Technological innovation is affecting all aspects of our lives, and corporate training has not been immune to the disruption. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, keeping employees up-to-date on newly implemented systems and/or market changes is a significant challenge for many firms. Traditional in-person classroom education is no longer the best option for employee training in many instances, especially with an increasingly global and virtual workforce. companies need training options that can be spun up quickly to address employee knowledge gaps and keep productivity and profitability high.
Corporate training, like higher education, has been moving in the direction of more online learning (eLearning) over the last several decades. The Covid-19 disruption has accelerated this movement dramatically. eLearning is a flexible tool to that companies can use to provide employees with the training they need when they need it.
A recent Global Market Insights forecast projects that the eLearning market size will grow at a CAGR of 8% between 2020 and 2026. According a recent UF Canvas study, the eLearning market is projected to reach $325 billion by 2025. Let’s examine some of the factors which are driving the rapid growth of the eLearning industry, along with some tips on how to maximize the success of eLearning applications in your business.
What is eLearning?
eLearning uses electronic technologies to present educational information online outside of a traditional classroom setting. eLearning curricula may include pre-recorded lecture content, videos, visuals/graphics, text, quizzes, simulations, virtual reality, games and other interactive elements. eLearning may be organized into formal courses, or it can be structured as more learner-directed, informal learning with elements like wikis, online discussions, stored resources in Dropbox, etc.
The growth in the eLearning industry is primarily due to the many advantages this form of learning can offer over traditional classrooms. A few of the benefits incurred by companies pursuing eLearning training strategies include:
Standardization of training.
Companies need standardized training to ensure all employees are on the same page across their organizations, especially when the company has geographically dispersed and/or remote teams. eLearning eliminates the risk of different groups of employees receiving different instruction from different instructors by providing a single consistent eLearning experience from any location accessible through the cloud.
Faster training times.
A Brandon Hall Group study concluded that it takes 40 to 60 percent less employee time to study a particular material via e-learning than in a traditional classroom setting. eLearning eliminates travel to training events and allows employees to easily skip what they already know and focus instead on the learning they actually need. In addition, employees can access the training online in their spare time and avoid interrupting workflows.
Increased learning retention.
The Research Institute of America determined that e-learning boosts learning retention rates by 25 to 60 percent. eLearning employees have the flexibility to access their training anytime, anywhere from a mobile device, laptop, tablet or desktop. This enables them to train when their energy levels and focus are maximized for retention, and they can revisit their training as needed. In addition, the engaging nature of interactive eLearning content helps facilitate better retention than the passive learning experience of a traditional classroom setting.
Elimination of travel, lodging and material costs for both employees and instructors can be significant when training a global workforce. While quality eLearning courses require capital to develop upfront, they can be reused and updated without much expense and can reach a much larger audience than a traditional classroom workshop. Additionally, eLearning eliminates the need to hire instructors to deliver the training.
Better reporting, record-keeping and administration.
With online training, it’s a quick and easy process to pull the data you need to assess the training’s effectiveness. Information such as completion rates, who has started and/or finished the training, assessment grades, forum engagement, which employees are assigned to which training programs, and the length of time for course completion are available in reports from the learning management system (LMS).
While the kinds of benefits discussed above are compelling, it does not mean that every company should seek to convert all training programs to an online environment. There are instances where in-person classroom training is appropriate and essential, such as with highly technical topics or extremely complex processes in a scientific company. Sometimes, in-person engagement with a subject matter expert (SME) is going to be necessary for proper immersion in a complex topic.
Best Practices for eLearning Success
eLearning has the potential to provide significant value to scientific organizations, but a proven methodology needs to be applied to integrate eLearning effectively into your training plan. Best practices that will help to maximize eLearning success in your organization include:
Gather training requirements.
Course developers need to understand the client’s process, needs and training requirements before any work on course development begins. An assessment should be performed that will involve meeting with and interviewing company stakeholders to understand workflows and discern training requirements. A formal Training Requirements Document should be produced that includes:
- Training scope – defines which roles, parts of process, functional areas, external target audiences (e.g., FDA) that are in and out of scope for inclusion in training deliverables
- Training requirements – requirements necessary for a smooth training program are defined (e.g., training technology platform, vendor criteria, technical requirements for training delivery or materials creation, compliance requirements, etc.)
- Assumptions and dependencies – describes feasibility, process, technical availabilities or other project-related assumptions on which the viability of the Training Requirement Document might be based
Choose the right tools.
There are a variety of tools available for eLearning authoring (e.g., form-based, freeform, hybrid) and different platforms have different capabilities. Choose your tools wisely, as your choice in this department will have big implications on the courses you can create. Make sure the technology you use is a good match for the training requirements. If a specific eLearning authoring tool is necessary to meet the training requirements, it should be listed in the Training Requirements Document.
Develop a training plan.
Blindly going all in on eLearning by moving all learning content to an online platform is not an effective strategy. Best practice is to evaluate the Training Requirements Document and convert traditional training programs to eLearning only where it makes sense to do so. Training for employees working in manufacturing, for example, can be primarily eLearning, as manufacturing is typically a rigid process that can be adequately described by an eLearning course. For employees working in areas with complex and variable workflows (e.g., R&D), however, in-person training with an SME will usually be necessary. Sometimes, a blended approach is best, with eLearning covering the basics and preparing employees for a deep dive with an SME either in-person or through an online platform.
The Training Plan will define the curriculum objective (what needs to be learned), what learners need to know before they can start, delivery method (instructor led, eLearning, etc.), timeline and frequency for each audience group. The Training Plan can be included in the Training Requirements Document.
Develop eLearning curriculum.
Successful eLearning courses bridge the gap between the organization’s needs and the learner’s needs. eLearning curriculum should thus be developed in a manner consistent with the Training Requirements Document utilizing appropriate instructional design elements (e.g., interactive; gamification; time efficient; auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning styles engaged; etc.) to maximize effectiveness.
eLearning courses are typically either information-based (designed to convey information) or performance-based (designed to improve performance). Specific measurable indicators should be pinpointed to help track eLearning success. For performance-based courses, these indicators can be things like dates, sales targets, customer satisfaction rates, etc. For information-based courses, quizzes incorporated into the course can help to verify information has been assimilated. Pre-assessments of learners (skill levels, average monthly sales, etc.) can be helpful to set a benchmark that will enable you to track the success of your eLearning classes. Post-training staff surveys can also be helpful to track what is working and what needs to be improved.
eLearning is an essential tool for delivering successful training programs across the enterprise. The best practices discussed in this article provide a basic framework for ensuring that your eLearning curriculum is successful and contributes value to your organization. Providing a quality training experience for employees is one of the most important things an organization can do to enhance employee satisfaction and retention, and when done right, eLearning has the potential to offer a significant competitive edge to your business.