you know Digital Marketing. A certificate of course completion from a digital marketing institute is probably not going to be of much value.
If you want to get a job as an iOS developer, develop an iOS app. It shows your knowledge + execution skills. People hire you for what you can execute, not what you know about. People want to get things done, and they pay for done. Not can do.
2. What do you want to do after learning online?
Continuing from the previous discussion of how important learning is, let’s look at what people want to do after learning a course online. Online courses are made up of multiple modules and each module has several lessons inside it.
If you have learned something from an online course, the best way to remember the lesson is not to refresh it after a few months, but to implement the learning so that you can see the results and remember your lesson forever.
Most of the people have voted that they want to implement what they have learned.
When you are designing online courses, the most important task is to design assignments and exercises after every lesson. When online students do an exercise after learning something, they will remember it forever.
For example, in my Google Ads course, my first exercise for my students is to create a Google Ads account and get familiar with the interface. The second assignment is to create a list of keywords that they can target their ads for. The third one is to actually create the ad. It has 10 modules in total, and by the time they complete all the assignments, they will be able to master Google Ads through implementation, and remember it forever.
Doing an assignment and validating the results go into memory harder than any type of passive learning. It goes harder into memory because there is emotion attached to it. It’s hard to get emotional reading about the top 10 Google Ads tips. However, deploying an ad campaign and watching the results has emotions attached to it.
Your implementation might have great results, or it might fail. If it gives results, you have validated that your learning was right. You remember it better. If you have failed, you will find out why it didn’t work and learn more. Your assumptions will turn into facts.
3. How do you feel after learning something new?
For any product or service to get traction, there has to be a good feeling associated with it. If you buy a new car, it makes you feel positive on so many levels (at least for the first day). When you eat good food at a restaurant, you feel happy and satisfied. It is very hard to get traction for a mass consumer product without having strong positive feelings associated with the usage of the product.
People who are into offline education and ignore online courses like to think that online education is a fad. So the important question to ask here is: do people feel positive after learning something new from an online course?
Here’s the answer…
People feel satisfied, productive and powerful (in that order) after learning something new from an online course. That’s the reason the online education industry is growing and will continue to grow for a long time to come.
There are positive feelings associated with it, and it honestly creates value without friction. People can learn from the comfort of their home, without any time wasted in travel and logistics.
4. Do you want the trainer to appear on a video?
When I create online courses, I do a hybrid video of the screen recording or the presentation slide deck, along with recording my face in the web cam. Since people are learning remotely, and do not have the trainer in person teaching them, I thought that recording my face in the web cam is a good idea.
People consuming my courses gave a feedback that the web cam video in the video is distracting and it is ok to remove it. And I wondered how many people really wanted me to be on the camera.
Surprisingly, most of them do not want to see the web cam recording of the trainers face.
They know that it is coming from a trainer they already know, look up to and respect. It’s not required that they need to see the trainer all the time.
I would now create course videos, without the web cam recording embedded in the videos. And if I do, it would probably be for a minute or two when I start the training and fade away that part of the video to focus on the content in slide decks and on the screen. A profile picture of the trainer’s face in the first slide is also a good idea.
5. How long do you want the online training videos to be?
For TV series episodes, people stick to 20 minute content with 10 minutes of ads, titles and credits. Or people stick to 45 minute episodes with 15 minutes of auxiliary content.
I’ve always wondered what is the ideal video length for online training videos. What is the attention span required for learning something as compared to watching an entertaining video?
Most of the people seem to very strongly prefer 10-15 minute videos for online courses.
Watching an online training video takes a lot more intellectual processing power than watching entertainment content. 10-15 minutes is an ideal length for engaging students through online videos.
If I am teaching something that might take 20-30 minutes, it is ideal to break up the video into two parts and deliver it in sequence.
6. Do you eat or drink while learning online?
I was wondering, if people eat or drink something while they are learning from an online course.
So I asked them this question…
People are equally divided between
- having a strict no food policy while they are learning online and
- being lenient on yourself and allowing you to eat and drink something light while learning online.
Not many people have their dinners during online courses (as it can get messy) – like trying to interact with your computer while eating! 🙂
7. Do you prefer to learn on Weekdays or Weekends?
I wanted to know if students of an online course want to learn on the weekdays, or the weekends. This helps me understand my customer from their shoes.
Surprisingly, while it might look like weekends are great for learning, people want to learn through the week, irrespective of the day.
Learning needs to be a daily habit. I like to learn something new on an everyday basis. We are in a knowledge economy, and knowledge, wisdom, data and skill are the most important assets we have.
8. What time do people learn on weekends?
People ideally like to spend 2-3 hours a day on learning something new (on average).
While it is difficult to spend time during the week, weekends can make up for it. I was wondering, at what time do people learn during the weekends. And if I am organizing an online webinar, when should I do it for maximum attendance?
Most of the students prefer Sunday morning to learn. The next best option is Saturday night (not evening). And the 3rd option that people voted for is Saturday morning (which is not much).
So the learning starts from Saturday night, and can continue later on a Sunday morning.
Students have more mind space away from work and can invest quality time in consuming in-depth content from online courses.
9. At what time do you learn on the weekdays?
Since people like to learn both on weekdays and weekends, I wanted to know their timing pattern for learning online courses.
Over weekends, people prefer learning on a Saturday night, or a Sunday morning. When do they learn on weekdays?
During weekdays, people prefer to learn mostly during 9-10 pm. After their work day is done, after their dinner (or while having their dinner).
