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The rise of elearning is set to continue in 2015


Tony Willson outlines what he believes will be the key trends for the coming year in elearning.

After many years in a recession, the UK is slowly starting to recover but that doesn’t mean that businesses can rest on their laurels. The majority of organisations have a lot of ground to make up in a challenging, crowded and price-centric marketplace. Gaining a competitive advantage in a recovering market will require the application of practical, cost-effective business processes; everything from product and service development to information technology, administration - and training.

During the recession training budgets were slashed as companies tried to reduce their operational costs. Sadly, this has left many industries with an acute need for improved skills and legislative training and so I believe that one of the biggest challenges in 2015 will be to close the skills gap.

Another big challenge businesses will be facing is to deliver these improvements in learning and development at reduced costs, as ROI and profitability will both be closely monitored. I believe these issues will encourage businesses to embrace elearning even more this year, which may also be used in a blended approach with on-the-job training, aimed to achieve:

  • Significant reductions in down-time (time spent away from core responsibilities)
  • Improved delivery time
  • Reduced training costs of up to 70%
  • Delivery of learning at the point of need

Convenience will continue to be one of the other key drivers behind the adoption of elearning because it provides 24/7 accessibility and a huge degree of flexibility as a result.

Many courses can also be customised - either wholly or in part - whereas most basic classroom courses are generic. Learning content, questions and feedback will be increasingly tailored to be totally relevant to the organisation and as elearning grows in popularity, businesses will garner a greater understanding about the manner, pace and method of training that best suits their needs and the needs of their employees. This will further increase training efficiencies, resulting in even greater cost and time savings.

Another benefit of elearning is that it suits our growing dependency on computers and mobile devices. Our adoption of increasingly advanced devices and applications will see a rise in the use of social and informal learning, virtual classrooms, the delivery of elearning to a range of mobile and portable devices and also active engagement with users that will encourage them to structure their own learning.

With elearning, students have more control over their learning process and according to a recent study conducted by The Research Institute of America, this leads to a better understanding of the material, resulting in a 60% faster learning curve, compared with instructor-led training. Perhaps this is because learners can revisit sections they may not have understood, whereas in a classroom it takes a brave person to put their hand up and say ‘I didn’t understand that’.

Also, in good elearning offerings learners have to answer interim questions to check their knowledge at key stages and then take a final test to establish the depth of their learning – something they don’t often have to do in a classroom. It also allows the learner to spend as long, or as short a time on the course as they wish: It is totally self-directed.

An effective training and development plan that engages employees and reflects each individual’s needs and desires – and that is delivered - has been proven to be absolutely fundamental in achieving higher staff retention rates. A survey of top HR directors found that 12% of those who leave a company state that a lack of training and development opportunities was their main reason for leaving. The remaining 88% listed it in their top five reasons.

Tony Willson is managing director at outsource learning and development management company Helmsman Services

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