I was asked recently to define situations where eLearning development might be a smart management decision over the same course in an instructor-led training (ILT) format. There is a tremendous amount of information available about the advantages of eLearning as a delivery method, but there is not a whole lot devoted to this particular question.
I decided to poll some of my colleagues to get their take on this question. I've compiled their responses along with my own thoughts and I hope you find them helpful if you are considering developing eLearning for your employees.
When Is eLearning Devlopment a Smart Management Decision?
1. Your audience is geographically diverse.
In this situation, your audience of learners may be scattered across multiple locations and those locations may even cover multiple states or countries. When you have a geographically diverse audience and are committed to instructor-led training exclusively, you are stuck with two choices: bring the instructor to the learners or bring the learners to the instructor. Both choices come loaded with a whole bucket of potential scheduling issues that may result in your learners not getting the training they need, when they need it. On the other hand, eLearning does not require either the learner or the instructor to travel and eLearning can be done when and where it is needed.
2. You or your audience have time constraints.
Perhaps your learners can't wait for the next scheduled instructor-led training in two months or perhaps coverage is a problem and you can't afford to have your learners in a classroom for 3 straight days. eLearning is a smart decision in this case for a couple of reasons. First, a standard eLearning training course can be started immediately, there is no need to wait for the next scheduled class. Second, eLearning can be much more easily "chunked," allowing the learner to complete 1 hour or 1 module per day or per week rather than an entire training course in one sitting. Evidence also supports that information retention rates may be higher when training is delivered in smaller bites.
3. Cost of Production Loss
Instructor-led training costs can be extremely high, especially if travel over multiple days is involved. Even if your learners and instructors are co-located and travel is not necessary, the cost of having your learners and instructor occupied doing something other than working for an extended time can be high. eLearning removes many of those costs and allows learning to take place as and when business conditions allow.
4. Your learners need flexibility.
Instructor-led training is very linear by nature and the instructor has complete control of the material covered, how much time is spent on each topic, and the classroom logistics. eLearning development provides a level of flexibility that allows learners to proceed at their own pace, going back to material they are having trouble with, or spending less time on material that is familiar. In addition, eLearning can allow you to use either a "flipped classroom" or a blended learning approach to supplement what is delivered in the eLearning with classroom instruction or hands-on practice.
5. Your instructor-led training is inconsistent.
I've seen many situations where several instructors were tasked with teaching the same course. Unless the instructors are heavily controlled by using scripts, which is not often done, invariably this creates inconsistent training experiences among your learners. Different instructors tend to highlight different points based on their own experience. It just happens. eLearning provides consistency and ensures that your learners are sharing a common training experience with a consistent message being delivered.
I do believe there will always be a place and a need for instructor-led training. Nothing in the digital world can truly replace the adaptive give and take afforded by the classroom. But, there are many opportunities for smart managers to leverage eLearning in order to save time and money while still getting your learners the quality training they need.