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Time for an ‘E-cultural shift in attitudes to learning’

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There’s been a lot of noise in the past few weeks about buying and distributing training on-line. In the fashionable world of e-learning, the one stop shop directory is definitely this spring’s colour.

This suits the current state of the training market given that open, instructor-led courses are still the norm in many sectors. But what of the on-line learning that should be sweeping through the training world at the moment? In many cases, the on-line courses available are either not up to scratch or simply not there at all.

There are, of course, a few excellent on-line learning tools out there, but there are also a large number which simply aren’t up to the mark. Just try going directly to the end of the course quiz for a typical (and in this case fictitious) course on time management. Question 1 of my fictitious course reads something like:

Which of the following is an example of good time management?

(a) Identifying, listing and prioritising your tasks at the beginning of each day; or
(b) Undertaking tasks in random order interspersed with no regard for their importance, size or any other work related issues.

I exaggerate, but not that much. If you can score full marks on questions without even reading the content then something has gone awry somewhere - most likely the desire to make a course of universal appeal rather than a targeted and highly effective learning product. At the moment, to paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have any colour course you want so long as it’s black.

So what is to be done? Course creators will not want to build specialist courses for which they feel there is a limited market, but learners will not want to take on-line courses that spend hours simply confirming that they have a good deal of common sense. Such courses will just sit on a server gathering dust. Despite this, there is some good guidance around to help develop and integrate online training within a business - the information for the online trainer provided by the Institute of IT Training is one example.

As providers and deliverers of learning, the challenge is getting the right content to the right people. And so, how do we know what exactly is the right content? The traditional training tools of needs assessments and development plans are part of this, but count for little unless there is a genuine feeling among the workforce that training and learning really is available with real benefits to be had.

This is one thing that certainly cannot be achieved by a computer - there is no buzzword called ‘e-cultural shift in attitudes to learning’. Indeed, such as shift cannot be achieved by the training manager alone; after all, they’re the ones already committed to training. The change needs to span the whole business and get the buy-in of those who traditionally feel excluded from training or see no business case for it. For this reason initiatives such as May 25th’s Learning at Work Day and the re-launch of the Investors in People standard need to be welcomed. Only when a culture of learning and continuous improvement in the workplace really takes hold will the training industry reap the benefits of the new developments taking place online. We need to spend less time at the PC and more time converting the MD.

Russell Holt
Director of Online Learning

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