E-learning is a means to provide consistency, save on travel costs, downtime of groups and provide options for pre-training, pre-employment, inductions, qualifications and methods for delivering information and training across geographical boundaries.
It's not a total replacement for classroom training and shouldn't be viewed as such, but it is a healthy mix and a blended approach between the two will likely be the most effective option to consider.
One of the biggest hurdles for engaging in training is the thought that employers and employees think that they are adequately trained. This common misbelief reduces our openness to change, new ideas and advantages to new skills. Another difficulty is time to get away to train and the availability of good resources.
E-learning is being seen as a faster way to upskill people as it doesn't require large groups to be effective. In fact, many people being measured after e-learning are scoring higher customer satisfaction scores than those who receive their training in a classroom setting.
An example of how e-learning has transformed the learning in one particular sector is with the contact centre industry. A little over four years ago, the national certificate in contact centre operations level 3 was made available as an on-line training option. This provided an alternative to the current workbook solution being offered in the market place.
The on-line solution allowed companies to train their staff at their own pace without having to take them off the telephones in groups to upskill them. In addition, it helped to create a level of consistency across teams and provide a fun, interactive way of learning information and applying the knowledge immediately through submissions threaded throughout the learning.
Rapid Results developed its own online solution for training call centres (icontact) and early on found some great advantages. Jade Arnott, the person responsible for the trainees at the time said: "Having been a workplace assessor before such solutions came along, I found assessments were drawn out as candidates would often find information that was not relevant to the qualification (studying IT terminology over telephony), the confusion lead to frustration and the time it took to complete the qualification was longer with re-assessment required to cover off specific performance criteria.
"It is easy to lose your way as a student as you have nothing to motivate you, there are no checkpoints along the way so you don't know how much you need to study in order to pass or if it is even relevant? When online solutions were introduced to our centre, we found the students' motivation was a lot higher, the material they were studying was relevant and, more importantly, up to date. I could see at a glance from the tutor submissions whether student understood the material and were on the right track or not and easily nip it in the bud should they be on the wrong track in their thought processes. The tutor submissions could be used as additional evidence to support our assessment decision. The group loved it and learnt a lot."
In fact, the response to this e-learning option has been such that in most cases, the staff members who undertake the qualification tend to complete it (a completion rate of over 90% by this method is registered which is double the national average). For one such organisation, now on their third group over three years has all staff still employed in their roles.
E-learning wears many faces and the experience of some users has been less than favourable. However, over the past few years, there have been some adaptations that have focused on the areas that make a much better impact. In reviewing e-learning, it's not just about the smarts - the graphics, the jazzy introductions etc. Consideration should be given into the longevity of engagement of the user.
E-learning can quickly turn into boredom with the same layouts, pages of text etc. Some people's view of e-learning is putting a text book on-line - this is simply not what is considered to be effective. There needs to be a certain amount of ‘eye candy' to keep the interest. There should also be a level of screen interactivity - which could include pop-ups, quizzes, submissions, links to other sites, flash objects, video, sound bites, activities etc. The variance and frequency of these items can really add to the valuable experience.
Perhaps the biggest area of issue when converting regular classroom training to an e-learning platform is the overlooking of the ‘narrative' that accompanies classroom training. This is what's said by the facilitator that is not printed or in the instructor guide. It's the responses to questions, the elaboration of points, the detail surrounding the principle, the discussion components. This needs to be captured and accompany the learning and be an integral part of it.
MD Rapid Results
About Derek Good
Since 1994, Derek has been in corporate General Management and is currently the Managing Director of the training and development specialists firm - Rapid Results Limited based in Auckland, New Zealand.