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Learning & Development Via Email – Why Not?


There are all sorts of training and development points for employees. First, of course, is the onboarding learning that is critical for a new employee to get himself “grounded.” This may occur over time, through a variety of methods – one-on-one meetings with a supervisor and HR, a mentoring journey with an established and trusted peer, and even some digital coursework that develops additional skills, etc.

Second, is the learning and development that occurs for employees as they move through their careers with an organization. All organizations evolve – their goals change; their products and/or services expand; their marketing strategies undergo transformations; new laws and regulations that now impact them must be disseminated; new technology is introduced. Current employees must learn new things all along their journeys.

The point is this: Learning and development is ongoing and a permanent part of any organization that plans to survive and thrive in this new highly competitive and increasingly global marketplace.

Disruption of Traditional Models

The traditional model, of course, included a “presenter” of sorts, with scheduled meeting places, dates, and times. It also included attendance at workshops and conferences, crowding into large lecture halls with a lecturer and his/he PowerPoint presentation on a huge screen. We can now “throw this baby out with the bathwater,” to use an old phrase.

Remote workplaces, teams spread all over the globe, and employees with differing time demands all mean that physically gathering those in need of the same L&D is virtually impossible

Distance Training and Development

Whether an organization has only local employees or has teams in far-flung places, models of L & D have changed and will continue to do so. This means that employees will more and more be participating in training on their terms, not on those that have been set for them. Already, digital learning is overtaking the marketplace, with coursework, online real-time sessions which can be recorded for later use, digital assessments, gaming, and opportunities for team members to participate and collaborate via platforms such as Skype and Go to Meeting.

What About Email?

Why not? Courses can be delivered in the cloud; they can be pre-programmed on an organization’s website; they are even delivered via social media channels. And now that email can deliver video and all other types of multimedia, can allow for interaction and feedback, it almost seems to be a logical outgrowth for training delivery. And if a course designer/developer finds a fast, secure, and reliable email hosting provider, so much the better.

One big benefit of email training strategy is this: the modules can be developed sequentially, so that the designer has some control over the order in which the participants receive their learning. If all modules are available at once, learners may skip around. The learners have the flexibility to open those emails on their own time, and, of course, to save them for future reference. Windows of time can be established before the next email will be sent giving the learner “deadlines” but some flexibility

Development of an Email Delivery Model – A few Experiments

Trainers are experimenting a bit with techniques for delivering at least some of their modules via emails.

  1. An initial email can include a pre-test to determine what the learners already know. They can complete the answers within the email and send it immediately back as a reply. This is nothing new.
  2. Emails can allow interactivity. One trainer designed the delivery of information in such a way that the learners had to click and drag their cursors or fingers to find answers to questions.
  3. There is an email-to-blog feature available now that allows all learners in a course at the same time to send their comments for discussion topics via email, and they are all gathered as one large article which can then be accessed by all. This is actually must simpler than Blackboard, because everyone knows how to send an email. This feature may be especially helpful for older learners who can become frustrated using some of the new communication tools in virtual classrooms.

Designing and Developing a Course – No Difference

Anything that can be incorporated into a stand-alone learning module upload or a cloud-based package can be delivered via email. The principles of developing an online program remain the same:

  • Make your training goals clear and understandable. Request a return email from anyone who needs clarification
  • Put plenty of variety in the lesson modules – video, interactive activities, self-assessments, games, etc. – all of these things can be imbedded as attachments.
  • Use humor in subject lines and within the modules. When used properly, it is a great de-stressor
  • Videos with stories or interesting analogies can bring the real world to the learners
  • Problem-solving activities can occur by setting up pairs or small groups who can then work together through group emails.
  • Delivery should be customized based upon specific learner needs. Suppose, for example, that some of the participants, through a pre-test have demonstrated skills/knowledge that are a part of the first modules. Others may lack some skills/knowledge needed to begin the course at all. Segmented emails can accommodate these groups, providing customized training experiences without wasting anyone’s time.
  • Each email should contain a short chunk of learning followed by some method for the participant to assess his master – using games, quizzes, and surveys, the results of which can be sent back via reply email, work well and are certainly a convenient method of reporting/responding.

One of the best email benefits a trainer and participant may both discover is that, when e-learning/training occur via email, the learner does not have to “go anywhere” to access his modules. They are personally delivered right into his inbox and serve as a reminder that the next unit/module should be begun soon. The trainer knows that the email has been received and can watch his inbox for any questions or individual student needs.

Digital learning will only increase in use and popularity. Using email as a delivery system gives trainers and participants just one more option.

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