— December 22, 2017
E-learning, or learning resources delivered using electronic media (video, internet, etc.), can be a powerful tool for helping your business scale its learning initiatives. Some of the benefits of e-learning include the reduced cost of training, increased flexibility and access, reduced time for training, and improved employee engagement.
However, even though e-learning is widely available and easy to scale, not everyone uses it and has a good experience. Why do some e-learning initiatives fail while others succeed?
Too Many Courses
One issue that OnPoint has encountered numerous times is that companies may launch a new self-directed learning initiative (SDL) and throw every possible course they can find onto their LMS. In the quest for a robust learning solution, they end up creating a convoluted mess of randomly-selected courses. Employees are left with no idea where to begin their training for a specific career path or end goal.
Without a clear start and end point, employees are left adrift in their company’s SDL initiative. Companies can avoid this particular pitfall by taking the time to evaluate what courses and specific skills are the most likely to help prepare their employees to meet specific goals.
For example, a company could use 360 surveys and performance data to examine the aggregate needs of the people in the organization. This helps to ID the learning needs of entire groups of employees, such as strategic thinking, influencing tactics, or specific job skills. Training programs can then be focused on these core needs, maximizing the ROI of training.
By organizing courses based on different goals, you can give your business’ employees a clear idea of where to start. This, in turn, makes it easier for them to engage with your employee development programs.
Course Content is TOO Basic
Some organizations implement online learning resources that are a little too basic for their employees—providing courses that are boring for the employee to sit through.
Another common issue that leads to bland and unengaging learning is when the course doesn’t take advantage of the multimedia potential of e-learning. Instead of leveraging videos, podcasts, interactive learning opportunities (such as case studies, quizzes and self-assessments), and other multimedia tools, every course consists of slides from a presentation or webinar—often without the original presenter’s audio.
In an article titled “What Do You Love & Hate About E-Learning,” the article’s author asks readers to share some of their own positive and negative experiences with e-learning. One respondent, Dennis Knepper, replied that:
“Most people who either create courses or show up in the training unit with a stack of PowerPoint slides they want turned into a WBT have no concept of what makes an effective e-learning course. As a result, most of the courses end up looking like a lot of YouTube videos where the content and quality is obviously amateurish and would only appear interesting to the person who made it – but nobody else.”
To make e-learning content engaging, it needs to be varied and challenging/interesting. Using a combination of text, video, audio, and interactive learning can help make the program more engaging to learners with different aptitudes. For example, some people retain information better when they read it, while others are more likely to remember a point if someone else relays it in a story, and others learn by doing.
Keeping the content challenging and relevant can keep learners engaged by making them think about what they’re learning and feel like they’re actually learning something new and valuable.
Carefully reviewing e-learning content to make sure that each course leverages different kinds of media and is not remedial for the employees taking them can allow you to create more effective e-learning courses for your company.
Lack of Monitoring
One of the hallmarks of a successful learning and development program is that a large percentage of the team registers, starts, and completes it. These figures can be used to track engagement with the learning program.
For example, if not many people are registering for the e-learning courses, then there may be a problem with the perceived value of the course among employees—such as the course not helping them meet their career goals or offering new and valuable information. If there is a high start rate but low completion rate, then there may be an issue with the material used in the course.
Based on this information, the e-learning courses in the learning management system (LMS) can be changed to get rid of things that are unpopular or causing people to disengage with the learning and replaced with courses that do meet learners’ needs.
It is likewise possible to track the results of tests in the e-learning courses to see if the people taking the courses are learning anything from them.
Lack of Guidance
While effective, e-learning often works best when it’s part of a broader program. Blended learning — where both self-directed learning using online resources and face-to-face sessions are combined — can produce better results than e-learning alone.
Some topics may, in fact, work better within a face-to-face learning environment than they do in an online one—for example, lessons about influencing tactics may work better in a face-to-face setting because there’s an opportunity to practice the skill and get feedback from an expert.
Also, just asking people to register for e-learning courses without a reason or incentive rarely works—it takes exceptional self-motivation and effort for an employee to participate in an SDL program without some guidance or incentive. Making sure that the topics are seen as important (such as by relating them back to the learner’s everyday work environment) can be a powerful tool for keeping employees engaged with SDL learning initiatives.
Marketing the learning program to teams and making sure they know what topics and skills are available and how they can benefit, can help improve program registry and start metrics. Aligning the learning platform with performance management systems is a good way to make e-learning a part of the ongoing coaching and development conversation with employees.
Having employees attend live sessions to get them started and using e-learning to support the live sessions can increase engagement. A common strategy is to have three to four live sessions over the course of the year and use e-learning in the months between to reinforce lessons from the live sessions.
Resolving each of the above problems can help you improve your organization’s e-learning efforts so that learners engage with learning content and retain the lessons. However, it will take an ongoing effort to monitor results and make modifications to continuously improve your e-learning course curriculum to achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency.