Linear learning is an educational approach which involves pedagogical strategies concerning program-centeredness (directed, conducted, controlled, guided by the study program) and linear formats. It stands in opposition to flexible learning.
A linear learning format implies that to be able to, for example, learn the content of module C, one is required to have mastered (through evaluation processes) the content of module A and B. In a linear learning environment this format follows a predetermined line where the content is delivered with none or little flexibility for participants. There is a long discussion on the efficiency of linear learning.
It would be cool if every course we build was highly interactive with decision-making branches. But the reality is that not all elearning courses need to be that way.
Despite the complaints we hear about linear, click-and-read courses, there are plenty of times when linear is the best solution. This isn’t a defense of bad elearning (that often is linear). Instead it’s an acknowledgement that there’s a place for linear content.
Instead of injecting our personal views on what elearning should be, we need to focus on the type of course that is most appropriate for the organization’s goals. Whether the course is linear or interactive it’s merely a solution. So we need to step away from the solution, determine our objectives, and then select the best solution. If we do that, we’ll find that there are plenty of times when a linear course is preferred over a more interactive one.
Learning is Bigger than E-Learning
A couple of the benefits of elearning are consistent delivery of content and compression of time to deliver it. That means that even if the course isn’t highly interactive it can still offer some value to the organization.
For example, there are often training initiatives that require some face-to-face sessions and peer interaction. That’s something that elearning can’t always do effectively. But they can help make the face-to-face time more efficient.
- Compressed time to deliver content. Classroom sessions often have delayed start times and they can be side-tracked by other discussions. It’s often possible to compress a one hour classroom session to a 20 minute online module because there’s better control of the content and distractions.
- Learner flexibility. People are able to take the modules at their convenience and speed. So it doesn’t disrupt their work schedule or production as much.
- Consistent delivery of information. Each facilitator is different and each class has its own pacing. Many times we’ll spend 80% of the time going through 50% of the content. And then we’ll notice the time’s almost up and quickly skim through the last 50%. An elearning course can assure that at least the delivery and access to the content for each learner is consistent.