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E-learning – is it really the ultimate training solution?

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Robert Chapman, co-founder of The Training Camp sets out what he believes to be the myths of e-learning.


When e-learning first came along, companies across the UK hailed its arrival as the training option of choice. But recent research has shown that as many as half of the UK's companies now believe that e-learning is over-hyped.

So, let's separate the myth from the reality.

Myth 1 - E-learning is cheap
Finance departments like the sound of e-learning because on paper it looks like the cheapest option.
But e-learning isn't a commodity so how can companies base their purchasing decisions purely on cost?
For a start, it doesn't take into account the effectiveness of the teaching itself.
All it takes is basic maths to show that virtual training courses provide little return on investment for IT professionals.
Using the following formula, companies can work out the value of e-learning to find out whether it offers value or is not:
(SxL) + C + (ExS)
S = Student's daily pay (£)
L = Days spent on course
C = Course cost
E = Elapsed time taken to finish course (in days)
Most companies opt for e-learning because it appears to be the cheapest option. However, the price of the course alone (C) does not give an accurate picture of the total cost of training.
Business should focus on the mechanism by which the training is delivered and check its efficiency in terms of how quickly new knowledge can be put into practice and its long-term retention.

Myth 2 - People learn more when they work on their own
It's quite simply a myth that people learn more effectively when left to their own devices. One of the major benefits of learning with others is the chance to feed off your peers and interact with the instructor. A good instructor will be able to spot students who are struggling and put them back on the right track. Getting off on the wrong foot at the beginning of a topic and then building on weak foundations can lead to many wasted hours. If you're working alone, you might not know you've gone down the wrong path until it's too late.

Myth 3 - E-learning is flexible
E-learning is often considered the most flexible option. For employees, it means they can choose when and how they work and they can fit the course around their everyday routine.
For businesses, e-learning's attractions lie in the fact that it can be done in the office so that it doesn't take employees away from their desks. It can also be squeezed into lunch hours However, it doesn't take into account the rate at which employees can implement new skills in the workplace.
At the end of the day, the key objective of training is to improve the quality of your staff. If employees are obliged to squeeze in training whenever they can, they may not give it the attention it deserves thereby reducing the value of the course.

Myth 4 - E-learning means organisations have more control over what their employees learn
With the rush to get training programmes online, many organisations looked at building their own courses and creating their own content. Others outsourced development to the many hundreds of e-learning specialists that sprung up to cope with the boom in demand. Many ended up with solutions that didn't meet their needs.
As a result, many e-learning programmes were never rolled out or used.
At the end of the day, what companies want is to train their employees in the most efficient manner. In time, professionals and their employers will realise that e-learning's supposed virtues are more fantasy than reality.

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