Thursday, July 16, 2015

The (Not So) Curious case of Corporate eLearning

So you head the Learning and Development function at your organization. Or wait, maybe you are involved in Talent Management. Whatever your role be out of these, I am sure what takes up most (or at least half) of your time is, finding out ways and means to train your employees on existing and sometimes new processes, policies or technologies. You come up with the fanciest of ideas but all of it generally boils down to resource constraints, both human and financial or some cliched’ in-person, classroom kind of training sessions (Trust me; your employees are tired of them).
You are constantly thinking about tackling this issue. Ever considered moving to online learning? There are multiple benefits that online can offer over traditional corporate learning media:

Self Paced - Your employees would really appreciate if they can take a course at their own pace. Not everybody is the same when it comes to the ability of grasping new stuff. Talking of a personal example here, I am comparatively slower at understanding new tools than one of my peers at work. It’s always easier not to be with him in the same class when taking a course/training together. If my learning media is self paced, I can decide when to take up a particular module, or an assessment or when to undergo certification. I don’t have to rush up or drag through my learning process.


Reduced Training Costs – Studies show that online trainings are generally more cost effective than the traditional training media. You save on the costs of hiring and involving a trainer/facilitator time and over again. Plus, operational costs like printing and travel go down drastically. Of course, there are costs involved in creating an eLearning course and maintaining the eLearning setup but they are miniscule compared to the traditional approaches. Some online learning platforms like Udemy, Lynda and Coursera even offer ready to use courses (many of them for free). Go ahead and evaluate some of them.


Easier Access and Quicker Deployment of Updates - Deploying updates is super fast when it comes to online learning. I have an example from my own workplace. When our Human Resources (HR) department launched their sexual harassment policy (I am talking of about three years back), they had classroom sessions for all employees in batches, where they informed everyone about the policy and the implications it would have. It took about three months for all employees to attend the session and some employees still missed it because they were busy, unavailable, or travelling. Recently, the same policy was updated with some additional clauses. With an online portal now in place, this time the HR team created a short course on Sexual Harassment and also added an assessment at the end of it. The course was uploaded on the company LMS and was made mandatory. All of us took the course when we could and the assessment ensured that we understood and recalled all significant implications. Easier and smarter! Isn’t it? No dependencies, No hassles, and yet everything was available at our fingertips (Literally).  


Simplified Logistics - Physical training sessions generally lead to complicated logistics. Sometimes, organizing multiple training sessions can be the biggest roadblock in the efficiency of a training program. With online trainings, there are no such logistics involved. Training material can just be distributed in a click and even resources do not need to travel.  Double benefit you see!


Improved Feedback - Collecting feedback in physical training sessions is always cumbersome. And it is difficult to find out if you have missed someone. Online training environments allow you to gather statistics about employee performance via assessments, quizzes and tests which are logged in to the LMS. Not only assessments and quizzes, with xAPI tracing, now you can also find out which sections of trainings are being skipped or are being focused on by employees. It can help you re-design trainings effectively. Employees also get a fair idea of their performance and generally strive to improve it.


Increased Effectiveness - A nine-year survey of the research literature in training published by Fletcher and Tobias in ‘Training and Retraining’, commissioned by the American Psychological Society, and published in 2000, concluded that: ‘Learners learn more using computer-based instruction than they do with conventional ways of teaching, as measured by higher post-treatment test scores.’ Specific studies from Fletcher (1999), Kulik (1994), Willett, Yamashita & Anderson (1983) all confirm that learners learn more using computer-based instruction than they do through traditional classroom methods. Online learning can often prove to be more effective than traditional learning because of its individualized nature. Also, a simple fact that rather than being one of the twenty others sitting through the training and sharing a single conference room, you have direct access to your instructor via a single click; can be a great advantage. Online settings can also help reduce social inhibitions that some employees suffer from. Factors like immediate feedback and self paced learning can also contribute to increased effectiveness. 

All these benefits do not rule out the fact that any in-person approach would always be more personal and sometimes even more effective than online. The idea is not to disregard one approach over the other, the point is that we need to focus on the need of the hour and move in a direction that is beneficial for organizations as well as employees. By recognizing the benefits and value of online learning, you are not only going to help your organization grow, you will also support your most important asset – your employees, by giving them what they need and that too, whenever they need.


Brace yourself and get going! Learning is a never ending process.

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