Our final blog in the series looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular approaches to learning such as In-House training and public scheduled training looks at eLearning. By reading all 3 of these blogs you can hopefully get a really good idea of what is the best choice of learning for you and your company.
eLearning is has boomed over recent years to become a very popular method of learning. In the CIPD’s 2013 Learning and Talent Development Study, 74% of companies reported using some level of e-learning with 91% of companies reporting it to be very useful when combined with other methods and nearly ¾ of respondents saying it is essential for learning. Clearly it cannot be ignored.
The Advantages of eLearning training includes:
More Flexible – eLearning can be done in short chunks of time that can fit around your daily schedule. Unlike public scheduled and in-house training, you don’t have to dedicate an entire day to the training that has been organised by your company. Instead, you will have a set amount of learning, normally divided into modules, with a deadline in which to do them in. This way, if you want to do all of the learning in one day as you work better this way, you can. However if your schedule doesn’t allow you an entire day off your everyday tasks – then you can easily spend an hour or 2 here and there at times that suit you.
Mobile – As eLearning can be done on laptops, tablets and phones – it is a very mobile method. Learning can be done on the train, on a plane or any other time that could normally be wasted. Whilst you used to be confined to the classroom, the whole world can now be your classroom.
No Travel– As just mentioned, eLearning can be done wherever you have a device capable of doing so. Therefore again you can fit it in to your schedule, but also save money on the costs of travel. As mentioned before on the public scheduled blog, external courses can sometimes only be sourced in locations far away from your company so you then have to pay the costs of travel as well potentially accommodation. eLearning takes these costs away completely.
Lower cost – As you aren’t using a trainer’s time or any room or equipment, eLearning tends to be the much cheaper option. If you already have a device capable of carrying out the training on, then the savings can be considerable. Therefore if you and your company are on a budget, this can be the ideal option for you. Equally for companies that have thousands of employees then it can reduce the cost per head especially on areas such as Money Laundering, Compliance and Microsoft Office training.
Tailor it to you – eLearning courses aren’t confined to be fixed to try and suit the needs of the majority. If you feel you already know a particular area well and don’t need to spend an hour on it again, then you can skim over it and concentrate that time on something you feel you need to work more at. Everyone is able to learn at their own pace – a massive factor that only eLearning can provide for.
Technological Possibilities – eLearning is fast becoming a more and more popular method and with it, so has the investment into how to improve it further. The computer based nature of training means new technology is being introduced all the time to help with the learning. Different apps are helping to further reinforce the learning whilst forums can be used to greatly increase the amount of interaction and engagement between learners. This is only going to improve as time goes on as well.
Global – With very few restrictions companies can be confident that their staff can receive the same content regardless of their location, and in many cases, their nationality. Therefore if you wish to provide the same training or have your staff understand and use common methodology, eLearning is a useful way of ensuring this happens with ease and reduced cost.
The Disadvantages of eLearning Training includes:
Lack of Control– Learners with low motivation tend to fall behind when using eLearning as there are no set times to be doing it and they are responsible for the organisation themselves. A lack of routine or fixed schedule can mean eLearning becomes complicated with various deadlines often given to different people at different stages of their learning.
Learning Approach – It doesn’t appeal to all learning styles so some learners will not enjoy the experience – especially strong activists and pragmatists. It is still a challenge to make eLearning appeal fully to these groups as different people learn better or worse using different styles. Some may prefer images, some prefer just reading words and some prefer to talk about or actually do a task in order to learn.
Isolated – A lot of questions are a lot easily answered when face to face with someone when you can guarantee an instant answer. eLearning often doesn’t allow that with trainers often having to answer numerous questions all of the time and only doing it within working hours – where a lot of learners may prefer to do their learning out of working hours. This feeling of isolation can often demotivate individuals as they feel they don’t have the support and reassurance that the physical presence of a trainer provides.
Technology Issues – With heavy reliance on computers that eLearning brings, comes the potential risks that comes with it. Firstly, you need to ensure that all learners have a device that is able to support the training modules. Some eLearning tools require software such as Flash that devices like iPads don’t support. So all requirements need to be set out at the beginning. Poor internet connection and unavoidable general random faults also can interrupt learning
and so need to be planned around. This is especially true if it is a global roll out as Internet connections and power reliability changes dramatically between countries.
Computer Competency – Some employees might not be too comfortable using computers, especially if their jobs don’t require them to. Therefore even if the software is user friendly, the very idea of using the software can be daunting and demotivating for some. Therefore these employees are likely to learn a lot less than they would from a physical course.
Equipment – How many of your staff already have the tools required to undertake eLearning? If you will need to provide a number of devices for your staff than it may well increase the cost per delegate beyond the other methods. However if the amount of devices you need to supply is minimal, than it could be the option for you.
Staff Computer Skills – How many of the learners are skilled with computers? eLearning can be daunting for those that are at beginners levels and as mentioned before, can demotivate them to use it. Therefore make sure that your learners are happy to learn this way before making that final decision.
Organisation – It may seem tempting to dedicate less time to the organisation of eLearning due to the fact staff don’t need time off, there is no set time or location and no equipment and trainer to get there but do not underestimate how much needs to be done. Deadlines need to be routinely organised for each individual employee, progress regularly monitored, queries always catered for and targets made. If not, the lack of control will lead to learners in a wide spectrum of abilities and progress within the course and ultimately money being wasted gauging at what point staff are.
Variance – Just like with the other 2 methods, it is important to mix it up. Do not just choose one method and always discount the others when doing more training – each method will suit different situations better. eLearning in particular was identified in the CIPD Learning and Talent Development 2013 report as being most effective when supplemented by the other training choices. So make sure you mix it up to enjoy the benefits of all the styles.
Read our similar guide on the Advantages and Disadvantages of In-House training and the The Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Scheduled Training for more information.