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A masterclass in elearning


COGSOnce more elearning seems to be the hot topic in L&D, as more organisations look for time-efficient, effective, and cost-effective, learning solutions. Drawing on his recent masterclass on elearning, Nigel Paine shares some advice on how to make it work for your organisation.

I have just finished reading an article called 'Life After Layoffs'. Most material, currently doing the rounds is about cutting back, doing more with less and how to know when it is time to get out!

You may be forgiven, therefore, for missing some quite startling good news that was published recently. It is in the ASTD State of the Industry report, which came out around Christmas. Amidst tales of static or declining investment in training and development, one area shines. And, no prizes for working out that this area is elearning.

Photo of Nigel Paine"Good learning departments will emerge from this turmoil more focussed and stronger with increased respect for what they can achieve."

Amongst ASTD members, at least, this is one dimension of training and development that is benefitting from growing investment, increased support, and higher profile. And that is a fact all of us can leverage in some way or another.

I have just run a masterclass with 15 participants all keen to begin the elearning journey and all had plans, programmes and projects to deploy on their return to the workplace. Their key issues may help you take some of the first steps forward. And if you do that, you may find that, far from being rebuffed, you are pushing against an open door.

  • Start simple: you can pilot material on someone else’s server for minimal cost and concentrate on making it a great learning experience.

  • Market like crazy: just because you provide it, does not mean they will beat a path to your door! It has to be compelling, and set in a compelling environment.

  • Deal with access issues up front. Do not imagine that they will go away when you launch and the yells from those unable to get to your programme will have a big impact on the general perception of success.

  • Get a sponsor in senior management to lobby for you and ensure the whole thing gets profile.

  • Think about how you will measure what has been learned and the impact on the organisation as a whole. This is an early discussion not one you start the moment someone asks for the data.

  • Do not go looking for enormous investment in a learning management system as your first step. Prove the model, lease, hire-in and borrow: you want someone else to take, or at least share, the risk.

  • Remember that less is more. Launching with 2,000 courses is not as smart as launching with 20 that are honed and focused on need. You can easily find vendors who will give you an entire portfolio to start with. Be wary about quantity not quality.

  • Consider building some informal learning, two-way exchange and continuing dialogue around your elearning programme. Forget courses, think about environments. This is a social, engaged, two-way space. If you tell the boss that this initiative will highlight expertise in the organisation and generate a culture of more sharing and more empowerment, this should be music to his/her ears.

  • Go and see what others do. Network like crazy and look at a range of deployments from big to small, fast to slow, complex to simple and work out what is right for your company.

  • Make this real! Solve identifiable problems, grow skills and expertise and fix things faster. Now is the time to talk about bottom line, not 'nice to have'.

  • Be radical; and be prepared to drop something else you do face to face and replace it entirely or partly with elearning. Raise the stakes, make success critical.

  • Putting your reputation on the line is a very simple way to show that you mean business here.

  • Do not be afraid to use seminars, synchronous online classrooms, tutoring and coaching to make this work. The time for purists has long passed us by.

Learning that takes the current climate on the chin, looks broadly at what an organisation needs, helps save money and delivers competence and knowledge faster round the organisation, looks a lot like the kind of learning we need now in all sorts of workplaces.

This is a real opportunity to stretch you and your team; broaden your perspective and have the organisation raving about the contribution learning can make. This is, ironically, the time to raise your profile not hide in a corner hoping no one will notice you. Good learning departments will emerge from this turmoil more focused and stronger with increased respect for what they can achieve. Tough times are always learning times.

Nigel Paine is a former head of training and development at the BBC and now runs his own company, Nigel Paine.Com which focuses on people, learning and technology. For more information visit his website at


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