eLearning: How Big Should You Go?
“The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is to not train them and keep them” – Zig Ziglar.
Most enterprises across the globe today realize the importance of training and development programs to develop their most valuable resource – their people. With apt corporate training programs, organizations can ensure that their workforce can sharpen their skills, develop new skills, improve performance and increase their productivity. These initiatives also help in increasing an employee’s engagement levels and thus have a positive impact on the company bottom line. Having said this, it is also true that corporate training requires time and resources—both of which are scarce commodities in today’s fast-paced business landscape. Balancing multiple schedules of individual workers, high training costs and reducing downtime during the training process are some of the challenges that organizations continue to face in today’s dynamic business environment. E-learning has emerged as a viable solution to mitigate the challenges faced by organizations to meet their training needs. It is because of the immense value that eLearning can deliver to an organization that a reported 77% of companies in the U.S have adopted eLearning to meet their training requirements.
As eLearning becomes a corporate mainstay, organizations also have to decide the scale at which they implement their eLearning programs. Should eLearning be implemented on a full-scale across the organization, or should they take one step at a time and implement eLearning on a smaller scale. In other words, when planning on adopting eLearning as a viable corporate learning solution, how big should you go?
To begin with, let’s answer the question whether eLearning can or cannot take care of all the learning and development needs of an organization. The answer to that is, most likely, yes! Today with the advancements in education technology, it is possible to utilize eLearning to shoulder more or less all training requirements. Great Learning Management Systems, Blended Learning programs, adept use of multimedia resources such as audio, video, virtual and augmented reality etc., and adoption of mobile learning are making it possible to increase the scope of training with eLearning within an organization. Given the demand for interactivity and personalization, eLearning is leveraging technologies such as big data to tailor courses for individuals. Organizations are also looking towards big data to identify what kind of training an employee needs and how much training should be provided. This data also helps organizations weed out unnecessary costs that accumulate due to under-utilized resources and redundant processes. Courses and modules in eLearning can be highly customized and can be delivered across different devices, from desktop to mobile, according to the preference of the employee, making course consumption simpler and hence more effective. By integrating a social angle, eLearning can also make learning collaborative and ensure greater engagement of the employee.
While full-scale eLearning implantation has its advantages, it can only reap positive rewards if the organization has a well-defined eLearning strategy. This involves identifying the nature of training that needs to be provided, the best manner in which it should be disseminated, assessing the time to complete the learning program and identifying the stakeholders who will contribute to and benefit from this implementation. If an organization has experimented with eLearning before and is aware of its workings, knows how to use it within the organization and has the required systems such as Learning Management Systems and Instructional Designers in place, then full-scale eLearning can have a positive ROI impact.
Having said this, I believe that before going full-scale on the eLearning implementation, it is wise to look at the small scale approach as a starting point. As the name suggests, in small scale eLearning an organization implements one or a few courses using eLearning. These can be implemented across one or multiple departments depending on the need of the hour. Small scale implementation is best when an organization wants to test the eLearning waters, identify how to work with it, discover what kind of resources—both time and human—are required, and assess if the investment required to scale these courses across the board can deliver a satisfactory return on their investment. With these implementations, organizations can be flexible to change and tweak the courses or training modules and strategies quite easily. Given that there is only a contained section of training that is conducted via eLearning in small-scale implementation, the effort, and the results to be analyzed, also gets divided into smaller sections making it easier to manage. With this approach, organizations can continuously assess the value being delivered. They can determine the value of the eLearning program by conducting experiments with the course content, implementation methods and user base to assess where the course can deliver maximum value. Change management in small scale approach is also relatively easier since the number of modules are lesser and the stakeholders are fewer as compared to full-scale implementation. It is also easier to measure the success rates of small-scale implementations as the courses are implemented in small sections. Since this approach does not require a large investment the ROI is gained more immediately. At the same time, the small-scale approach can also be relatively more expensive than full-scale implementation as an investment needs to be made for each training module every time.
Given the variables at play here, organizations looking at adopting eLearning to meet their training and development requirements need to take a balanced approach and see how far ahead they are on the eLearning matrix. Before implementation, they need to map their requirements to the last detail to evaluate where eLearning will truly deliver value. I am reminded of a famous proverb that makes a big point, “How does one eat an elephant? Well, one bit at a time.”