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Seb Anthony

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e-learning for the unconvinved


I have been asked to investigate the possibility of setting up an e-learning service for an organisation with around 1000 staff.

I have no idea where to start....

How much would it cost to set up and maintain?

What benefits would our employees gain?

How does one track success / track usage?

What are the pitfalls to avoid?

Can I make this pay? (i.e. 'sell' space to other not for profit organisations at a little above cost)?

Ian Stone

7 Responses

  1. E-learning
    With such a large scale project like this, and one that is likely to offer different things to each sector, I would start by seeking information on need/interest in such a venture fom your prospective users.
    If you take a sample of not for profit organisations and discuss their needs and expectations you will be able to develop a prototype model on which cost and design can be fleshed out.

    Once you have done the research I would approach your local LSC to look at funding opportuities as well as other EU sources.

    A group project might be the best way forward so you get what you need and want at the lowest possible cost to your organisation and the maximum of people benefit.

    I would also look at the reception and intergration of your staff’s views at an early stage.

    Pilot the ‘feel’ of an e-learning portal by setting up a PC or two with training CDs and resources after you have sought views on areas of need and interest. Open the pilot up to members of your target group, get a small contribution from them and review how that works. Do their staff attend as booked on line? Are there practical user problems that need tackling, is the learning a positive experience and improving business performance?

    If you offer those who wanted it on paper with reality does the interest wane or is it sustainable?

    I ask as a lot of companies have found real resistance to the end result where pilots have not been used.

    If it is unpopular you have lost little, and have a much clearer view on the likely uptake of any e-elearning programme.

    It will also give you research data on managerial support and practical issues like interference whilst training from work mates or poor time attendance on training booked as well as current IT limitations.

    Good luck with it!

    TBD Global Ltd
    0870 241 3998

  2. Why do it?
    Your question, as presented, suggests that you have a solution looking for a problem. An Intranet-based management learning system is a way of a addressing a problem, but you first have to definne the problem and its parameters (project scope):
    What is the management learning need (numbers, nature, scale, level, etc)?
    What are the limitiations on the project deriving from the initiator’s perspective (eg timescales, budget, users, etc)?
    What do the potential users see as their need and their requirements for a solution to their needs)?

    You should also consider the ditinction between knowledge acquistion and behavioural change – I know what motivates people, but does that mean and I can change my management style to improve performance? E-learning systems (just like books and paper-based learning resources) are best at developing knowledge, less effective at changing behaviour unless operated within a wider learning programme.

    My strong preference is for action learning, as this is a mechanism for triggering the demand for learning which e-learning (amongst others methods) can meet. The benefits of this extend beyond learning into innovation and change in business processes and performance, if done well.

  3. e-learning for the unconvinced

    Everything you are seeking to achieve is completely viable from the technical perspective but I suggest you need to start by going back one step.

    Ensure you have a compelling and well developed business case before investing any effort into getting costings and working out the other details.

    I would start by asking the organisation why they are contemplating setting up this service and precisely what they are seeking to achieve in business terms. e.g. Are travel costs soaking up a disproportionate amount of their training budget? How much can you save?

    Set your service implementation budget and your service aspirations solely according to the return-on-investment that you can legitimately project. Do not be seduced into costing for or buying anything which will not pay for itself!

    Potential pitfalls abound and not all of these will be flushed out by a limited scale pilot.

    e-Learning has a high cost of implementation/development, low cost of replication/distribution business model. It is easy to lose your shirt by servicing audiences that are simply too small for effective ROI.

    1000 people sounds a lot but how many of these people will have common training needs and where are they located?

    How many people will have the technology needed to access to your service?

    What are their IT skills like?

    How many of them are comfortable with self-paced modes of distance learning?

    How will you get buy-in from line managers? From the training function? From individual trainers? From learners?

    The technology is the least of your problems. The devil is in the detail and in the people!

    By all means get in touch if you would like further informal advice.

    Best wishes and good luck!

    Adrian Snook

  4. Be convinced
    “Where do I start?” is a question asked by everyone that looks into e-learning, including those that have done it before. Every situation is different, and each time there are commonalities that you wouldn’t expect. Many of these commonalities are with planning classroom training.

    Have a look at a document published by Glasstap called “Considering e-Learning?” It will help, and can be found on the TrainingZONE site within the Document Library.

