Become An eLearning Champion: The Basics—Part One

eLearning Champions And L&D/Training Function

Many of us in the T&D and L&D fraternity aspire to become eLearning champions.

But who is an “eLearning champion”? Having spent more than 20 years in the field of eLearning and actually contributing to its evolution in its present form, and having had the opportunity to interact with many learning professionals across industries and countries, I am happy to share my observations and experiences with you.

During all these years of interacting with customers across the world, I was in a really good place to watch the evolution of learning technology and how it transformed a very staid, low profile sub-function, like training as part of personnel (and later the HRD), into a vibrant function of Learning and Development with C-level executives managing it.

In this three-part series, I will be covering different aspects of eLearning, classroom training, blended learning, and more importantly, linking training to business results, which are, after all, the terminal objectives for all managers. The first of the series deals with revisiting the basics, the second is about fitting eLearning within the overall training strategy [1], and the third deals with linking training strategy and initiatives with the overall business strategy and results.

Are You An eLearning Champion?

So, how did training evolve to assume a very front end, powerful, pervasive, and impactful function in the corporate world today? Well, the credit goes to the eLearning champions among the learning fraternity. I would like to set the stage by saying that an eLearning champion loves two things:

  • Firstly, learning and training; and,
  • Secondly, technology.

If you love these two, you have already won half the battle of becoming an eLearning champion. 

Getting The Basics Right

You need to understand how technology and enhanced training methods fit into the overall training and development framework already in existence. As you all know, training and development is something which has been in companies for a very long time, with most of this training happening either on the job or in the classroom.

I would venture a guess that even today, 70 to 80% of all training happens on the job. That is how we arrive at the 70:20:10 formula [2]—70% on the job, 20% from peers and supervisors, and 10% formal training, most of which happens in the classroom. So, in this kind of scenario, how do we use technology? How do we use eLearning to maximize impact, minimize cost, and bring value to the table?

Let’s first revisit another basic truism. What do you think learning is? An event or a process? As learning professionals, we all recognize that learning is a process but when we look at certain situations like classroom training, it looks like an event—you attend a particular event, you learn something, you come out. Even so, we know that learning doesn’t stop once we step out of the classroom and that learning can never be an event, it has to be a process.

Learning As A Process

The learning process has various steps, right from being aware of the need to learn something to becoming ready, finding the right source to learn from, applying what we have learned, recalling, revising, reinforcing, and being rewarded for the learning before it finally becomes a “permanent change in behavior.”

This is when learning is achieved for those of you who can recall the basic definition of learning as a “relatively permanent change in behavior.”

How Much Training Is eLearning Today?

How much of your training needs are addressed by eLearning? By eLearning, I mean all formats of eLearning—eLearning, mobile learning, microlearning, and I would even add blended learning. A recent study of mine showed that about 70% of L&D managers have polled that more than 25% of their training is addressed by eLearning, and about 20% said it is between 5 and 25%. Over the years, I have seen this percentage grow year over year. I am very gratified to see that we’re using more and more technology in our learning and training methodologies. But we can’t rejoice too much because even now 70% of training budgets are spent on classroom training, and not on technology-enhanced learning.

That said, the above excerpt from the 2019 Training Industry Report shows that smaller companies with less than 1,000 employees use the classroom for 44% of training, mid-sized ones 39%, and large-sized companies 36%.

It means that between 56 to 64% of their training has moved to technology-enhanced learning. That may be blended learning, virtual classrooms, online computer-based methods, mobile learning, social learning, and even Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

But it is not right to think that classroom training is going to be totally replaced by technology-based training. Even with COVID hanging over our heads, I would still say that is not going to happen because human beings learn from physical interaction with others and we learn the most from our colleagues and bosses. If you look back on your own careers, you will see that some of your most substantial learning was from your own colleagues, bosses, and sometimes customers. So, I think classroom training is here to stay. 

How Are Organizations Using eLearning?

Companies are using eLearning in 3 ways:

  1. Standalone eLearning
    Some organizations use eLearning as a standalone initiative. It means eLearning is used solely for a specific kind of audience or a specific subject or a training program or sometimes, even based on convenience. It may be for a compliance course or workplace ethics or a workplace safety course.
  2. Classroom or eLearning
    In this case, the L&D or training manager tends to make a choice between classroom training and eLearning for a particular subject and audience. They may base their decision on the nature of the audience—classroom for blue-collared workers or salespeople; and, eLearning for senior managers, or skills training in the classroom and concepts via eLearning.
  3. Blended learning
    Some organizations mix and match or “blend” classroom training with eLearning to get the best results at minimum cost. For example, some companies use eLearning as a pre-requisite for classroom training to teach concepts and principles of a subject, reserving the more valuable hours for skills development exercises and then moving on to an online mode for reinforcing and testing what is taught in the classroom. 

How Does eLearning Fit Into The Overall Training Strategy?

Training in corporate organizations basically falls into 3 buckets:

  1. Sell More
    Basically, we train our own people so that they can sell more, be it in marketing or sales. The subjects can be product training, selling skills, or even training on how to use CRM software or other software that is used to support product service, troubleshooting, customer service, and customer education.
  2. Improve Efficiencies
    How do we get something more with less? How do we spend less time, less cost, and still improve quality? Examples include end user software training, process training, leadership and soft skills training, personal productivity, and so on.
  3. Stay Compliant
    Compliance training assumes the most importance after leadership training. Companies spend a lot on compliance training—GMP, GCP, EHS, information security, code of conduct, data privacy, and so on.

In all these above areas, research has now demonstrated that a “blended” approach is most effective, both learning efficacy-wise and cost-wise.

In my next article, I will be writing more about how to fit eLearning into the overall training strategy. I will also deal with blended learning and its nitty-gritty. The article will answer among other things, the important question of how exactly does one “blend” classroom and eLearning in the most effective proportion. Stay tuned!

References:

[1] Aligning Training with Business Goals: 5 Steps Strategy to Business Success

[2] How Can Technology-Enabled Learning Harness the 70:20:10 Model for L&D?


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