eLearning by the Numbers

Interestingly enough, even though we’re clearly in a digital era, the traditional instruction-led classroom is still the primary form of delivering learning in organizations today.

eLearning by the Numbers

Fully 54.62% of learning is still delivered this way, according to ATD (Association for Talent Development). The various forms of other delivery methods fall out as follows (source):

  • Instructor-Led Online = 9.33%
  • Instructor-Led Remote (satellite, video, etc.) = 4.92%
  • Self-Paced Online (networked) = 17.89%
  • Self-Paced Non-Networked Computer (CD-ROM, etc.) = 3.15%
  • Self-Paced Print = 4.74%
  • Mobile Technology = 1.47%
  • Non-Computer Technology (DVD, audio CD, etc.) = 1.75%
  • Other = 2.13%

Clearly, most (but not all) of these are forms of eLearning. What stands out here is that if you put together the traditional classroom instruction with self-paced print and non-computer technology, then you’re looking at 61.11% of learning being delivered in ways that aren’t eLearning at all! This means that only 38.89% of all learning in organizations is delivered via eLearning. I thought that percentage would be a lot higher.

Another standout figure for me is that less learning is delivered through mobile platforms than through self-paced print sources. Only 1.47% of learning is through mobile platforms. There is so much content on the web about leveraging the power of mobile in so many different aspects of modern business and consumer life, you’d think there would be more mobile training and development in modern organizations.

So why is there so little eLearning happening in today’s organizations? Sharon Scott, an emerging scholar from the University of Vermont, is developing an in-depth view of what’s behind the numbers. It appears to her that when the audience is small (3-25), instructional design leans heavily towards the instructor-led classroom model. When the audience ranges from 25-70 participants, instructional design tends to fall on either the traditional classroom approach or a blended approach (traditional and online). But when the audience expands beyond 70, whether into the hundreds or thousands, the choice increasingly runs to online delivery.

Timeframe is also important – when learning needs to be up and running as quickly as possible, then online becomes the delivery method of choice. And not surprisingly, if participants are dispersed over widespread geographies, online delivery becomes increasingly needed. Finally, when the training is something that is mandated for compliance purposes, online delivery becomes the method of choice.

Larger audiences, geographically dispersed, mandatory trainings, and short timeframes are what drive the choice for eLearning. And yet less than 40% of all learning in organizations is eLearning.

Perhaps even more important, however, is how much work goes into instructional design for different delivery methods. Here is where the research from Bryan Chapman, who delineates the number of hours that goes into making one hour of training as follows (source):

  • Traditional instructor-led training = 43:1
  • Converting PowerPoint decks into eLearning = 33:1
  • Standard eLearning = 79:1
  • Interactive eLearning = 184:1
  • Highly interactive eLearning = 490:1

It’s hard to look at those numbers and say anything besides “Ouch!” Even a relatively simple level of standard eLearning is going to take twice the amount of time to develop than a more traditional instructor-led model. And it ratchets up quickly from there depending on how interactive you want your eLearning to be. This seems to me a much more likely driving factor for why so little learning is eLearning in our so-called digital age.

On a final note, just because most learning is still delivered via the instructor-led classroom method doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best. When it was developed, it was certainly a better option than whatever else was available. But we also know that just because something is widespread or popular is not necessarily a good reason to do something. However, once you add in the amount of work that goes into developing eLearning versus instructor-led, you can see instructor-led learning remains the accepted default method. If you really wanted to be on the cutting edge of eLearning, you’d go mobile.

Because of the scalability of eLearning for larger efforts, there’s much bigger payoff potentials involved. If you’re looking to take that initial step of converting classroom PowerPoints into eLearning courses, you’ll be pleased to know that this is a free-of-charge feature with the eLeaP eLearning solution.

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