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E-learning. It’s no longer a new or novel medium. Organizations large and small have implemented e-learning and reaped the benefits, from both the business perspective and the employee perspective. However, if you are new to the term e-learning, or are weighing the benefits of this medium over other modes of training, then read on. This article offers some insights on the advantages offered naturally by e-learning, and others that have the possibility to be realized.
First, the natural benefits. E-learning has several clear advantages over face-to-face or other synchronous modes of learning. To start with:
No more hassles arranging for people to travel to the same location. Not to mention the productivity lost by time away from the desk.
E-learning is truly “anytime, anywhere”, and allows learners the opportunity to learn at their own pace, not just when they are locked in a classroom together with other participants. If they don’t understand something, they can simply revisit that portion again, without feeling that they are disrupting others in the class. And, forgot something after the training is done? No problem. It’s easy to go back to the course as many times as required, without the risk of ridicule or embarrassment.
Have a new code of conduct course that needs to be rolled out to 2,000 employees? No problem. Just develop the e-learning course and roll it out.
The entire service team of 500 needs to be familiarized with the new compliance policies within a month’s time? Again, e-learning is the answer.
It doesn’t matter how many employees are to be trained, and in what time frame. In fact, the more employees there are, the better the advantages of e-learning. No need to wait and check everyone’s availability to schedule 20 batches of training. All you need to do is deploy the e-learning course and send a message out to all employees to take it within a specified time frame. And, just sit back and watch the results!
Let’s say you launched an e-learning induction program four months ago. Now, a restructuring of the factory setup requires you to update the course and inform all employees (old and new) about the change.
Because the course is in the e-learning format, all you need to do is to make the updates to it, re-upload to your server, and inform all employees to go through the changes. No e-learning, on the other hand, would have meant clubbing employees into batches, and calling them into classrooms to convey the changes.
There is no argument over this one. The massive repetitive cost of bringing a bunch of people together at the same time far exceeds the one-time investment that goes into the creation of an e-learning module.
Let’s say the design and development of e-learning costs 20 times that of the design and development of instructor-led training. So, if as an example we consider that e-learning costs Rs. 100 to create, and instructor-led cost Rs. 5 to create, then the initial investment for e-learning is way too high.
However, continuing the same example, let’s say that each batch (of 15 employees to be trained) costs Rs. 10 (including airfare, accommodation, food, venue and other expenses). If there are a total of about 400 employees to be trained, it needs to be done in about 27 batches. So now the total cost of instructor-led training has come to Rs. 275, way higher than the initial cost of designing and developing e-learning.
No more worrying about whether trainers are getting the right messages across to employees. The entire content is reviewed and approved in an e-learning course, which means that anyone who goes through it will get the exact same message.
Having talked about the clear benefits of e-learning over other, more traditional modes of training, there are other advantages that e-learning can bring to an organization too. Note that I’m saying “e-learning can bring”. This is because it depends on how well the e-learning course is designed, whether it has taken into organizational goals and learner interests, the context in which employees learn, their key challenges and frustrations, etc.
These benefits could include the following:
Learner engagement is one of the hottest topics being discussed in the learning industry today.
It is certainly possible for a good trainer to capture and retain the interest of participants during an entire session. However, the dependency on the “good” trainer is too high. What if just a handful of trainers are superlative, while the rest are just average. You can’t just leave such things to chance.
While e-learning as a format doesn’t automatically guarantee better learner engagement, it does offer many possibilities to do that. For instance, the use of different types of media – including text, visuals, animations, audio, video, interactivities, and more. When used well, these can offer highly engaging experiences for learners.
Adaptive, personalized learning is a relatively unexplored idea in the industry, but it offers great potential for organizations and employees.
Imagine learning that adapts itself to learners’ current knowledge and preferences. If a learner does really well in an assessment on a topic, the system will automatically detect that and suggest topics which are at the next level to this one. Or, if the learner is struggling with a concept, the system will intuitively recognize that, and suggest resources they can check to bring themselves up to speed on the topic.
Even if these sound a little far-fetched, let’s say you have scores of newbies in your organization, while just a handful of employees have some of prior experience. These experienced employees would get bored if they had to sit through a class training everyone on the same curriculum. E-Learning can very easily address this, wherein the experienced employees can simply skip the modules that cover content they are already familiar with.
At the very minimum, all Learning Management Systems (LMS) offer the option to track whether each learner has completed a course, how far the learner has progressed within the course, what is their score (if there is an assessment), etc.
However, e-learning offers the potential to go far beyond. With sufficient planning and some good technology, it is possible to create custom reports that chart out learning behavior, or provide insights on which sections of a course are too easy or too difficult, and so on.
The days of learning-once-and-remembering-forever are gone. There is no need for employees to memorize a complex 12-step process before even starting to work on Step 1, if the steps are independent of each other. They can go through a short course on Step 1, go back to work and implement it. After they’ve mastered Step 1, they can proceed to learn Step 2, and so on. This is made possible with e-learning. With no logistical constraints to worry about, organizations are free to split up a course into tiny modules, making them easily digestible, and also allowing them to be accessed in the moment of need.
As mentioned before, e-learning as a medium offers several possibilities, but its effectiveness lies in how well the course is designed.
About the Author
Srividya Kumar is Co-founder at Learnnovators, where she heads the content development and delivery team. She has over 20 years of experience helping clients (both Fortune 500 companies and small enterprises) design and implement business specific learning initiatives, by bridging the gap between organizational goals and learner interests.