Every year, an increasing number of organizations use eLearning to deliver more of their training. As eLearning tools evolve, they continue to offer more functionality at a lower cost, making eLearning an increasingly attractive alternative – or complement – to traditional training methods.
Still, online learning (at least by itself) is not always the best option. There are times when live instructors are needed, either in person or via web meeting. Consider these seven key questions when deciding what role eLearning should play in your next training initiative.
1. What Kind of Instructional Content Am I Looking to Implement?
While eLearning has the potential to be a particularly powerful training tool, its effectiveness depends on the job you have in mind. Before deciding on a training format, it is important that you consider what skills you are training, and how you want your employees to use those skills in their jobs. The following content types work especially well with the strengths of the online training format.
Software Training and Web Applications
Software training is ideally suited for eLearning, since participants are learning in the same ‘environment’ that they will be in when practicing what they learned - at the computer. A host of online learning tools are available to produce software simulations, and most offer the ability to:
- Tell the learners how to use the software, and how it supports their organization’s business.
- Show learners software functions through a series of recorded mouse movements, data entries, and more.
- Try the software by performing prescribed tasks such as searches, basic navigation, and data entry. Feedback can be provided to guide the learner as he or she performs the tasks.
Certification and Compliance Training
Because it can be updated frequently and managed at a single source, eLearning ensures consistency of messaging across multiple business units, geographies, or departments. In addition, quiz and testing functions in eLearning modules let you gauge learning comprehension, test participants as they work toward certification, and provide an audit trail to demonstrate compliance.
Company Policy and Procedure Training
Like certification and compliance training, policies and procedures can change frequently – making it important to manage this content carefully at a single source. This consistency can help your company gain operational efficiency by standardizing processes and ensuring compliance across broad employee populations.
Basic soft skills, such as sales processes, product knowledge, and quality standards, can all be taught using eLearning. Generally, eLearning for these skills is best used as part of a comprehensive blended learning program.
2. How Many Employees Need To Be Trained? How Quickly?
eLearning provides the greatest ROI when used in situations where large numbers of employees need to be trained — especially if that training must be completed quickly. By contrast, the problems inherent in classroom training balloon as the number of trainees increases. The need to coordinate schedules, find suitable training environments, and provide trainers are headaches that can diminish both the effectiveness and the timeliness of any large-scale classroom training endeavor.
Travel costs can be all but eliminated.
While classroom training programs often require a significant amount of travel - both for trainers and trainees - online learning by its very nature is travel-free. All that's needed is an internet connection.
Training is more consistent from location to location.
eLearning can eliminate the variance in content delivery that is common when multiple instructors are employed to deliver training over a broad geographic spectrum. Different instructors tend to highlight different points based on their own experience. Unless they are heavily scripted, this creates inconsistent training experiences among your learners. eLearning provides consistency and ensures that your learners are sharing a common training experience with a consistent message being delivered.
3. What is the Geographic Distribution of the Trainees?
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.
A widely disbursed workforce can be a major hassle for training managers, and one for which classroom training is especially poorly suited. eLearning provides a solution that can provide significant cost savings, while delivering a more uniform and predictable training result.
1. eLearning courses can be accessed any time, from any location, allowing employees to take training when and where it works best with their schedules.
With fewer hassles and more freedom, employees are able to stay up-to-date more easily, and are more engaged in what they are learning, leading to more successful training. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found that eLearning courses “on average produce stronger student learning outcomes than classes with solely face-to-face instruction.”
2. eLearning allows the trainees to learn at their own pace, increasing understanding of the material and speeding the process.
In classroom settings, learning moves at the pace of the instructor, which can easily vary between too fast and too slow. Allowing learners to control the speed of training gives them the ability to take the time to review lessons that are more difficult, while skipping through parts that are too easy. The result is a workforce that is better trained—and at a quicker pace.
4. What Sort of Technology Investment Will I Need To Make?
Since implementing eLearning generally means implementing new technology, it’s natural to be concerned about the cost to your organization. Today’s eLearning development choices are numerous and vary in both scope and price, offering a solution to complement nearly any budget, timeframe, and legacy infrastructure.
