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Embarking on the e-learning trail


We are a mid-sized corporate (about 700 staff) that has not yet caught up with the "e-learning craze". We have seen demonstrations from a few providers, but have not yet been able to establish our key requirements. This means we have no proper way of assessing these potential providers.

As Manager of the Training team, my key requirements are: 1) We have a blended learning solution, ie. we do not want to do away with our classrom element, and 2) Any e-learning we implement must be beneficial, ie. not just having snazzy e-learning lessons because they look cool!

Any tips, hints or common traps from anyone out there who has already been down the e-learning track would be welcomed with open arms!!

Tony Boon
Tony Boon

12 Responses

  1. Play around
    Hi Tony

    You’ll need to think about a few practicalities when looking at e-learning. As the answers to the questions will have an impact on your choice:

    Where will you expect people to use it – in a learning centre, at home, at their desks? How do managers feel about people undertaking e-learning in the workplace?

    Do your machines have soundcards and can people use headphones to access e-learning without disturbing others?

    What is your company’s culture like – will the style of learning fit?

    What do you want to do with the masses of data you could acquire – you’ll need to decide how closely people are tracked, if at all, as it puts a different spin on what e-learning is perceived to be for.

    What’s your budget?! Who’s paying? How long do you want to commit to a provider for? Be careful here, you don’t want a five year deal only to find that people don’t use it.

    Demonstrators will often show you ‘the best bit’ the one section they think sells best. Ask to have access to a range of learning that you can work through without a salesperson in the room. Get a typical learner to try it out.

    I’m sure there’s lots more to think about.

    Take a look at:

    for more.

    If you’d like to talk it through please do get in touch.

    Good Luck


  2. eLearning providers
    Dear Tony,

    It is sometimes difficult to choose the right provider when considering eLearning as a blended approach to existing training methods.

    Firstly, eLearning is about training and not technology. Many providers will be happy to showcase graphical competence when bidding for contracts.

    Blended learning I believe is essential and eLearning does not always provide you with a total solution.

    When selecting a company to deliver your training needs, establish what background and understanding they have to more traditional methods of learning e.g. Do they have a sound understanding of the response different types of learners have to classroom training? Do they understand the learning process and How do they effectively tackle common challenges trainers face?

    Last but not least, there should be more enphasis on the methodology of eLearning – a step by step process with which to implement eLearning as a blended solution.

    I hope this helps.

    Ian Fielding
    NDC Training Media

  3. What’s the business outcome

    I’d like to suggest that a step back is taken – as others have commented there’s too much focus on the technology which is then ameliorated by using the ‘blended’ term. I would recommend the use of a simple exercise to determine the performance based outcomes of the training intervention aligned to the expected business impact. We often find clients are surprised by the results. From here it should be possible to determine the relevant factors relating to Learners, Learning and Logistics that would inform the development strategy and ultimately the media and mechanism to be used, both now and on an on-going basis. This also helps to set up the business case and identifies early on any change management issues.

    I hope that this helps.

    Ian Lee-Emery.

  4. Snazzy elearning Trap
    You are on the right track Tony by recognizing the waste of time and money a snazzy elearnng lesson can be. What you want is a hybrid lesson that supplements the classroom element. Your hybrid should provide the students with supplementary exercises, research projects, laboratories and animated case studies. This online program should be accessible thorugh a website that can be accessed on a home desktop as well as in the classroom. Hope that helps,

  5. blended learning – what needs?
    As others have said, get very clear about the desired outcomes of the learning, and when/where it’s expected to take place.

    Then it’s worth looking at the learning in terms of skill, knowledge and understanding, and ask yourself and the potential learners involved what are the minimum take-aways you and they want them to have (including, possibly a desire to learn more)

    Then think, realistically, which of the above are best done f2f and which can a person easily learn on their own in their own time (this takes more thinking than you might imagine)

    It can mean that you can keep the f2f to the real things that need living and breathing human interaction and conversation. Any “sage on the stage” stuff, such as presentations, could be kept online, and made more interactive. Think about adding discussion groups, even mandatory discussion groups to the online element. In this way, the learning can be truly blended, the online element connecting with the f2f and vice versa.

