Making the move to e-learning

Making The Move To E-Learning

eLearning did not spell the end of the traditional Instructor-led or classroom-based training as many might have thought a few years ago. In fact each mode has its place in training today and often the best result is obtained by using a mix. Generally, there are three aspects that should be considered in deciding when to choose online self-paced training over the traditional classroom style. Firstly, the personality type of the learners or the culture of the organisation, secondly, the type of material being trained, and finally, the business case.

Lets first look at cultural aspects:

Where is the motivation?

We all know and understand classroom training, as that was the basis of our school education. We grew up with it and therefore we feel comfortable with it. The advantages were that, for the most part, those who started the class were there at the end. As you need to be in the classroom at a particular time, with someone checking that you are there, classroom training has an inbuilt motivator. Self-paced online learning is, as the name suggests, driven by the learner, which means that there is a large degree of self-motivation required. From an organisational perspective, a motivator needs to be in place. This can be as simple as requiring the training to be completed by a specified event.

Who’s got the time?

With today’s higher pressure work environment, we all find it difficult to leave the office for a day or two to attend a training course. We have priorities that need to be taken care of. With instructor-led classes, you have to enrol in a class that fits into your schedule and you also need to add in travel time. As the preparation time is so large, we tend to extend the duration of the class so that we do more in a single sitting. Two problems arise here. Firstly, we are away from the office for significant amounts of time and secondly we expect learners to take in vast amounts of knowledge in a single sitting.

Online learning allows learners to utilise their time more effectively. This is accomplished through better targeting of the content:

* The learner does not have to complete each of the topics in the course sequentially. If a topic is not important to the learner, they can simply skip over it
* Everyone learns at a different pace. If you pick up a topic quickly, there is no need to wait for other people in the classroom to catch-up (and vice versa)
* By completing a pre-assessment, you can identify those topics that you need to focus on, and ignore the topics you passed in the pre-assessment.
* The content is available 7 days a week, 24-hours a day, so it is easier to fit into any schedule.

From a course content perspective:

Mine’s better than yours

You might remember from school that there was always a teacher that the students preferred. Why? Because they taught the same material in such a way that the class was more engaged in the content. On average those students concentrated more and ultimately achieved higher marks. This was great for those students, but what about the students in other classes? The Quality of Instructor-led training is directly related to the quality of the instructor on that particular day. Online learning provides you with a consistent experience for all learners, so this scenario does not occur.

Theory vs Practise

Self-paced training has proven more effective for imparting facts and theories. Learners can concentrate on one thing at a time and pick this up at their own pace rather than be distracted by what is going on in the classroom. In an ideal situation for training compliance, IT applications, induction or product knowledge you would want to use self-paced environment. When it comes to applying the knowledge in a variety of differing circumstances, a collaborative approach would be more useful. Technology has improved online learning’s effectiveness in this area through the use of simulations, web conferencing and web2.0 technologies such as Discussion Forums, blogs and wikis.

An Ongoing Reference

Online learning provides ‘just-in-the-nick-of-time’ training. This means that the content can be referenced at the moment of need, such as if you are currently doing some analysis – “How do I do that pivot table again”, or if you are about to do a recruitment interview “I had better freshen up on interviewing techniques”.

A Business Case Point of View

The many expenses involved with instructor facilitated learning generally make it more expensive. Let’s face it, once you add up the major costs involved – including travel, instructors and classrooms – there is a significant outlay that needs to be apportioned and offset by those in the classroom. Where there is a distributed workforce these costs become unaffordable for most.

This is where a blended approach can be used with much greater impact. Teach the theory in self-paced online learning environment, and then use discussion groups to translate the theory into practice. You therefore use the most expensive portion where it is the most useful.

The next step is to persuade senior staff members to implement and accept an e-learning program. This will require an unmistakably distinct business case. Building a list of prospective benefits is just the start. You then have to apply it to your specific business circumstances. A business case will provide a clear declaration of the business dilemma(s) and your projected resolution(s), and offer measurements of accomplishment. Essentially, it illustrates your company’s present status in opposition to the desired status, and gives your company an efficient and cost-effective way to reach its goals.

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