The Secret for Online Learning that Works

The Secret for Online Learning that Works

November 30, 2016 | By: Dr. Dovi Weiss & Ido Azriel

For two decades now Online Learning has been growing in popularity.

Yet, major learning events like acquiring a new profession, obtaining a significant skill certificate, or simply learning something meaningful  are in most cases still face-to-face offline experiences; and when they do happen online, the stats are not happy (see below).

We set out to discover why and we think we are on to something BIG – something that has the potential to improve learning outcomes, and no less importantly – to boost business results.

Online Learning

We spend long hours, every day, online. We communicate, we read, we shop, we play – we practically live online. I personally (Ido) found the love of my life online – or she found me, but that's for another post :)

In 2016 online is our default channel to look for something, or to bridge any information gap. And so it has become natural to also learn online. and are great examples of learning innovation.

Self-learning, Distance Education, Digital Corporate Training - or e-learning - all are different names for online knowledge acquisition. They all break the oldest inefficiencies in global education:

  • For the learner - it's personalized. Learn anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Choose what you learn, spend time on what you find important, skip the known or the boring.
  • For the business / institution - it's limitless in scale. The overall cost for an online program is reasonable, and the marginal cost for an additional student is 0. You can now approach audiences you could never access before.

So... Where's the Catch?

Oh, there is one catch.

Drop-out rates from online programs are high. Numbers vary from 35% churn to 54% for online courses and higher than 90% for MOOCs. When we started to work with a South American partner, they reported a staggering 60% drop-out rate from their flagship vocational training programs.

Moreover, completion of online programs doesn't necessarily mean success, as described in this report: in some cases is higher than 60%.

A dropped-out or failed student may cancel his or her subscription to the online service, is unlikely to take another online course provided by the same vendor, and has definitely not acquired the intended information he or  she needed, nor the information the boss expected would be acquired (in the case of corporate training).

So more than a learning gap, you now have a gap in how your business operates.

Is Online Learning Doomed?

Not at all !

When looking for factors that increase student retention rates we find the following:

  • Quality of content
  • Sense of belonging to a learning community
  • Peer support
  • Communication with instructor & level of interaction

Sources: Factors Associated With Student Persistence in an Online Program of Study: A Review of the Literature / Carolyn Hart; Factors Related to E-learner Dropout: Case Study of IUST Elearning Center Rostaminezhad, M.A, Mozayani, N, Norozi, D, Iziy, M.

That's interesting. Loneliness, lack of collaboration, and lack of communication were not significant drop-out factors in the "old" face-to-face learning world. These are 'new problems' that did not exist in the face-to-face classroom model.

Bridging the Online Gaps – Observing Face-to-Face Learning

So we went back to the origins and we observed the physical classroom model in search of the factors that keep loneliness low and commitment high.

Based on the social-constructivism theory, a leading learning theory of the past 20 years, effective learning is achieved by combining three elements:

  • The learner should be active in constructing his or her own knowledge
  • The learner should interact with peers and the instructor
  • The instructor should be an active facilitator and function as a “Guide on the side and not sage on the stage”.

As Vygotsky showed, social interaction plays a major role in the learning process. The ability of the learner to express himself verbally is essential to knowledge construction. By expressing and hearing themselves, learners fine tune their understanding.

In a classic implementation of a social-constructivist classroom, the instructor plays a major role as a learning facilitator by combining guidance and authority – two key factors for an effective learning environment.

The thing is that excellent implementations of the classroom learning model are relatively rare. Mainly due to the fact that excellent conditions for classroom learning (solid teachers, modern environment, small class size – all in proximity to each other) are hard to find and expensive to duplicate.

Caught in a Loop?

So here is the global dilemma that learners, businesses, and learning institutions are facing.

To allow scalability and personalized-learning - you have got to go online.


Online learning fundamentally lacks key factors of effective learning, factors that exist in the non-scalable physical classroom model.

Can a third learning model that combines the best merits of the two worlds be created?

We have decided to take up the challenge !

Introducing Echo (The Secret for Online Learning that Works)

We established a team of global experts who explored and implemented a hybrid learning concept - that maintains existing online values (personalization & unlimited scale) and boosts the levels of commitment and social belonging – by borrowing concepts from the physical classroom.

And today we’re launching Echo – a solution for large-scale effective learning.

Echo comprises a set of tools that can plug into  any learning environments. Its underlying principles combine the pillars of effective learning with best-practices for scalable software platforms.

Pillars of effective learning that are implemented in Echo:

1) Social impact – sense of belonging
Community of learners that share the same experience and function as "classmates" in a large-scale program:

  • Discussion in Context – learners can ask their colleagues for assistance from within the content - No need to go elsewhere (LMS etc). Comments are shared and can be rated, serving as a priority mechanism for instructional supervisors.
  • Social Benchmark – each learner sees how he/ she compared with the group average, at each single point
  • One-click interaction – chat and video tools to interact immediately with a peer for prompt support

2) Insights & Coaching
Data-driven insights for supervisors, trainers, and instructors for immediate and effective intervention.
Echo is designed for a ratio of 1 supervisor to 100's of learners, keeping the operation very lean.

  • Drop-out risk & low performance alerts – push notifications to notify about reduced usage, content incompletion, and performance that is trending down
  • Learners dashboard & watch-list - quick performance analysis of at-risk students
  • Active intervention – cost-effective tools for supervisors to assist students, including: quick hint, request to redo pages or chapters, personalized quiz to guarantee comprehension

3) Active learning

  • Immerse learners in interactive experiences that keep them focused.
  • Simple content editing tools for enriching existing documents with interactive questions, or generating new content from scratch. These interactive questions provide immediate feedback and guidance to the learner.


Ed Tech software best-practices that are implemented in Echo:

4) Mobile-first
Device, platform, OS, and browser agnostic. User experience optimized for smartphones.

5) Interoperability
Easy-to-integrate environment that fits seamlessly into your learning platform.

6) Modularity
Pick & choose approach, allowing you to choose the components that bring you the highest value.


So... That's Echo.

We'd love to hear what you think. Don’t be shy, and share your comments below.

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