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Can you use e-learning for soft skills?


Ken Stewart, Consultant at the Berkshire Consultancy looks at whether e-learning should really be restricted to some subjects.

Can so called ‘soft-skills’ be learned purely online? As e-learning continues to expand it is beginning to enter skill areas which, on the face of it, do not lend themselves so easily online delivery. Of course, many content developers may disagree, but can you really learn how to be a leader after 30 minutes online training?

Let me say that I do believe that online learning has real value to add to soft-skills development, but that’s it, it can add value rather than replace traditional methods such as workshops or coaching where the opportunity to practice and learn from practice cannot be replicated online. Let me describe how I see, and have used, online learning in soft-skills development.

I have used online learning in two main ways; I know there are others ways to blend learning methods but these are the two most common methods, and I find effective ways, of blending soft-skills development.

Firstly, as way of stripping out workshop content to allow the workshop to become focused on skills gain rather than skills and knowledge. By this I mean using online delivery to communicate theory, models, self-assessment tools for learners to study before the workshop, freeing workshop time to concentrate on skills practice. This can have the advantage of reducing time, and therefore costs as well as associated costs such as travel accommodation. This is one of e-learning’s big selling points; greater cost effectiveness, but I would argue that in ‘soft-skills’ development reduction in training budgets should not the main driver for using e-learning, but rather an added bonus. The main driver in using blended learning is to maximise the development experience and its overall effectiveness.

Secondly, I have used e-learning to provide additional support to workshops or coaching. What I means by that, is that I am not looking using e-learning to deliver theory or models, but using in e-learning in a different way. E-learning can provide additional sources of information on a topic, or use it to allow learners to continue to interact after an event.

In both the ways I have described using e-learning it is about enriching the development experience, allowing learners to get more from a subject than they would normally by using workshops, coaching or e-learning separately.

E-learning does a have a role to play in developing ‘soft-skills’ and it can be a truly effective medium, but, in my experience, effective when blended with other approaches.


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