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DIY e-learning


Sue Harley, Managing Director of IQdos, believes that e-learning providers have a crucial role to play as customers go the DIY route.

I have been quoted before now as saying that 2003 will be the year of DIY e-learning, and undoubtedly the trend grows for companies to create, edit and publish their own bespoke learning programmes.

There are several factors behind the rise in companies designing their own training. Firstly, there has been a perceived dissatisfaction with some standardised packages. This has been coupled with the emergence of 'authoring' - packages that allow users without technical knowledge to create their own, company-specific e-learning content. Another influence is of course cost. In tough economic times, few companies will outsource what they can now do in-house.

DIY learning has other attributes to recommend it, too. Perhaps most importantly, it puts the user company more in control of its own training, knowledge management and skills acquisition. Generic packages are understandably seen as not being able to incorporate all the knowledge required by, and procedures intrinsic to, any given organisation.

The ability to update content is also vital. Even organisations daunted by the idea of designing and building their own e-learning programmes will require the ability to maintain and update training quickly and easily, without having to invest in costly upgrades.

So if the stage is set for DIY e-learning, shouldn't those of us in the industry be running scared? The answer is no. DIY is not the solution for all comers, and where it is taken up, it offers opportunities for e-learning providers to play a supportive role, as we shall see.

Should You DIY?

The first step a company looking to e-learning should take is a full audit of its skill levels and skill gaps, in order to fully understand its own training needs. This may sound like common sense, but is crucial, and must be done accurately and comprehensively in order to make the right decisions regarding training. Companies should not automatically plump for the DIY approach, seeing it purely as a cost-cutting exercise without expert advice.

Training needs should be audited at macro and micro levels. Feedback from all potential trainees should be sought in order to ascertain their needs, and input should also come from the HR and finance departments. Staff performance can be analysed against target levels and business objectives. From these processes, a clear picture of a firm's training needs will emerge.

It is worth noting that e-learning and e-performance tools can help with this. There are web-based solutions that provide accurate 'audits' of companies' skills levels and gaps at a given point in time. This is in part why e-learning providers need not be afraid - their products can be a part of the DIY decision, and at any rate, not all organisations will decide to go that route.

Once an organisation has a clear idea of training needs, the next question to ask is: what can be delivered via e-learning? Where will e-learning solutions prove beneficial over classroom training?

Cost is again a key factor here, but companies must ensure that e-learning is the right delivery method for their requirements. Again there is a role for e-learning consultancies to play in advising companies as to where e-learning will work best for them.

Having decided to use e-learning, the next step is obviously to select a solution provider. This goes for whether or not the DIY approach has been decided upon - companies will either need an off-the-shelf package, a bespoke solution designed by an e-learning company, or a self-authoring tool. Again, the role for an e-learning consultancy to help in this decision-making process is clear.

The 'Dual Approach'

Even with effective authoring solutions, still there remains a role for the e-learning consultancy, as most companies setting out on the DIY e-learning path will need some hand-holding as they go. Authoring may enable companies to be more independent, but it is not designed to make them experts. Few non-training companies are likely have the technical and Instructional Design expertise to handle the whole process without support, and few will not be daunted by the prospect.

The trend right now seems to be for companies to take on DIY e-learning under the auspice of a consultancy, who will provide the tools and Instructional Design training and coaching for companies to start creating content, then stay on board to advise and support on an ongoing basis, at least in the early stages. This 'dual approach' may prove to be a very important service offering for e-learning providers in the future.

A New Avenue

As DIY e-learning grows with the emergence of authoring and the drive to cut costs, the e-learning industry must be prepared to grasp this as an opportunity, not cower in front of a perceived threat. As more and more organisations go the DIY route, the opportunities will increase for e-learning providers to offer not only solutions but consultancy, advice and support along the way.


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