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On-line training

Five Myths About On-line Learning

Daniel Wurm | 12 Apr 2019

Most of the objections to using e-learning and I.T. for education are not based on evidence, but on pre-concieved ideas and prejudices. Let's consider a few of them.

1. Myth: Apprentices learn better in a traditional classroom.

There is no evidence that this is the case. Several studies have shown no difference between the learning outcomes of students in a traditional classroom environment and students who are learning on-line.(1)

In 2010, the United States Department of Education released an expansive study comparing online learning to in-person learning (classroom time); compared to a mixture of the two. What did the Department of Education find?

"Students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction. . .The effectiveness of online learning approaches appears quite broad across different content and learner types.”(2)

This study had a huge impact on government policy. After it’s results, the Department of Education spent more than $600 million on online tools, so more students could learn online.

The number one factor that determines learning outcomes is how much students are engaged by the information. A poor trainer will train poorly, and even a good trainer has bad days. Poor instructional design creates poor on-line learning experiences. But the advantage of using e-learning is that it gives the college the ability to control the quality of instruction for every single student, every single time. Engaging lessons create ideal learning conditions that enable students to learn at their own pace.

Myth busted!

2. Myth: It's easier to cheat on-line

Video response technology allows trainers to authenticate responses given by students on-line. In a classroom where answers are all written down, its easy for students to simply copy from other students. Its much harder to do that if you have to answer verbally while being filmed. Classroom training often involves group activities, but group activities mean that often by simply participating the student is being assessed on the outcome created by the group, instead of their individual work.

E-learning can use question banks for assessment. This means that students are given randomised questions; no two students will get exactly the same set of assessment questions. So they really have to learn the required knowledge.

Myth busted!

3. Myth: Apprentices prefer classroom training

In 2019 every school in Australia uses some form of on-line learning. Kids go to school armed with laptops and tablets instead of textbooks. So it makes sense to offer them the same rich learning experience when they start their apprenticeships. This is what students are saying about the Painters Institute's on-line training:

'Really enjoyed the course and enjoyed the instructional videos'

'I enjoyed this course it was informative and made easy to understand especially with video'

"I'm learning heaps, its better than TAFE'

On-line training does not replace the need for interaction with a trainer. When apprentices complain about about on-line learning, it is usually because the trainer has not given them the support they need. On-line training is supposed to give the trainer more time to provide support for student's with learning disabilities or difficulties.

If we say that a student prefers classroom training, we are saying they prefer using books and pens. I think we would be very hard pressed to find a tradie who likes paperwork. Let's get real.

Myth busted!

4. Myth: You can't learn a trade on-line

This question stems from a lack of understanding of what e-learning is. E-learning does not replace all the practical training. It primarily replaces the theory component. Learning a trade by reading about it is not an effective method. E-learning allows students to learn practical skills by watching video lessons, instead of having to read a description. By watching and then doing, the on-line student has a more realistic way of learning a practical skill.

Almost all of us have learned a new skill by simply watching a 'how-to' Youtube or Facebook video, from fixing a motor to baking a cake. The principle of learning by watching and doing is the same for laying a brick, or rolling paint on a wall. It's just a new way of learning, that, if we are really honest, we are doing every day.

In addition, many trade skills are now actually performed on-line. For example, reading plans, estimating, communicating with clients, researching products, reading manufacturer data sheets, interpreting Standard Operating Procedures, creating Safe Work Method Statements, checking Codes of Practice, using spreadsheets, banking, and checking financial reports; are all done on-line using smart-phones, tablets or laptops. It is essential that apprentices learn how to perform these skills on-line.

Myth busted!

5. Myth: On-line training is dumbing down the trade

The required practical skills for a trade are exactly the same no matter whether someone sits in a classroom listening to a teacher, or they watch a video demonstrating how to do it. The on-line student must learn and demonstrate exactly the same practical skills as the student sitting in a classroom. Therefore it cannot be claimed that on-line learning allows students to pass the course without having the same practical skills as someone who attended classroom instruction.

One of the reasons why a trades person has poor technical skills is often because of a lack of under-pinning knowledge. If we don't understand the underlying principles behind our trade and the materials we use, how can we diagnose and solve problems? Learning to think, learn and research is more important to deep learning and understanding of a trade, than simply spending more time on the tools. There are many trades people who have 30 years or more of experience on the tools, but still make the same bad choices and mistakes because they never understood the basics in the first place.

Good quality e-learning ensures that students experience deep learning and thinking skills that will help them into the future, and transferable skills that cross over into other jobs. Imagine putting the best teachers in front of every student, giving every apprentice access to the best quality lessons, every time, no matter where they live. That's the power of e-learning.

To find out more about how your staff can get better quality training using the latest technology check the National Painting and Decorating Institute's web-site.


Daniel Wurm is a qualified tradesperson and holds a Diploma in Vocational Education and Training, specialising in e-learning. He is an instructional designer for Master Painters Association Queensland, the National Painting and Decorating Institute; and has taught the painting trade using e-learning to over 200 students since 2014. In 2015 he won Trainer of the Year at the NSW Training Awards in Southern Sydney.

1.'Does E-Learning Give a Better Result than Traditional Learning?' - International Journal of Computer Science and Mobile Computing, September 2018

2. Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning - A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, U.S. Department of Education, September 2010


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