eLearning’s Hang-Ups

If you’re a regular reader of my articles, then you know how often I point out that although eLearning is one of the hottest topics out there, it’s utilization rate still remains surprisingly low. You’d think that in today’s digital era that more than 27% of instruction and training delivered to employees would be all online, but that percentage, which is well under one-third, has held fairly steady for several years. So where are the hang-ups around eLearning?

eLearning’s Hang-UpsInterestingly enough, it’s still a “new” enough technology that plenty of people remain unconvinced that it’s better than traditional instructor-led classroom learning, at least in some regards.

Gallup conducted a significant poll on this very topic not too long ago. Where eLearning fared better than traditional classroom-based instruction was in terms of providing a wide range of options for curriculum and providing good value for the money. But look now at the run-down of areas where eLearning is considered to be a worse option than traditional classroom-based education:

  • Providing instruction tailored to each individual, with 41% believing online is worse.
  • Providing high-quality instruction from well-qualified instructors, with 43% believing online is worse.
  • Providing rigorous testing and grading that can be trusted, with 45% believing online is worse.
  • Providing a degree that will be viewed favorably by employers, with fully 49% believing online is worse than traditional classroom-based instruction.

Granted, this is mostly about college-type education, but it still shows that employers are rather wary of eLearning, at least as far as basic preparation for their workers. I think those attitudes naturally carry over to some degree in using eLearning for employee instruction and training. 

Then there’s the vicious cycle that can be created when eLearning is done poorly. Let’s say a company reluctantly decides to try eLearning, doesn’t put the time and effort into making it a stellar experience, and then sees negative reactions to it from employees. What do you suppose will happen? They’re bound to say something like, “Well, I didn’t think it would work anyways, so now we know it’s not worth the effort.” I think that’s happening out there in organizations across America much more than we might like to admit.

What all of this says to me is that eLearning professionals have their work cut out for them in terms of making further inroads into corporate America’s leadership circles. There’s clearly some hesitancy to truly jump in with both feet, but that’s exactly what needs to happen to turn the tide in favor of all the benefits that eLearning can bring to the table.

What’s needed are more solid metrics around the clear business case for eLearning, backed up with real data and solid examples of how it can work. Those examples need to lean towards the right side of the following contrasts between typical eLearning and great eLearning:

  • Content versus performance focus
  • Efficiency versus meaningful learning
  • Attendance-driven versus attracting learners
  • Information delivery versus authentic, immersive experiences
  • Fact-testing versus decision-making
  • One-size-fits-all versus individualized tasks
  • One-time events versus continual practice
  • Didactic feedback versus practical consequences

If the eLearning community can swing the pendulum more towards the right side of the above polarities, there is no doubt in my mind that more buy-in would be achieved for the application of eLearning in companies and organizations everywhere.

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