Valuing eLearning

The use of e-learning by employers is increasing. In the 2010 E-learning Benchmarking Survey, 50% of Australian businesses reported that they were using e-learning. In addition, 60% said they expected to increase their use of e-learning and 85% would encourage their employees to use it for training. The majority of employers surveyed believe that e-learning increases people’s access to training, provides flexible training and is an efficient way to provide training. From a learning perspective, however, where is the value in e-learning?

In its definition of e-learning, the survey did not distinguish between the different types of approaches being used by employers. For example, it did not differentiate between self-paced, interactive programs and online conferences that deliver virtual classrooms or webinars. Most of my experience has been with the development of self-paced, self-directed online learning programs. However, it has also been my experience that this type of training is popular with employers because it is seen to deliver the benefits identified above. Self-paced online learning is time and place independent.

Its value for both the employer and the learner, however, cannot be assumed. It provides the greatest benefit when it relates to the learner’s context and extends the learning or when integrated with face to face training or discussion. Whether or not online learning will provide a cost benefit is dependent on the balance between the number of learners, the frequency of the training, the amount of travel involved to participate in training and the complexity of the development process. Employers and trainers like the control of the content that online training provides, but without good design, the corporate messages will not be received by the learner. There is value in e-learning, therefore, but not without the appropriate investment in the skills and capabilities needed for its design.

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