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E-Learning – Still the Cinderella of Accountancy Training

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Training consultant Viv Cole Speaks to our sistersite AccountingWEB and reveals some of the findings of the E-Learning Census, which tracks e-learning usage in accountancy.

On the face of it there are several good reasons why accountancy firms should be keen to implement e-learning, however despite five years of trying, our research has found that e-learning is still the Cinderella of accountancy training and has not gone to the ball.

Business Case: The slipper fits
E-learning is still new to many sectors. Despite the articles, the websites and the conferences, most firms are yet to make any substantial commitment to using the new tools. The forces of inertia are strong, and particularly so in the world of accountancy, despite the fact that here more than anywhere the slipper fits so well. Accountancy firms are missing out on benefits their colleagues in other sectors and in the US routinely enjoy.

The business case for using e-learning, or blended learning, is strong for many reasons:

  • Client pressures mean that the flexibility to complete the course at any time is welcome
  • Regulators demand evidence that compliance training has been completed (often to a tested standard)
  • Relatively high charge-out rates for staff make it easier to justify the up-front investment required
  • Staff have a proven track record of being motivated towards personal development, often studying independently for exams
  • There are potentially large numbers of staff with similar learning needs who need consistent messages
And yet the findings of the E-learning Census conducted by my firm reveal patchy adoption, a lack of coherent strategy, and in some cases little more than a series of test exercises.
But not the Culture
The E-learning Census showed that in general where there was a choice, learners prefer face-to-face training to e-learning. This suggests partners may not have bought into e-learning and that roll-outs may have failed to focus enough on people-related issues. Some people may also be “switched off” by their initial exposure to e-learning - often during low budget pilot schemes.

Where e-learning was used to meet regulatory requirements, firms reported no less than 100% completion. Training managers seem to feel that they need e-learning to be mandatory to achieve successful implementations, rather than trusting that they can motivate staff to use e-learning through non-draconian means.
Where’s the fairy godmother?
There’s no magic wand to cause the cultural changes that would enable the full benefits of e-learning to be realised. However training departments can make sustained progress through:

  • Planning any e-learning implementation as a full change project, rather than assuming that the benefits to the users are self-evident
  • Investing more time in influencing the partner group so that they visibly support e-learning
  • Conducting user surveys and focus groups to identify how the e-learning product and marketing can be more effective
  • Delivering an internal marketing strategy that reinforces the benefits and importance of the e-learning
  • Measuring the effectiveness of e-learning more robustly so that the business benefits can be clearly demonstrated

Although the overall picture is gloomy, there are several examples of good practice which will be highlighted in a future article.

Viv Cole Associates specialise in providing e-learning and training for professional services firms. Contact Viv Cole via email at: viv@vivcole.co.uk or visit www.vivcole.co.uk.

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