Frank Smit, CEO of Bridgewater Learning comments on the benefits of e-Learning and provides some ideas on how to make sure you achieve these.

With the rapid growth of e-learning worldwide in the corporate sector over the last few years, many organisations are now using e-learning to support at least some of their training needs, in addition to more traditional face-to-face learning.

The benefits of e-learning are clear, but in our experience they are not necessarily being reached in all e-learning projects. If you are using or maybe thinking of using e-learning in some way to meet your training objectives, then it would be a good idea to list the benefits you expect (beyond  transfer of knowledge), and then to measure your success in achieving them. This is basic good management after all.

So what benefits can you expect from using e-learning?

Typical benefits most organisations might look for include:

  • Cutting costs of certain types of training
  • Reaching a geographically dispersed workforce, thereby reducing disruption  and travel costs
  • Ability to train large numbers cost-effective and quickly in one go
  • Consistency of  learning and testing
  • Supporting and extending traditional face-to-face learning
  • Can be updated easily and be immediately available.
  • Monitoring individual progress and learning history in one place
  • Learners can take ownership and be accountable for their own training
  • They can do it when it is convenient
  • Fall-off in knowledge retention is less of an issue – learners can access the content at any time

As a result of the reduced costs on the one hand, and improved penetration, consistency, and knowledge retention on the other, e-learning projects can have a very high return on Investment (ROI).

And some of them do. But we have seen a number of projects where this is not the case, mainly as a result of poor course design or learning management, or both.

Here are eight ideas we hope you may find useful in successfully driving any e-learning project, and in achieving a high ROI from your endeavours:

  • Make sure the training content is relevant to the level and role of the learners, and that it is presented in a way which actively encourages them to learn.  It should be interesting and interactive, rather than just parroting content from the training manual.
  • Have a definite deadline for the course, and ensure that the learners are aware of this – never have open-ended targets. ,
  • Try to link the learning to measurable activities or objectives. Make it real, with actual examples and cases from your organisation.
  • Allow the learners time off to learn. It’s a myth that “e-learning means they can do it in their own time.” They won’t.
  • Make sure that the system you use can report on progress at various stages in the learning, and regularly manage this. Have they started? How far have they gone? Have they done the assessments and how did they do? Intervene immediately when you see a problem.
  • Prevent learners from being disturbed. You can’t have it both ways – if you want them to study online instead of going out of the office for a course, then you must protect the learners from being interrupted.
  • Try to do this in teams or groups if you can. Team members working together and interacting with one another, will be more motivated to complete the course, particularly if there is an assignment or workshop to follow.
  • Use e-learning to support projects where the benefits are likely to be high relative to other training methods. One way to make sure you get a high return on investment, is to use e-learning where the benefits of doing this are very clear, like training a large dispersed group of people in a small timeframe on a critical process.

e-Learning projects are no different from any other training projects. Yes, the actual components of e-learning may differ from traditional training, and there is usually a web-based delivery platform, but both forms of training require a substantial initial investment, professional course design, communication and rollout to the learners, and continuous assessment of the results. And like any other important project, if you want to know that you have successfully achieved your objectives, then you need to specify and quantify these upfront, and to manage the project right the way through, including a post-project review.

I hope these ideas will help you achieve substantial benefits in using e-learning to support your training needs.