    I have one tip that I tell everyone, and I think it is very important. If you are going to look at implementing a learning management system, make sure it’s intuitive, and very simple to use. The last thing you want is for people to have to take time to learn the system, when they really need to learn their chosen subject. You will see systems available with all of the bells and whistles, but at the end of the day do you really need them? Do they achieve anything for you? And, which features will the learners really use?

    Think about why you want a learning management system, who is your target audience, and what do you want to deliver. Having your learning available online provides great advantages, especially when your audience is widely dispersed or when you can’t get people together all at the same time. It can also help you to reduce the amount of time rolling out crucial projects.

    One buzzword you will hear almost thrown around is blended learning. If you think about it, blended learning is a must, and will help you avoid some very nasty pitfalls inherent in just e-learning. But what is blended learning? Simply put it is probably exactly what you are doing now. People learn in different ways from classroom, reading, meetings, and general discussion. Putting all of this together is blended learning, and adding an e-learning element can only enhance this.

    All this comes down to not restricting the way people learn, but to expand the learning opportunity. e-learning can help you and can be fun to plan and very rewarding.

    I am more than happy to talk to you or anyone that wants to discuss this further. tel: 01434 38 11 36.

  5. Intellego
    Have a long histroy of helping orgnaisations in this arena contact 0208 614 2339

  6. Look For An Answer To Deliver Your Needs
    There has already been excellent answers to this question, so I’ll keep my comments brief.

    Firstly, I would agree with our colleagues who have suggested that you need to further investigate the value of e-Learning to your organisation.

    In my experience, people tend to look at e-Learning the first time to meet the needs of a burning issue within the organisation and then look to develop a strategy based on their experience. This fulfils the requirement for a pilot and if done correctly will convince many of the doubters within the organisation that e-Learning is worth pursuing.

    Here lies a particularly important issue, you will need to market this way to your organisation. Most people call this ‘change management’, which it is but I would suggest taking help from a marketing expert in this.

    The administration, management and reporting of the programme can indeed be achieved by using an LMS. However, in my opinion this will be another potential minefield for you, especially if you investigate the larger LMS providers. If you are seriously intending on using e-Learning to sell on to other organizations, it may be worth talking to a smaller (and UK-based) LMS organization, such as beadware (

    In terms of resources to get you started, I have a host of resources you may find useful, so feel free to email me if you need any more information.

  7. Keep your foot out of the pothole
    Many have given good advice, especially Adrian.

    As a n e-learning vendor , I will be careful what I say, this is most certainly not a sales pitch. (as you will see)

    Your starting place in my opinion is to go back to the person who has given you this task and find out what is his/her expectation of what they wish to be achieved. (then thank him sarcastically for the job)

    Too many have been to so many conferences and heard different stories and claims, that the level of expectation is so high everything could be a disappointment. Others have such a confused idea of what is possible that nothing ever gets done.

    With this expectation in you mind, you need to now understand the learning culture of the organisation, how will ‘e’ fit in to the existing culture. If offerered do they have a different expectation and how will you bridge any gap.

    Whatever and however you decide to proceed with this information the time then is to consider what can be supplied to fulfil these expectations as a minimum. Try to consider providing it within the existing infrastructure of the organisation.

    Many become non starters in ‘e’ because the vendor wants to sell them something that requires vast investment that was never considered in the budget.

    LMS is the way to track, however there are alternatives. LMS does not have to be an expensive proposition. The last comment on LMS is that it should NOT be the first thing you consider. Content comes first. LMS without content is Air Traffic Control without planes.

    Pitfalls, there are very many, all can be very costly, ensure you deal with a vendor / consultant you feel you can trust, one who is willing to offer advice that does not have his ‘only’ product as the core to his advice.

    As for making it pay with third parties. My advice here is to get it to pay in the core organisation, once you are walking, then and only then consider running. However keep this as a consideration when deciding on an LMS so that you can keep the different organisations data apart from each other.

    Very finally, the biggest cost is time. How long it will take to build, maintain. It always takes longer than you think.

    I would suggest you put together your own list of needs and wants for your e-learning service. Number them (high number for ‘critical’ low for ‘nice to have’) Give this list to the vendors you interview (yes interview…demos from vendors look great, I am one remember) ensure they are committed and contracted to deliver what is critical to you.

    Always willing to chat without any obligation.

    Neil Lasher


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