No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Learning technologies in 2009: Sweating the investment


ELEARNINGOne of the big benefits of elearning has always been the potential for cost-efficiency, however, it still seems dogged by the old issues of take-up and completion of courses. As L&D tightens its belt for the year ahead, Laura Overton draws on a hot-off-the-press benchmark review of learning technology - Driving Business Benefits – to uncover how elearning is being used in 2009 and the secrets of organisations that use it well.

Learning and development enters 2009 faced with the stark reality that we are under pressure to prove our worth in an economic climate where organisations and individuals are focused on cutting and saving.

Our research (from Towards Maturity) with over 300 private and public sector organisations conducted late last year - as the credit crisis hit the UK - found that over 50% of respondents were planning to increase their investment in learning technologies, despite significant numbers of organisations planning cuts in their overall learning spend.

Whilst organisations are investing proportionally more in this area, they are also demanding more.

Photo of Laura Overton"It is clear that this is the year that learning and development are looking to 'sweat their investments' in technology."

Two years ago, the main reasons given for technology investments were to improve access and flexibility of training delivery. Moving into 2009, these still appear in the top 10 drivers behind technology investments, cited by over 50% of the participants. However, they were joined by the need to improve induction (the top driver), quality, administration, customer satisfaction and reach. Meeting the needs of new learners and delivering more qualifications were also in the top 10. Cost cutting was still there (45%) but it is clear that this is the year that learning and development are looking to 'sweat their investments' in technology.

The study is the third in a research series over the past four years looking at trends in the use of learning technologies in the workplace. We now have data on the experiences of over 700 organisations who have invested in learning technologies in the workplace. One of the main research themes over the years has been to look beyond the hype to understand why some organisations are more successful than others, and what contributes to their success.

There is good news – learning technologies are starting to add real value. The list of reported benefits that were actually realised by participants (not just hoped for) in this review was extensive. Unsurprisingly, improved access and flexibility were at the top of the list, reported by over 50% of organisations. Reduced time to train was reported by over 45%. The range of reported benefits varied considerably (reflecting the differing business drivers, technologies and implementation strategies of each organisation) but the responses highlight that technologies are starting to pull their weight across the board.

But success is not guaranteed for all, following a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in 2008, its then learning training and development adviser Martyn Sloman commented: "Elearning is now established as a key part of training delivery.... (But) despite progress, problems remain in implementation and acceptance."

Over the years, Howard Hills and I have been digging deep into this issue and we found as in previous years, the participants in the review were at different stages of their journey in learning technology adoption.

A small number were just starting out, 21% were sporadic users (in just a few departments or programmes). The majority (42%) were in the process of developing and coordinating their elearning strategy. Almost a quarter - 23% - were more established with technology transforming the way that they managed learning and development, and 10% had learning technologies thoroughly embedded with a learning culture that influences their everyday work.

We found that those that were more mature in their use also reported significantly more benefits from their investment. They also report more engagement and take up than others. Mature users are much more likely to report results (at all levels) – for example:

  • Over 70% of the most mature adopters believe that their quality of learning is improved (compared with just over 8% of developing users).

  • Over 75% of embedded organisations believe that their induction processes have improved (compared 12% of developing).
  • "We found that those that were more mature in their use also reported significantly more benefits from their investment. They also report more engagement and take up than others."

    So what are successful organisations doing differently?

    Whilst learning management systems (LMS), standard elearning content and online resources were in use by the majority of participants (over 65%), mature organisations are more likely to include technologies that encourage collaboration (such as virtual classrooms and moderated forums) and improve their business responsiveness (eg rapid application).

    Mature organisations are also more likely to support a wider range of skills (including team building and communication), offer e-enabled programmes to directors and be focussing on building the internal skills needed within the L&D team to innovate in new ways.

    Perhaps more importantly, they will have an approach to implementation that is driven by business alignment, acknowledges the cultural and individual motivations and focuses on engagement and demonstrating value. In other words – extending the good practice of learning and development strategy to their implementation of learning technologies.

    Towards Maturity Benchmark Review is supported by Becta as part of the Next Generation Learning @ Work campaign. The full results will be released at Learning Technologies 2009 at 3.30pm in theatre 4 in the exhibition area.

    Laura Overton is managing director of Towards Maturity CIC, an independent not-for-profit organisation that provides free research and case studies to help organisations improve the impact of learning technologies in the workplace


    Get the latest from TrainingZone.

    Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


    Thank you!