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Robin Hoyle

Huthwaite International

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

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Compliant with what, exactly?

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 A friend of mine is a tech wizard. In fact so sought after are his skills that he is called upon by major corporations to resolve network issues which have taxed those with enormous brains and the sallow complexions of those whose dedication to computers means they rarely experience daylight.

In a recent assignment for a major telecoms company, he was required to complete a piece of health and safety e-learning and pass the end of programme assessment before being allowed on site. He let me glimpse the wonders of the programme which he had been required to complete.
Here was a technologically advanced organisation where everyone uses computers and the latest technology is an intrinsic part of their day jobs. And yet the e-Learning which my friend had to sit through was an example of the very worst use of computer based learning I could ever imagine. I honestly thought that click through pages, heavy text on screen with barely relevant images pasted on to each page were things of the past – the ancient past when learning programmes were distributed on 3½ inch floppy disks.   Interaction was limited to hovering over a so called hot spot which launched determinedly lukewarm pop ups. The traditional numbering system – page 2 of 6 etc - seemed more like a threat than a guide to progress.
The assessment – which plumbed the depths of the question writers’ art – was of course locked until every page had been viewed. Once arrived at, the usual sins had been committed. The longest question always right and every repetitive four option multiple choice included an answer which was so clearly wrong that the phone-in quiz setter for daytime TV would have been embarrassed to take the premium rate phone charges off those who called in.
Heinous though these e-Learning crimes were, the best (worst) was yet to come. One size fits all apparently. Yes in order to come on to site to resolve a computer issue, an operation which he assures me provides no greater danger than dropping the end of a dunked digestive down his shirt, he had to complete the section on working at heights. My desk bound, technologically brilliant mate needs to prove to someone (who?) that he can work safely on scaffolding before being allowed through the security gates!
Compliance training has regularly been one of the things for which e-Learning is used. The trackability through an LMS of online modules, the right/wrong assessments and the chance to audit an individual’s score have attracted those in search of tick-in-the-box security.  
Two things disturb me about this. 
Firstly, if the health and safety of visiting contractors is important - and we do have an absolute duty here -  surely they deserve something better than this? How about a programme from which they might actually learn something? How about a process which truly ensured that they were safe in those areas of activity  in which they were likely to be involved? This catch all, tick in the box programme achieves no objectives apart from giving a false sense of security to the HSE manager that he or she isn’t going to find themselves in court in the unfortunate event of an incident in which someone is injured or worse. (On that point, however, I wouldn’t want to be the barrister representing anyone who used this programme as the central plank of their defence!)
Secondly, very many organisations start their journey into e-Learning with compliance programmes. Everyone needs them and an individual’s records are automatically updated. Whether or not to use e-Learning seems a no-brainer. But if this is the standard of learning programme which employees and contractors are being expected to use, is there any wonder that e-Learning is often seen as a poor substitute to traditional alternatives? The fact that a major employer (who, I should point out has spoken on e-Learning issues at many conferences) should have this available as a semi public example of their approach to training and learning damages not just them, but everyone associated with e-Learning provision.

Author Profile Picture
Robin Hoyle

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

Read more from Robin Hoyle
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