Here’s a look at two options for eLearning development:
If you prefer to design and develop your eLearning in-house, you'll need to invest in a rapid authoring tools, such as Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline. Look for a tool with an intuitive, easy-to-use graphical interface and the ability to edit collaboratively online.
For more ambitious training projects, such as those meant to train a large number of employees over many years, engaging an eLearning development company to design a custom-made solution is a good idea. A purpose-built eLearning framework provides greater flexibility in the design of the user interface, and is not bound by the relatively small number of packaged interactions that come with off-the-shelf tools. The result is a more professional look to your project, and a greatly expanded range of learning experiences.
You'll also need a place from which to store and deliver your eLearning. This is called a Learning Management System, or LMS. There are multiple learning management system's available, each with it's own benefits and constraints. Learn more about how to choose one here.
5. Can eLearning Be Used in Conjunction With the Classroom Training We Currently Use?
One of the most useful aspects of eLearning for organizations looking to expand their training is that it doesn't require you to completely revamp your legacy training system if you don’t wish to. Instead, eLearning can complement classroom training, giving you a blended learning approach that is often more effective than either alone.
eLearning Can Be Used To “Train the Trainer”
If you have a well-established system of corporate trainers but are looking for an easier and cheaper way to bring them up to speed on curriculum changes, eLearning provides an excellent solution. Easily updateable, an eLearning “lesson-book” can be all you need to reduce delays—and costs—when introducing new information to your instructors.
eLearning Can Enhance The Value Of Classroom Learning By Providing Follow-Up Tools and Assessments
Inevitably, employees are going to have questions about what they’re learning, and not all of those questions will come in the classroom. eLearning be used as performance support after instructor led training to measure the success of your training program via knowledge checks, and identify subjects that need to be reviewed.
6. Am I Prepared to Make eLearning a Success?
As with any new business process, successfully weaving eLearning into your company’s cultural fabric depends heavily on support and encouragement at the management level.
Make sure your employees are aware of the program, and of the importance the company has attached to it.
It sounds obvious, but without reminders, it’s easy for online training to get lost in the daily shuffle. Awareness can be achieved not only through active measures, such as email reminders, but also by making the course access point obvious and easy to use. Putting a portal on your company web page is a great way to start.
The most successful eLearning courses embrace informal learning.
Getting the most out of eLearning means encouraging learning outside of the formal courses themselves. Studies conducted by the U.S. Dept of Labor have shown that approximately 70% of all on-the- job learning is done informally, through employee-driven initiative. The use of wikis, blogs, electronic performance support systems (EPSS) and other informal learning tools can dramatically increase the effectiveness of the eLearning process, and ensure that training is retained. In today’s business world, simply acknowledging learning outside of the box can pay dramatic dividends.
7. The Bottom Line: How Can I Assess the eLearning ROI?
In a world of tightened budgets and continual cost-cutting drives, new systems need to prove their own worth. While there are some easy to measure hard-cost savings associated with eLearning (like less travel, fewer trainers, less work-interruption, etc.), the greatest benefit often comes from soft- savings. Unfortunately, measuring just exactly how much you’re saving can be tricky. Here are a few suggestions:
Start by figuring out what your company’s definition of “success” is when it comes to training.
As with any tool, eLearning’s value comes from what you do with it, and measuring that value requires you to have a concrete goal. By working with project stakeholders in advance to identify obstacles and establish an overall vision, assessing and quantifying results becomes far simpler.
Identify the soft-savings you’re trying to measure.
As discussed earlier, eLearning often provides improvements for employees in terms of shorter training times, improved training retention, consistency of training, and increased employee satisfaction. Identifying these and other possible benefits, and setting values to them, will allow you to better gauge how your course is stacking up
Assess your eLearning system’s effectiveness through a controlled test.
Try providing one group of employees with instructor led training, and another with an eLearning program. When the training is over, test all participants on their ability to perform the tasks covered in both courses, and assess training time, effect on productivity, satisfaction with the training, etc. The results will give you a measurable basis upon which to analyze your ROI, and can be coupled to the hard-cost savings for a full picture of eLearning’s bottom line.
There will always be a place and 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.