3 Big eLearning Myths Busted

eLearning seems to have become a permanent fact in the corporate landscape. And yet there are still lots of companies who haven’t fully engaged it. Perhaps they’ve been skeptical of it from the start, thinking it might be passing fad. I think it’s safe to say it is not just the latest trend doomed to sink away into obscurity. More likely is that they’ve heard something or read something that makes it sound like eLearning isn’t as effective as people want to believe. This article will take a look at 3 big eLearning myths and bust them each wide open to give you the truth about eLearning.

If eLearning is not followed up with retrieval exercises, practice, and real-world application, the learning won’t stick.

Myth #1: eLearning Doesn’t Stick

This particular myth actually has its roots in the education systems everyone experienced growing up. Students in school read their textbooks, perhaps highlighting relevant passages, take notes during classroom lectures, then review their highlights and notes to prepare for a test. With any luck, this re-reading and review process keeps enough information in their heads to pass the test. But if that’s the extent of the process, you can bet most of them will forget what they learned before the end of the term, and certainly over this summer. This is why so many teachers complain about having to review substantial amounts of material from the previous year as they start teaching the next level of the subject. The problem is poor teaching methods. The process has to be supplemented with lots of knowledge retrieval exercises to get used to pulling it out when you need it (quizzes).

The same holds true for eLearning. If it’s not followed up with retrieval exercises, practice, and real-world application, the learning won’t stick. But don’t blame the abstract concept of eLearning. That’s not the issue. The issue poorly designed eLearning. Another problem here is too much too fast. Squeezing a ton of content into a day-long session feels efficient, but most of it’s not going to stick without the proper follow-up. Retrieval practice works wonders! For more ideas on creating eLearning that sticks, see my previous article, What Do You Do to Improve Your Knowledge? Sticky eLearning!

Myth #2: eLearning is a Drain on Company Resources

This one is similar to the previous myth. In the same way that substandard eLearning won’t stick but high-quality eLearning will, substandard eLearning is a waste of company resources but effective eLearning will give a great return on investment (ROI). It is all too common for company leadership to view eLearning with a skeptical eye. It is seen as a cost center requiring the expenditure of precious company resources without any clear connection to the bottom line.

This is a two-fold problem. First you have the problem that if the eLearning you design and deliver sucks, the results you get will also suck. The GIGO (garbage-in-garbage-out) principle applies here. But the second part of the problem is how few learning professionals bother with trying to figure out the ROI of their efforts. In one sense I don’t blame them because it feels like something a little far out of their scope of expertise. But the plain fact of the matter is that if you want your learning efforts to be recognized and valued by company leadership, it’s up to you to take the initiative to figure out how to calculate realistic ROI figures to prove you’re worth it. I’ve written a number of articles about the ROI of eLearning because it can be a bit tricky:

Myth #3: eLearning Can’t Really Engage Your Employees

If you’re picking up on a pattern here with these eLearning myths, you might be able to guess the gist of this one. There have been a lot of stories in the media lately talking about the low completion rates in eLearning. It’s an interesting dilemma to explore. The online learning market continues to grow at astonishing rates, and yet online eLearning course completion rates keep falling. In fact, one 2015 study showed that the average completion rate for MOOCs (massive open online courses) is a paltry 15%, and even an esteemed institution like Harvard only gets an average 6% completion rate across its EdX offerings. What gives?

First of all, it’s important to note that those low completion rates are for MOOCs that individuals are deciding to sign up for. I think that’s a very different kind of phenomenon than the learning and training content your company uses with employees. I think it’s at least a little like comparing apples and oranges. But, whether grounded in reality or not, I think a lot of people at least have the perception that something is amiss with corporate eLearning efforts. It’s also possible that some people are confusing dissatisfaction with the company learning management system (LMS) as dissatisfaction with eLearning itself. So, let’s put it this way: High-quality eLearning is designed specifically to engage learners, so if you think there’s a problem eLearning engagement at your company, it be more about the quality of eLearning made available. And it might also be tied into a disliked of the system through which it is delivered. But it’s not an inherent problem of eLearning itself. Here are some articles I’ve written about making better eLearning that will fully engage learners:

The three eLearning myths I’ve written about above are the biggest ones I see holding the field back from being everything it could be. Make no mistake – there are others. Some think eLearning can’t provide a personalized experience. Others think eLearning can’t properly assess or evaluate learner progress and outcomes. Yet others worry that an eLearning system won’t scale up with their company as it grows. None of these are true. It’s all about designing the right eLearning content and having the right tools at your disposal to manage the administration and delivery of your content. There is nothing inherently different about eLearning from any other kind of learning except how it delivered to learners. For any companies on the fence about eLearning, now is the time to see that the myths have been debunked. There is no good reason to put off eLearning any longer. The benefits eLearning can deliver to your employees and your company are very real, as long as it’s done right!

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