Elearning Is Dead - Long Live Blended Learning!

 

There is little doubt that eLearning has not achieved the success it promised some ten years ago, even though the primary benefits in terms of cost and flexibility remains extremely attractive. Some of the mistakes that have been made are:

1. A Lack of an Holistic Approach
Elearning was viewed as being a replacement for traditional training methods. To be successful, elearning should adopt an integrated approach to human resource development. This means integrating Performance Assessment with Training Needs Analysis, with Personal Development Plans, with Continuous Professional Development records, with elearning blended with other training resources, learning methods, and corporate learning programmes.

2. A Failing to Understand the Elearning Medium
Much of the reason for making Mistake 1 is the problem of thinking about elearning as a substitute for face-to-face training just delivered cheaper and faster whenever employees want it. While computers bring strengths and opportunities to the learning experience, it must be remembered that they also remove some of the critical components of face-to-face learning, such as audio-visual; peer discussion; and the social environment.

3. A Belief that the Audio-Visual component can be replaced by Elearning
Many companies designing elearning programmes have engaged expensive programmers and invested in heavy duty programmes and equipment in order to enhance the elearning experience. Students end up being entertained but come away learning little.

4. Blowing the Budget on a Technology Solution
The problem with mistake number 3 is that it is expensive. Spending ?1 million on an elearning system is not unusual. Neither is finding out that the initial spend is only part of the expense. There are updates and maintenance to consider. Heavy duty programmes require heavy duty equipment and software to download. As a face-to-face trainers, we can alter training notes, handouts and session content very quickly and inexpensively. Try doing that with audio-video content.

5. Failing to Link Elearning with Business Needs
Traditional training should flow from the organisation's business strategy. Elearning is no exception. Whilst elearning may be a new delivery method, it does not change the fundamentals of business strategy, manpower and HRD planning, individual performance reviews and training needs analysis; nor learning programme design, progress monitoring, programme evaluation and learning verification.

Like other learning methods, an elearning programme must flow from, and be driven, by the organisation's business development objectives, and therefore elearning should also be monitored and measured.

6. Unrealistic Expectations
How many projects have failed for want of a realistic assessment of time, resources and expectations? Many would point to Total Quality Management (TQM) as a pretty good example. When a project involves a new discipline and particularly when that discipline involves new technology it is very common for management to overestimate short-term expectations and underestimate the time and cost needed before benefits can realistically be achieved. If this is doubted, then ask any project manager. As a result, initial enthusiasm is soon replaced by despair. Like TQM or any 'flavour of the month', elearning has many substantial benefits but it is not a magic wand, and it is not a substitute for sound management.

7. A Lack of Management Involvement
Elearning is no different to any other form of training. It might work in the classroom or on-line but the measure of its transference to the workplace is totally reliant upon the involvement of the line manager. The special problem with elearning is the number of technophobe managers who can hide behind 'I'm not an 'IT' expert' excuse for not getting involved in the learning goals of their staff.

The Answer?
Having woken up to the fact that elearning on its own is not the answer, we now are presented with a similar sounding - Blended learning. Blended learning however, whilst sounding similar is completely different, and it works. It is a way of getting the best from a number of worlds. It addresses not only the preferences of different learners but also seeks to maximise off-site time to improving skills, leaving knowledge acquisition to a more economical method of delivery.

Blended learning incorporates face-to-face delivery with online study; skills workshops; assignments; assessments, and workplace coaching.

You do not need to spend millions on trying to replace traditional learning methods with an elearning platform. Treat elearning as just an addition delivery channel which gives you more flexibility. Research shows that students can only absorb 15/20 minutes of elearning at a time anyway which is why a well designed blended learning programme will usually deliver study tasks in small bites. It provides the option to more effectively use the training budget whilst keeping a tight control on who is studying what; when; to what level; whether the manager is involved or not; and ultimately how the learning is being applied.

Far from being dead, elearning has emerged as an important element in the successful blended learning approach to people development.

Frank Salisbury is a highly experience motivational speaker, and inspiring business coach, particularly to the sales profession. Frank is recognised as a leading authority in the field of sales - including sales process design, sales performance, and sales coaching.

He strongly believes that whether we work in the public or private sector; whether our organisation is commercial or non-commercial; that we are all in sales. His favourite quote, which has become his maxim, is from Robert Louis Stevenson - 'Everything in live is selling'. He has spoken at numerous conferences and seminars where his style has received popular acclaim for a speaker with a passion for life, and achievement.

 



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