How would you as a trainer interact with your student, if you were at his home tutoring him/her at 9pm in the evening at their home? May be, just may be, the online course content will connect better with the student, because the trainer had an idea about their learning time zones.
10. Where do you learn from when you are at your home?
I was a little bit hesitant to ask this question because it looks too personal. But any insights on how students learn from behind the screens is going to help.
I asked people where they learn from inside their home.
In a country like India, not everyone has a home office / study room. Even I don’t.
Most of the internet users in India who learn an online course from home, do it from their personal room (bedroom). Most of the bedrooms have a study desk, and that’s where they are learning from, if not relaxing on the bed (I hope).
11. How many hours per day can you invest in learning?
I was wondering, how many hours per day can people spend time on an average to learn new things?
If people are not ready to allocate enough time to learning, the future of online education might look bleak. But the results are positive…
People are ready to allocate at least 2-3 hours per day to learn something new.
The next cohort of people have said they can allocate 30 minutes to an hour, and rest of the people believe that they can allocate 1 to 1.5 hours.
People do feel that if they don’t learn something new on a daily basis, they will get out-dated with their career paths. There is a clear NEED for learning, and this demand is the foundation of the online education market.
12. Why do you prefer online courses over offline?
People like to learn from home and it is being proven by their repeated spending on online courses.
So I was wondering, why do people prefer an online course, compared to an offline course?
The number one reason why people want to learn from home is because it is convenient and there is no need to travel to an institute or a physical class room.
With most of the big cities becoming inefficient with inter-city transport systems in India, online education becomes the preferred choice so as not to waste time and energy during travel.
The next best reason for purchasing online courses is to build a library of learning resources that they can access any time. Online courses have unlimited shelf life and people can review the content whenever they want to.
13. Why do you prefer offline training?
Offline training has always been here, and always will be there. Offline education has too many advantages to become obsolete.
So I was wondering, what are the top reasons why people would still prefer offline training than online training. What are the benefits of offline training that online training misses?
The number one reason why people prefer offline training over online training is that they are able to interact with the trainer directly. They can ask questions and get answers in real time. The effectiveness of the learning you get from a trainer from a face-to-face interaction can never be replaced by online training.
The next big reason includes commitment to learn. Putting yourself in a situation where dropping out of a course half way becomes difficult. When people sign up for offline training, they commit to learn, in a specified time frame. This has a higher chance of success than online courses.
So how do we make sure that online training comes close to the effectives of offline training? Here are some ideas:
- Make it easy for people to interact with the trainer and peers. Online groups, forums and other form of online communication should be designed for seamless interaction.
- Encourage and incentize people to finish the courses they have purchased. Gamification of online education courses could be a game changer.
- Get people to remember what they have learned through implementation. Design assignments and exercises that are not too intimidating, nor too boring.
- Penalize people who do not complete the courses and drop out. Penalization can be in the form of lack of incentization for non committed students.
- Give opportunity to the students to meet the trainer and their peers, in an offline setting at least for a few times through the during of the online course. This can be done via learning groups or clubs.
14. How do you showcase your knowledge and skills?
Online learning needs an ROI.
The returns come in the form of:
- increased business efficiency and growth for entrepreneurs,
- more opportunities and higher earnings for freelancers,
- and more jobs for people looking for full time employment.
Entrepreneurs might not need to showcase their expertise. Instead they use the learning to grow their business.
However, freelancers and employees need to tell the world about what they know and what they can do. They need to showcase their thought leadership and their projects.
I asked people this…
People prefer to showcase their expertise through a personal blog. For digital marketers, having a personal blog itself is a project on digital marketing that they can showcase.
For other professionals, a personal blog can be a great tool to tell the world about what they know and what they can do. And the next best way for people to showcase their expertise is their LinkedIn profile.
Resumes are dying, and employers do not value resumes anymore. A resume is not a good way to showcase your expertise. Projects, and showcasing projects through blogs and online profiles is what gets people hired.
If you are an online education company or an online trainer, there are the following things you need to keep in mind:
- Learning via Implementation: Projects are more important than certifications and resumes. People learn better via implementation. People can showcase themselves better via implementation. So your goal is to get people to implement and learn through results. Students want that and you need to give what your students want.
- Product Experience: People feel satisfied, productive and powerful after learning online courses. It has positive feelings associated with the process and it also produces the desired results. Online learning is here to stay.
- Learning Style: People do not always want to see their trainer on video. As long as they know who is the trainer, their teaching and training is more important than the video production quality and features.
- Video Length: The ideal length of an online training video is 10-15 minutes. Anything longer than that needs to be broken into two parts or three.
- Learning Time Zones: People prefer to learn on both weekdays and weekends equally. They like to spend 2-3 hours a day learning something from online courses. On weekends, they prefer to learn on a Saturday night, or a Sunday morning. During weekdays, they prefer to learn post 9pm. They learn from their personal room or study room.
- Online Vs. Offline: People prefer online courses because it is convenient to learn from home and there are no time limits to complete the course. People prefer offline courses because they can interact with the trainer and complete the learning in a specified time.. The best way for online education to compete with offline education is to get the features from offline education, into online education, as much as possible, without removing the benefits of online education.
- Projects & Skills Display: People like to display their skills via their implemented projects through their personal blog, or their LinkedIn profile. Resumes are dead. Projects help employers evaluate, and candidates to learn better.
I hope this study helped you understand the state of online education in India.
The same results can apply to many other countries as well. Since my Facebook group is mostly made of people from India, I am being India specific here.
If you want to ask my audience some other question, you can leave it on the comments below. I will ask my audience and update this article.