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Quality Journalism in the Digital Age

Venturing into e-learning for journalists? 7 questions to ask before you do


Photo: DPA

E-learning is a major educational trend and can enhance vocational training for media professionals, too. But there are several questions you need to ask yourself before going ahead and setting up e-learning modules.

Journalist and journalism training expert Werner Eggert has successfully experimented with new e-learning tools and implemented blended-learning courses for media professionals for years. He shares his knowledge with onMedia.

1. Do you understand the benefits of e-learning for your participants?
If you want to start an e-learning course, or add some e-learning elements to face-to-face-courses, ask yourself what real value these add to your existing offerings. Obviously, advantages to e-learning include allowing participants to study anywhere and anytime.  Journalists can benefit especially when it comes to advanced vocational training and professional development because they can combine their duties at work with their desire to improve their knowledge and skills. Also, they can go back and revisit content they’ve already covered before to get a refresher. You need to really think about the benefits of e-learning for participants in your part of the world. Make a list!

2. Do you want a pure e-learning course? 
There are many experiments going on with so-called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) but many of them suffer from high drop-out rates with only few participants going on to complete the whole course. The problem is that pure online courses have a hard time creating real interactivity with their students: there is little communication between the trainers and the trainees and almost no communication among the trainees. That hampers the learning experience. In short: so far we haven’t really managed to transfer well-proven training methods and successful pedagogical methods from the offline to the online world.

3. Have you considered how you’ll support interactivity?
It’s standard knowledge in the training world that online courses work better if they are very interactive. It’s important to allow for discussions between teachers and participants, and it’s even more important to create opportunities for participants to discuss things among themselves. Interactivity helps trainees understand what’s being taught. It also supports a positive atmosphere in the online classroom – the more the trainees are involved with each other, the more fun they’ll have. Interactivity is probably the most important ingredient for a successful e-learning course and for keeping learners on board. Course creators should never forget that in the online world, the exit is only one click away.

4. Have you thought about the benefits of blended-learning courses?
Blended learning (sometimes also called hybrid learning) combines face-to-face instruction with phases of e-learning – and thus has the benefits of both the online and offline worlds (you can read more about blended learning here). Very often, new knowledge and skills are still best taught using face-to-face seminars, in which there’s a interactive learning atmosphere between trainers and learners marked by trust. That trust and mutual respect can be transferred to the e-learning phase. Professional trainings regularly consist of input given by the trainer followed by practical exercises. And it often makes sense for trainees do these exercises online. They can not only complete them in their own time, but they can also do the exercises at their workplace and transfer the new skills directly there.

5. Do you have the right trainers for a blended-learning approach?
An important feature of any e-learning approach is feedback and quality is absolutely essential. Trainers must deliver feedback sensitively, precisely and honestly. Such care is especially important online because the trainers often cannot react to participants on the spot. In addition, a high level of sensitivity is required, particularly when the feedback is visible to all course participants.

E-learning on computer


6. How well do you know the technical side of the e-learning platform?
This is actually less important than you might think –  although you will definitely need an understanding of the technology involved if you set up a professional e-learning course. That’s because successful e-learning depends less on the specifics of the digital platform than on whether trainers want to use the platform and understand how to do so. If the trainers approach e-learning only half-heartedly because they just see the online platform as an annoying extra step, participants won’t fully engage – no matter how fantastic the platform is.

7. Are you setting up an e-learning course just to save money?
E-learning requires instructors to put in a lot of effort and hours of work. This requires time and, of course, money. If either is in short supply in blended-learning courses, the material learned in face-to-face seminars will not be deepened in any meaningful way online. Therefore, blended-learning courses don’t cost less than conventional ones. The advantage is that they can often be more effective.


Useful gadgets for journalism trainers
Must-read research papers for journalism trainers


Werner’s article about the importance of online follow-up after face-to-face journalism training is also a must-read.

Werner Eggert is the founder and director of the non-profit Interlink Academy for International Dialog and Journalism. He has more than 20 years of experience working as a advisor and trainer in the media development sector. Recently he has developed and implemented blended-learning projects for DW Akademie and the Bertelsmann Group. You can contact Werner on

Written by Werner Eggert, edited by Kate Hairsine


Monday 2015-01-26