eLearning has developed a poor reputation as a viable part of a sales enablement strategy. But is it time to turn our back on a training tool once so full of promise? Let’s take a look at what eLearning can offer, where it has fallen short, and how it can still be a tool for the future.
It’s Supposed to Be Exciting
Bernard Luskin, an early proponent of eLearning, says “The ‘e’ in e-learning means much more than “electronic” when applied to e-learning — think instead of a big ‘E’ for ‘exciting, energetic, engaging, extended’ learning.” While this may not be an accurate description of your experience with eLearning, here are some advantages to adding an eLearning component to corporate training:
Benefits of Distance Learning/Training
With employees spread out across large areas, decentralized training reduces travel costs and time out of the field. eLearning can provide up-to-date training in a flexible timetable at a lower cost than training in person.
Changes are Updated Instantly for All Participants
Materials and training programs can be edited, with the updates occurring instantly across the system.
Modules are Highly Interactive
High-quality eLearning modules provide interactive, memorable learning experiences with multimedia and simulated hands-on workplace training.
As-Needed Training for Learners
Training doesn’t have to be limited to a few instructor-led sessions a year. New hires can jump into training immediately. New information, such as handling objections b in response to recent news reports, can be developed and distributed instantly.
eLearning Can Be Part of Blended Learning
eLearning can supplement and support instructor-led training, video segments, textbooks, mobile apps, and other forms of instruction and performance support.
Less Expensive than Instructor-Led Training
Assembling a group for ILT is costly in many ways: travel expenses, the opportunity cost for the time out of the field, cost to provide the trainer, space, and bowls of candy on the tables.
Learning is Self-paced
eLearning modules can be responsive to the needs of the learners, who progress at their own speed. If they need to backtrack and spend more time on an unfamiliar concept, they can take as long as they need. In some cases, learners can move on through material they have already mastered.
eLearning provides a consistent message throughout the entire company. There is no risk of unapproved materials or messages. This is especially important in highly-regulated industries.
Learning Management System (LMS) Tracks Progress
A LMS will track individual’s progress, completion of modules, and test scores. It will also allow you to maintain records of who has completed mandatory training for audits.
The Deadly Sins of eLearning
With all of this “exciting, energetic, and engaging” potential, why has eLearning earned a reputation as the torture chamber of training? The horrible eLearning experiences that make us wince in memory are the result of unimaginative, lazy, and cheap development. Here are the consequences:
Nothing More Than An Electronic Binder
Take the pages in a binder, move them to a screen, add an advance button and voila! Instant eLearning module and torture device. This is the worst kind of eLearning program, and one of the reasons it has developed a bad reputation.
Ignorance of Multimedia Learning Principles
Dr. Richard Mayer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been doing research into multimedia learning principles for years. Among his findings? The best learning occurs with a memorable image and narration—not with paragraphs of text on a screen. Mayer’s work is well-respected and widely available, so there’s no excuse for doing things in ways that are proven to be ineffective. Get the words off the screen and into the voice-over and give the learner an image to remember.
Reliance on Basic and Boring Interactions
Most basic interactions fall into one of two categories: click and reveal or drag and drop. But these basic functions can be jazzed up. Even better: create interactions that will actually mimic real-life job functions.
Important Information Embedded in Course
Why leave important information embedded at minute 35 of a 50-minute course without the ability to return to it easily? Menus should enable the learner to easily return to a completed course without having to pass 3 quizzes to get to that one bit of information. Even better, put that information into a .pdf that can be printed out for future reference.
Poorly Planned Development with Unclear Objectives
Information should be delivered in an organized, logical way to the learner can mentally store and retrieve it easily. This is not unique to eLearning; the same principles apply to ITL, binders, and your closet.
Information Download with No Learner Discovery
Adult learning principles are crucial in the design of an eLearning program. Learners who are motivated to discover information have better understanding, retention, and application than passive learners. Design the program with the end user’s needs in mind rather than the trainer’s needs. For example, beginning the program with a description of the learner’s benefits rather than the objectives shifts the focus from the trainer to the learner.
It’s too long!
It’s tempting to add in just a bit more information based on how long our ILT sessions are, but eLearning is a different animal. Keep it under 45 minutes—30 minutes is even better. Anything longer loses effectiveness.
I think we all get this one. But steps are been taken to further make elarning as interactive as possible. With massive investment in this industry, the future learning environment could feature interactive media and one on one learning experience with instructors even while on the public transport. It is already in practice, just yet to be fully enrolled for the larger part of the audience.
With all of its potential advantages, eLearning still has a place at the table. What does that look like? Here are some ideas:
Make it Part of Blended Solution
Are you starting to hear buzz about mlearning—moving training to mobile devices like an iPad? It’s a wonderful idea, especially since sales performance support apps are becoming common. But mobile devices have limitations, including smaller screens, less memory, multimedia limitations, and security issues. The best solutions will continue to be a blend of ILT, eLearning, and mobile, where each type can play to its unique strength.
Creates interactive, sticky, imaginative experiences
We’re getting better at creating real-life experiences, and eLearning will follow in Call of Duty’s path. eLearning doesn’t even have to be very good in comparison to gaming to become a whole lot better than it’s been.
Don’t make it simply an electronic binder
Get the text off the screen. This is so important, I’ll say it again. No text on the screen. Yes, I mean you. We can do better than that.
Emphasis on understanding, retention, application
When we focus on the three areas of understanding, retention, and application, and encourage thoughtfulness and creativity, eLearning modules will morph into effective programs that are enjoyable (because that is important to all three areas) and effective.
eLearning is not dead yet. We can revive it by using it with care in the right places and applying best practices to its design.
Do you have additions or questions to raise about the benefits of eLearning in this modern age? I’d love to discuss them with you below. Hit me up!