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The brave new future of elearning


BLACKBOARDPoor quality, un-engaging online learning programmes are severely damaging the reputation of elearning as an extremely effective training tool, says Debbie Jones, and the failure by organisations and training managers to assess the benefits of new elearning technologies will have long-lasting and painful repercussions for many UK organisations.

The need to deliver meaningful, cost-effective training programmes to employees, partners and customers has never been greater. Organisations are becoming increasingly disparate – their workforces operate in multiple remote locations and often in different countries. Furthermore, mobile working is increasingly encouraged, offering employees greater flexibility and work/life balance.

">Photo of Debbie Jones"Training managers must resist the notion from certain camps that elearning is not an effective tool to get the best out of your workforce – this simply isn't true."

But the need for training hasn't changed - people still need to be educated about new products and process, updated working practices, alternative methods and operations and so much more. And this needs to happen at the place and time most convenient to the learner, not the trainer. Organisations in this modern age face a significant challenge to make training work.

A recent report by the CIPD indicates that the majority of employees still receive training in an in-person, classroom environment – 64% compared to 26% of training delivered electronically. The report further shows that the majority of learners are happy with this traditional method. But how sustainable is it? And are some people missing out? The report states that nearly a fifth of trainees fail to take-up the training courses offered to them. A large number of these (40%) state that they are too busy and training does not accommodate their schedule. Furthermore SMEs find the classroom method to be too expensive and an unsustainable way of training staff.

Elearning: low cost, low standard?
Elearning has for some time provided an attractive alternative, offering convenience to trainees and managers alike. But the pay-off for many has been a perceived decrease in the quality and effectiveness of training. Subsequently, too many online training modules are just a 'tick in the box' for development departments and actually add little value to the learning and career of the trainee.

In the past, one of the biggest barriers to successful elearning was that the output was typically flat and un-engaging. A poor training session or disappointing user experience can actually have a detrimental effect on a learner, reducing their morale or perception of a particular company.

"In the past, one of the biggest barriers to successful elearning was that the output was typically flat and un-engaging."

This simply isn't good enough and as the economy gets steadily worse and business becomes more competitive then every training session, module and activity must deliver bottom line benefits and help the trainee to become a greater asset to the organisation. Retaining, motivating and improving the abilities of the existing workforce are imperative for organisations that want to remain afloat during a recession.

Create engaging experiences
The solution lies in creating elearning programmes that are a truly interactive experience for both the trainer and trainee. Trainers must provide engaging content that meets the organisations' and individual's needs. Lessons must be easy for learners to apply to their jobs as well as easy for the trainee to access. Finally, they must be compelling enough for the user to want to complete the course.

Key to making elearning more interactive and therefore productive, is the ability for trainers to easily create, edit and amend their own training. Trainers require a solution which is easy for them to use and modify without having extensive technical knowledge. Non-technical trainers should be able to easily pull together content-rich courses that captivate users by making use of interactive simulations, technology demonstrations or scenario based training. More importantly, the best elearning technologies allow users to interact with the lesson via chat or web video conferencing, be assessed in real-time, and provide instant feedback. For the trainers, they benefit from being able to track the progress of participants and update content as often as is necessary, which provides total control throughout the entire process.

"A poor training session or disappointing user experience can actually have a detrimental affect on a learner, reducing their morale."

Online can still be interactive
Previously one of the biggest obstacles to using web conferencing in place of in-person meetings was the perception that you don't get the same level of engagement from participants. However, with new in-built tools a web conferencing host can simply reach out to participants to gauge their opinions, or even just to see if everyone is paying attention. Hosts can create an online poll, through which they can ask simple questions which are distributed through the user chat channel. Reuters, for example, has added rich interactivity, such as quizzes and simulations, to ensure training is equally engaging and effective.

Elearning solutions can also create online spaces that replicate informal spaces which exist in real world training. For example, teachers can create virtual breakout rooms to focus discussions and further simulate the classroom experience. The trainer can monitor and move among breakout rooms and communicate with all participants informally. This is an excellent facility for distance learning students, enabling them to build a rapport with a trainer outside of the traditional teaching space.

Time to invest time in better learning experiences
In the current economic climate no-one can afford to rest on their laurels. Organisations have to get the best out of the workforce and to do this they need to invest in the best, most cost-effective tools at their disposal. As elearning solutions continue to develop, everyone can benefit from the greater collaboration and more meaningful online learning experiences they generate.

Similarly, training managers must resist the notion from certain camps that elearning is not an effective tool to get the best out of your workforce – this simply isn't true. Investment in these sophisticated elearning tools will ensure businesses are equipped to face the needs of a rapidly changing workforce; employees are better equipped to withstand the toughening economy and learning retention and engagement improves concurrently.

Debbie Jones is the elearning marketing manager at Adobe Systems. For further information on Adobe and elearning visit


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