Friday, June 20, 2014

Is a chat facility helpful in a self-paced learning environment?

Right now, with social media trending at lightning speed everywhere, the following question might sound a bit naive at first, but do you think a Chat client is an absolute necessity in a self-paced e-learning environment?

We understand that it makes sense to have a chat ability during live virtual sessions especially if the users involved belongs to a particular company or group or are discussing a common topic. Companies already use systems like Podio, Chatter, Yammer to communicate among themselves. Does adding one more chat facility in the actual training management system add more value? Or does it create one more forum where important exchanges are lost? 

The question is would it work in self-paced customer training where total strangers might be registering for courses that they can complete at their convenience? The greatest risk here is that if customers start bad-mouthing the course material or the training in general for some reason then it could have a negative impact. And then there's the question that whether end-users would prefer chatting in a professional environment with total strangers? 

Of course, there is a more positive side to it. Constructive customer discussions can lead to an overall improvement of the training quality as well.

One thing that we know for sure is that a well working chat facility can be wonderful for customer support. Users can, at any time, chat with an Instructor or an Admin who's online at that given time to inquire about the course materials and/or other doubts relating to it. It makes life so much easier. No more waiting for emails from the contact person. 

And then there is a question when it comes to selling courses online. Would you as an end user, prefer asking the opinion of an unknown person regarding a course material before purchasing it? We do provide course related forums to encourage discussions and reviews regarding course contents. Do you think that having a one-to-one chat can add more value to it?

Implementing a chat system is not difficult. In fact, its quite common place these days. There are any number of chat system already available with APIs and other functions to integrate with. But we are unsure about the value that it provides. Anecdotal feedback shows us that chat is of limited value in a self paced learning environment unless subject matter experts have scheduled hours when they are available. But in such circumstances, a full fledged virtual session via Webex or Citrix Online makes more sense instead of a simple chat facility. 

We'd love to hear your thoughts as always.