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What are the cultural issues attached with introducing e-learning to a business?


Products and portals aside, what are the human factors we need to consider when introducing e-learning to an organisation?
Rob Foster

7 Responses

  1. e-learning is fundamentally about learning, it is facilitated or
    E-learning should not, and probably will not, replace traditional face-to-face learning methods. What organisations must remember is that there should be a Fusioning approach which encompasses people, process and technology aspects. An important question to ask in order to ascertain whether e-learning could work, is whether the culture of the company and its employees are open to change and the use of technology?
    The important factors are: –
    – that an e-learning solution is designed with different learning styles in mind
    – that an e-learning solution is effectively marketed to internal customers
    – that an e-learning solution is engaging for users and they get a tangible benefit
    – that the results of e-learning will work towards development and therefore retention
    Obviously, there are many more factors – if you would like to discuss this further please drop me a line at [email protected]

  2. Culture at work
    I suspect that, as other respondents have noted, the cultural forces at play are similar whether or not it’s e or non-e learning happening. Our experience in delivering blended learning senior management development is that culture has played a much bigger part than we expected in the struggle or ease to get a new method of learning embedded. Although Hofstede (and others) differentiate national from corporate culture I think it is worth reviewing his dimensions and asking where we can predict reactions from the culture and its inhabitants. For example Power Distance and Tolerance of Ambiguity will both have marked effects (in our experience) on the level and extent of engagement with the topics, the process and the technology employed.
    Now that our programmes are accredited to Masters level and our learners can receive a MMgt we are better matching cultures that value qualifications as evidence of achievement (perhaps more Masculinity than Femininity on Hofstede’s dimensions?)
    Clive Hook
    Clearworth Ltd

  3. The human factors you have to consider in introducing e-learning
    Privacy: The Internet is a much more intimate and personal medium than the classroom. Respect the intimacy.

    Security: Online learners know that their performance is more open to scrutiny (and abuse) than in the classroom. Reassure them about what is tracked, who gets to see it, and how it is secured.

    Techno-wariness: Don’t put barriers where they do not need to be. Make sure you understand what the target learner tech situation is and build your learning environment to eliminate frustrations.

    Social networking: The best reason for putting learning on the Web is its power to connect people with people. Build the need to interact with fellow learners into your courses (chat, group assignments, threaded discussions, etc.).

    Empowerment and responsibility: It’s hard to find the discipline and self-motivation to get into an e-learning curriculum. You have to help people find that discipline. Put time limits on access; auto-email reminders if a learner has stalled; assign a mentor to watch progress and intervene if necessary; link completion to bonuses; or have colleagues work together interdependently.

    Service and support: When e-learners have an administrative or technical problem, they need help immediately. You can’t leave them dangling for a day or two. So your support systems have to be real-time, sympathetic, and always available.

    Some of our MindRise corporate clients have adopted (very successfully) a total-immersion methodology for culture change: plunging everyone, enterprise-wide, into a curriculum that upgrades the level of understanding of e-business, requiring people to share ideas at the same time. You can train 10,000 people or more in a few weeks for less than 25 Pounds each. The “buzz” generated builds mass enthusiasm for both the medium and the message, and provides a great platform from which to launch other e-learning initiatives.

    Godfrey Parkin
    [email protected]

  4. All about relationships
    Here are a few important things:

    1) Know your audience. We were commissioned to deliver some e-learning modules for doctors, but researching their attitudes to online revealed that their levels of IT skill are mixed and their access to the web is fragmented – we had to develop something which addressed these needs before we could deliver e-learning content. Try to get under the skin of your people. Succeeding with e-learning involves a long and complex stage of working with your audience in a facilitator role, socialising them to the e-learning environment (I can send you the theory of the OU’s Gilly Salmon on this as presented to a head teachers’ conference last month) – this must be undertaken _before_ you can confidently expect success.

    2) Community. People like to learn from each other i.e. peer-to-peer. The beauty of online is that it allows you to facilitate more and better communication between them. Will they learn more from your training module or by opening a discussion with two others who are facing the same challenges?

    3) Learning styles. If you are starting from scratch it would be a great shame to end up with boring pages of text with dull multiple choice assessments and ‘back’ and ‘forward’ buttons. Ask instead for something that really takes advantage of the medium – can your users choose from a mix of video, text and animation? Can they chat live to each other as well as posting to discussion forums? Can a moderator stop a video, bring up a web page on everyone’s machine and circle key passages for discussion? Will your software track the way individuals learn down to the last click and feed them education which is more and more personalised?

    What do you think?

  5. More thoughts on cultural factors
    Rob – and other contributors to this debate,

    I really like the debate that Rob’s question has stimulated here – there’s plenty of really useful advice. I would go along with most of what’s been said already, but would add a couple of other points to consider:

    (1) As I’ve written elsewhere, I particularly concerned by the support pro-actively given to the passive learner. Many keen e-learners will make good use of the support/coaches available, so they are less of a worry. But it’s the inactive learners – those most at risk of dropping out – that really need the support. What systems are in place to identify them and follow up to enquire about the problems and offer support – support with a real human face.

    (2) The introduction of e-learning needs to have strong support from the top. It’s not sufficient to roll it out and expect staff to get on with it. Just as with the introduction of NVQs, it’s important that leaders and managers are seen to be using if for themselves – and setting the tone for others.

    (3) Finally thought is about the company’s expectations of when people with undertake online learning. There seems to be an inherent assumption in some organisations that because elearning is ‘anywhere, anytime’, staff can squeeze it into “off-moments” or even do it in their own time at home. This mentality needs to be strongly challenged. As with any learning programme, planning it and protecting the time for it plays an important role in its success.

    I’d be interested in reading other people’s views on all these issues.

    Tim Pickles, Founder, TrainingZone.
    [email protected]

  6. Teaching how to learn
    First of all I agree strongly with Tim Pickles on a well structured support framework. I have seen many e-learning roll out that rely entirely on students being enthusiastic self starters, but as we all know, the majority of learners are not. Recently I wrote an article about learner support pointing at universities and schools where for centuries now, a large part of study relies on self study. The immense experience gained here has identified a need for an all encompassing support framework that includes teaching learners how to learn, as they will not have someone in front of them guiding them through all the material. It also needs to address PC Skills, an understanding of search and analysis tools, technical support and mentor support for both generic learning and specific content.

    Tim rightly points out that the keen learner will get on with it regardless. The overwhelming majority of passive learners, however, will make an e-learning strategy without a proper learner support strategy very costly and ineffective.

  7. Cultural Issues-E Learning
    The implementation of E Learning in an organisation may cause a change in the way people learn. What used to be a Teacher/Trainer led session is now to be Learner’s lead ie to be self directed in his own learning. People need to learn how to learn , and to know how to chart his own training and development needs. The culture of letting learners well informed of the organisations business stratey would help learners discover his own learning requirement so as to meet the organisation’s business objectives.
    Chin MC


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