The world has changed in many ways since Covid-19. The business and education spheres especially have had to make huge adjustments to find ways to exist in this new environment. And one of the biggest transitions has come from the need to stay connected whilst maintaining distance.
E-learning was growing in adoption and popularity before the arrival of the pandemic, however Covid-19 effectively compelled companies to experiment with e-learning platforms. People and organisations that had previously dismissed eLearning or simply had not had the time to adopt it were catapulted into a world where the need to continue training and employee development continued and therefore had to be done online. As a result, businesses of all sizes and shapes discovered some of the complexities and challenges, but also the incredible value and efficiency that online learning brings. In this article, we will talk about the benefits and disadvantages of e-learning, whether it’s as effective as traditional learning styles, and how companies are using e-learning methods.
How Effective is E-learning in the workplace?
E-learning (or eLearning) is when companies use digital, online or electronic resources to induct, train, coach, develop and/or upskill their workforce either through structured or unstructured processes. With e-learning applications, video-conferencing solutions, learning management systems and even intranets, companies can train employees virtually from anywhere and on a multitude of devices. The incredible flexibility of e-learning programs enables businesses to reap huge rewards when using this training method either alone or in combination with traditional training methods.
The majority of businesses will want to know if something works before going on the journey of implementing it. So, here are a few stats to satisfy those needing to show a direct ROI.
Studies show that eLearning methods increase productivity by 20% (when implemented correctly). e-Learning reduces the learning curve, allowing employees to complete coursework faster and removes the extraneous things that usually interrupt or slow down the learning experience in a traditional format. Consider that in a classroom environment, if a person asks a question, the facilitator stops in order to explain a concept in more detail or via an alternative method. Toilet breaks, lunch breaks, facilitators getting distracted and going off topic, all contribute to the length of time a typical in person training session takes. We typically advise clients that when converting face to face classroom training to online delivery it takes one-third (1/3) less of the time to deliver the same information.
Research has also shown that providing employees access to eLearning opportunities results in increased employee morale by a measure of 18%. Employees who have access to flexible learning and training initiatives are happier and more engaged in their workspace. In other words, your people are asking for this in some way, shape or form.
In a project that Optivly completed for one of our clients, an external report was commissioned where KPMG was tasked with calculating the ROI on the eLearning course that we built. Interestingly, the client submitted 5 different projects for ROI calculation with the lowest return being 2/1 and the highest being 14/1 – that is, for every $1 invested the client received $14 in value returned. The Optivly eLearning project was the one that delivered the 14/1 result.
How is E-learning Used in Companies?
One of the first inductions into online learning that many companies will now have is using Zoom and Teams to provide eLearning albeit not always in a structured manner. When a manager communicates with an individual employee or their team over Teams or Zoom and provides some instructions or advice or demonstrations a technique or a model or provides ideas and feedback – this is all a component of teaching and developing the individual or the team.
The new generation of workers wants e-learning platforms included as part of their training programs. 58% of employees in a recent survey, stated that they prefer the ability to complete training at their own pace and on their schedule.
We are seeing some firms getting in to Virtual Reality to help improve the way that they deliver induction training. There are a range of VR development options that do not necessarily cost as much as you think. For example, you can use 360 cameras to capture a range of rooms around your company or indeed an entire production facility, warehouse, mine site! Once you have these assets, there are tools that allow you to stitch these together and then embed training objects enabling a virtual walk-through and some key training to take place before people even arrive onsite!
Challenging the SCORM paradigm
At Optivly, we are on a mission to improve eLearning. In our view, too often, eLearning is not done correctly or in a rush or without an understanding of what is needed to produce a good result. This invariably produces a learning experience which results in the learner being disengaged and then works against the company as it creates an impression that eLearning is boring and uninspiring. This in turn makes it harder to ‘get’ employees to attempt other eLearning programs.
Our belief is that eLearning does not just consist of a typical SCORM object with a click, next, click, next format, the occasional image or video or clicky interaction. Where possible, we try and pull the experience out of a simple SCORM approach.
