The UK continues to lead the way on e-learning in the EU. Francis Marshall provides a checklist for ensuring success.
The economic pain during the past few years, coupled with the need to maximise value from training budget spend while ensuring staff remain productive, has without doubt helped to solidify e-learning’s position alongside other key learning and development delivery methods.
The Cegos 2011 annual European L&D trends survey, which we recently carried out among 2,500 employees, shows that the UK is continuing to lead the way in e-learning alongside Spain and Italy, with more than half of employees in these countries using e-learning today.
And, according to the 2011 CIPD Learning and Talent Development survey, 54% of organisations surveyed in the UK said they have increased their use of e-learning this year, continuing last year’s trend whereby organisations opted for less costly development options.
E-learning has steadily increased in popularity among employees, too. The reasons for this include the changing demographics of the workplace, the entrance of a more tech-savvy generation of learners and the fact that well designed e-learning allows motivated employees to take greater control of their learning with programmes that are targeted to provide a learning experience that matches individual skills and knowledge.
Also, suppliers today are providing a more engaging and immersive learning experience which is increasingly being supported by other formal and informal learning tools.
On paper then, e-learning clearly offers a win-win situation for employers and employees alike. But the reality is all too often different. So, as L&D professionals, how can we ensure we get it right? Here is my checklist of ten key elements that I believe have a fundamental impact on the success and effectiveness of e-learning.
1 What do you want to achieve?
First, it is essential to establish clear goals of what you want to achieve and deliver from the outset. If you don’t have a clear vision, you’ll find it hard to get buy-in from the end-user and the business.
2 Return on investment
Return on investment (ROI) measures need to be agreed at the outset to ensure that the impact of e-learning on the growth of the individual and the organisation can be tracked and evaluated successfully.
3 Make it attractive
This might sound superficial but there’s nothing worse for the user today than passive and turgid e-learning scripts where the only interactive user involvement is pressing the next button. The technology and design expertise available today means there is no excuse for e-learning to be anything short of attractive, engaging and easy on the eye for the end-user.
4 Make it learner-driven
E-learning must be learner-driven with the learner at the heart and in control of all activities. Every individual should know what path their e-learning is taking, where they are now and where they need to be at the end of their own learning path.
5 Localise it
Localisation is about much more than just the language. Employees across the globe learn differently and this should be reflected in the packages. For example, some individuals and cultures typically tend to be more visual learners, focusing on the software and the graphics, whereas others are more interested in the different ways of navigating the module.
6 Develop a clear communication plan
Proper communications plans need to be put in place and internal champions mobilised to explain the importance of the e-learning strategy, why it will help employees with career progression and how the new tools can be accessed. If organisations gave as much thought to marketing e-learning programmes internally as they do to launching new products externally, then the e-learning success rate would rise dramatically.
7 Get learner feedback
Listen to your learners. Ongoing feedback, both formal and informal, is key to maximising engagement and success. For example, the Cegos 2011 survey showed that learners prefer bite-sized e-learning (30 mins – 1 hour) rather than coffee break learning which some perceive as not providing everything they need in one session.
8 Integrate it
While every module of e-learning should stand up in its own right, it is important that each element forms part of a broader strategy and learning context. Make sure e-learning can work alongside and support or be supported by other key learning tools.
9 Deal with any resistance
There will always be some resistance from time to time. Try and recognise any roadblocks early on so that you can put in place procedures for dealing with them. For example, if a user says that the e-learning is of no help to him or her, work with their line manager to see how it can add value or introduce more customised tools. For those who say they just don’t have enough time, look to break down the modules into even smaller chunks.
10 Be flexible
And finally, it is important that e-learning remains flexible and can react to ever changing circumstances, particularly in today’s uncertain economic environment. No e-learning strategy should be set in stone, and no one size fits all. For e-learning to be truly effective, there needs to be a balance between informal and formal learning, and different working environments and delivery mechanisms need to be carefully accommodated.
Francis Marshall is managing director of Cegos UK, part of Europe’s largest learning and development provider. Francis has many years’ experience helping companies to grow through training, management development and change management programmes. He is an NLP practitioner and was previously a director at Barclays Bank. For further information visit www.cegos.co.uk.