We know that taking a printed document or workbook and plunking it online does not make a good online course. Instead, it makes for a poor experience.
It follows then, that taking an online course and trying to print it is much the same. A poor experience.
We really do not want anyone to have that poor experience and think it's representative of an iQualify course, so we don't offer the option to print.
Why we're not keen on printing...
When you print a course you lose a lot of it, that's the general gist of why, but below are a few more details we can add to our rationale.
You can't print video
Yup, any video content is now lost.
You can't interact with people in the same way
Say goodbye to in-page discussions, talk channels and social notes.
You can't interact with tasks in the same way
Our tasks are interactive. For most of them, completing them on paper is just not the same as completing them online. More often than not, it's a worse experience. Think about the difference when you can see how you're ranking a list of items online than putting a number beside them.
No one sees what you do
No more tracking or feedback. If you're doing those tasks on paper or even just reading printed pages, you're not clicking through, you're not submitting answers in the system. That means no one can see where you're up to or how you're going. Your work isn't being marked and you're not getting feedback.
You lose sense of navigation/hierarchy
When you try to print an online course, you don't get a sense of the hierachy in the same way. You can't flick through to a different page easily. It's a search to try find which printed page that heading you're looking for is on.
You can't search a printed document
Related to the above, you can't search a printed document for keywords. Want to find that one time the content talked about "boost-thrusters"? Good luck.
It's not accessible
iQualify is accessible by default, you can easily use a screenreader, zoom in for large font, change the contrast of your screen, turn up the volume or include any host of add-ons that can help you personalise your experience to what you need. Print is not accessible by default, a special version has to be created for each case, or you as a user just put up with something that's more difficult for you to use.
It's quickly out-of-date
What's that? There's been an update to your course? A correction. Well, your printed version doesn't have it.
You've just seen something that relates to your course while you're working, but your printed copy is at home. You make a note to make a note when you get home. Or... you whip out your phone and add a note or complete that task right now. When it's a physical copy, you can only add to it when it's physically with you. When it's online you can access wherever there's a connection.
It gets damaged and lost
That print out might not survive the 5th coffee spill, but your online course will (even if your laptop doesn't). You'll also still be able to access your course if you leave your device on the bus, but not anything printed.
It's less secure
Sharing your answers or details isn't particularly secure when it's on paper. You won't necessarily know who has seen your work, grades or contact details.
Won't somebody think of the environment?
Increasingly consumers and organisations are more focused on sustainability. Printing isn't the most Earth-friendly option going.
What's the solution?
We can see in some specific instances that doing things on paper, on a whiteboard, might be the way your learners or facilitators want to do things. Okay. Makes sense. But make those things work for offline and integrate them into the online so your users have a record of what they've done. Our advice is to analyse what your users want to print, what, when and why.
Do they want to print just because it's the way they've always done it?
Find a way to make the online version better than the offline and prove to them it's better this way.
Do they want to print because their connectivity isn't great?
They could try this offline option. But if this is the majority of your learners or facilitators, you might need to think about whether online is for you.
Do they want to print to hand-mark?
Just the facilitators that want to hand-mark could print the submission. But be careful about whether you're preferencing facilitator convenience over learner convenience.
Do they want to print for moderation?
Do they need to heavily analyse and annotate a piece of complex information or diagram?
Just make that part printable. Then give them a way to get it back into the system (e.g. with a file upload task).
Note: We're not talking about printing because they want to highlight, that's been shown to be not particularly useful for learning.
That an online course and trying to print it is a poor experience. Instead, interrogate why you want to print certain things and solve that problem.