We believe that really good eLearning starts with. a. new. design. each. time. A learning design that worked once, for one audience is not necessarily suitable for another audience. For example, normally, we would advise against producing something that is text-heavy. For a lot of people, the challenge of wading through a lot of text is something that they would prefer to avoid (in fact, a lot of people wouldn’t still be reading at this point and if you have made it this far, I applaud your commitment [insert polite golf clap here]. Ok what was I talking about…?). However, for one of our recent clients – a science based organisation – they had…. well….. scientists who liked to read. That was their jam. So the learning design for this particular experience consisted of a Learner Guide which distilled the critical components of project management (the topic) down into concise, accurate and workplace relevant information supported by interactive models where appropriate. We did not even use an LMS in this case. For this client, we designed the learning experience to be hosted directly in their SharePoint which is a place they interact with and visit multiple times a day. This meant that the information was directly in front of them and immensely practical.
What Are the Advantages of E-Learning in Business?
|Learn Anytime from Anywhere|
|The versatility of eLearning is one of the biggest draws for both companies and employees. Instead of employees gathering in a classroom for an extended amount of time, eLearning allows employees to take lessons from anywhere, including in the comfort of their own homes. eLearning is also self-paced, which has been proven to increase knowledge retention, increase employee engagement, and lessen the learning curve.|
|Allows for Microlearning|
|Microlearning refers to breaking lessons into smaller segments. Studies show that microlearning increases the retention rate of knowledge and skills learned. eLearning allows employees to use microlearning strategies by letting them choose smaller, more targeted courses and break up the amount of time needed to focus on training|
|Reduced Learning Times|
|Research shows that employees who use eLearning methods complete training faster than they would in a one-on-one or classroom setting. This increases productivity for companies because employees learn faster and can more quickly become fully trained workers.|
|Easy to Update|
|Materials need to be designed, created, printed, and distributed. Every time something changes or updates to the material are required, it renders the current material useless, forcing companies to pay the costs to create new materials. With eLearning, updating training materials is far more rapid and can be almost instantaneously released.|
|It’s been shown that employees who are given the option of eLearning are more likely to retain information and engage with the material. Many programs offer interactive courses and gamification methods that are proven to increase employee engagement and result in happier employees.|
|Increased Employee Retention|
|The availability of in-depth and efficient training programs is a big draw for workers. They expect effective training from employers and are more likely to stay with a company when they are offered the chance to continue training for up-skilling and future career growth and development.|
|Using eLearning methods makes it easy for companies to gain real-time data regarding every aspect of the training process. Assigning and tracking progress, measuring results on an employee or departmental basis, and even tracking productivity increases becomes easy when everything is digital.|
What Are the Disadvantages of E-Learning in Business?
Ok so by now you’ve either stopped reading or your convinced that eLearning is the manna from heaven. However it does have a few drawbacks.
|Lack of Interaction|
|The lack of interaction between students and teachers and between coworkers themselves limit their ability to receive personal feedback and grow interpersonal relationships. Unless….. you include that in your Learning Design – i.e. we would suggest that depending on the audience and the learning objectives, you can design in facilitator interaction into the experience. This can be done via face to face workshops or virtual workshops. Self-paced eLearning (has its place) can be a challenge for some learners.|
|eLearning is Self-Motivated|
|While self-pacing is a great way for employees to remain engaged with the material, workers who lack the motivation to complete coursework on their own time may struggle with eLearning methods, particularly courses designed with no interaction or facilitation.|
|Hands-On Training is Limited|
|The skills needed to be successful in certain roles may require the inclusion of practical skills training. While eLearning is a great way to communicate information to employees, for industries that focus on practical skills, employees may need a combination of hands-on training. We can design and build a virtual tractor training experience, but after that, there is still the need to eventually practice on the real thing. VR though, helps bring down the cost and time and risks associated with learning how to operate dangerous machinery or work in dangerous environments.|
|Requires Access to the Internet|
|While most people always have a smartphone in their pocket, this is an advantage for workers who may have access to the tools needed for eLearning methods. Without access to the internet, employees won’t be able to participate (unless you have designed for off line mode). Companies that require employees or contractors to complete online training that needs internet access my have to include the cost of laptops or tablets in their costs to make eLearning courses available.|
Out of adversity comes opportunity. The global pandemic presented once in a generation business disruption. For many companies, it has turbo-charged their entry into the world of online training. Even the most technology averse people and organisations have had to admit that the use of Zoom and Teams has actually been somewhat of a boon if not a panacea for all things learning.
There are numerous studies that have shown the benefits of using technology to improve the learning experience, however it’s important that we don’t inadvertently create a new problem for ourselves by creating e-learning that actually disengages the learner. Invest in a good Instructional Designer in your business or get some help with that part of the work. Finally, let’s break the nexus that all e-learning results in a SCORM object being the output.