    Don’t even think about a provider until you’ve got the briefing really clear, especially the desired outcomes of the programme.

  6. An educational view
    As an e-learning consultant in the education field, I have a slightly different ‘take’ on e-learning – however, many of the basic issues in education and commerce, are very similar. I just written reams on what goes wrong in implementing e-learning and how to avoid it. In short, it comes down to (I believe): no particular order..

    1. Robust project management

    2. Taking time to fully understand how my organisation works (!) inc. internal trends, needs, aspirations & strategies

    3. Stakeholder analysis

    4. Senior management back-up – stop now if this is not in place….

    5. Computing Services back-up

    6. Realistic budgeting.

    7. Collaboration with other organisations matter how compelling the evidence……

    8. Realising that progress will be much slower than you think….

    9. Being realistic with targets: ‘under promise – over-deliver’

    -knowing your learners inc. learning styles, levels of autonomy and being prepared to be completely flexible in delivery styles
    – learner confidence in using ICT
    – Don’t be fooled by buzzwords – blended learning is as old as the hills – match learner needs with appropriate teaching tools and delivery mechanisms.



  7. You are right to be cautious
    You have sparked an interesting thread here.
    I have encountered many so called e-learning providers, and most seem to be product not client needs led. Many offer e-reading as opposed to e-learning, and you really do need to establish your needs first, and I believe critically, the likely uptake of what could become an expensive unused product if your colleagues don’t use the thing!
    For what it’s worth I value a genuine blending of input sessions, structured learning and the e-medium.
    Don’t commit to high expense, long term deals – have a dabble and see if your organisation isn’t ready for the demands of this!
    I am currently having a really close look at a rather impressive and very competitively priced set of web based videos that I think will meet the needs of a lot of my clients. If you or anyone else here wants a look then do contact me off my website:
    Let the debate roll on…

    Andrew Gibbons

  8. Thanks for your comments
    Thanks to everyone for their comments…keep them rolling! It has certainly provided me some interesting food for thought.

    One point I should probably mention is that I actually work in New Zealand (home of Michael Campbell!). Maybe that explains why we haven’t hooked into e-learning yet…these things take a while to get down this far sometimes!


  9. e-learning/blended
    Greetings, Tony – I market and conduct a management “soft skills” workshop series. I use to supplement and support the series. I found its no nonsense, great content and easy to use model to be of great benefit. You may want to visit their site. I have an implementation document that you may find helpful. Please contact me at



  10. Trapped Already!!
    I will start by agreeing with many here, especially Simon and Claudine.
    For my own part, I think one common trap you have already fallen into is stating that you want a blended solution – without carrying out a needs analysis to identify among other things the media mix most suited to the materials you are trying to train. We get lots of clients who come to us saying we want e-learning, blended solution etc without really looking at if this is the best and most effective means of training.
    Also talk to your training suppliers and make sure they understand distance learning and how it can be e-enabled and blended. If they try to give you e-learning as the one and only answer then beware.
    Glad to talk about this more if needed.

  11. Start with independent guidance
    Hi Tony,

    There has been some good stuff here to help you, allow me though just to add a further comment.

    I think where some organisations go wrong is to start their education on e-Learning by talking to a vendor. And hey, guess what, they try and sell you something!

    A perhaps wiser approach is to talk to an independent expert who can help you understand the opportunity before you start to think of finding a solution. It may be that e-Learning is really not the right thing for the organisation at the time.

    Proceed with caution until you are sure you are meeting a real need with an appropriate solution.

  12. It is happening in NZ
    Hi Tony, I’ve spent the past year implementing the first stage of our e-learning strategy (here in Wellington, New Zealand). The statement I always come back to is “driven by learning, enabled by technology’! Happy to talk with you if you’d like to contact me.


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