Electronic learning or e-learning is a blanket term for education through the use of electronic media or digital technology. Text, audio, images, animation, and streaming video are typically delivered via satellite TV, CD-ROM, and computer as well as through local intranet / extranet and the Web.
That’s the electronics of it.
At the enterprise level, e-learning is about training people, and the resulting effect on your organisation. It can be difficult to know where to begin when thinking about implementing a LMS on the corporate network and takes planning. To help you get started, below are our five tips for eLearning success.
1. Plan Ahead
Before proceeding with an e-learning initiative, consider the following:
- What are your specific goals? (e.g. train more people in less time, increase sales, etc.)
- In terms of trainees, what kind of numbers are you dealing with?
- What kinds of e-learning courses are deemed essential?
- What types of e-learning courses are to be optional?
- Do employees actually have an appetite to learn online?
- How will e-learning relate to other training programmes, within your organisation?
- How will results be measured?
- Who will be responsible for the system design and maintenance?
- Who will be in charge, overall?
To answer these questions, you’ll need to do some research. The kinds of reports you generate might include:
- Needs assessment, to determine what is essential, and what isn’t
- Analysis, to document what your internal stakeholders need to get from the programme
- User surveys, to determine how much your employees will welcome and use eLearning
- Time and cost analyses, for the initiative, as a whole
- Strategic planning, to link e-learning objectives with the goals of your organisation
- Marketing / communication plan, to promote and ensure use of the eLearning initiative
- Measurement criteria, for performance and critical success factors within the programme
2. Know Your Audience
In a multi-disciplinary environment, staff will likely be from various educational and cultural backgrounds. Even where the workforce share a common discipline, individuals react differently, to different educational approaches; your e-learning set-up needs to take this into account.
There will be those who respond better to direct interaction with a teacher – even a virtual one. You’ll need to set up avenues for instruction and feedback, like Skype calls or instant chat to help those that need the additional, one-to-one support.
Others prefer to learn at their own pace, often in their own time. You should provide options for course material to be distributed via portable media, and on handheld devices. Consider email, blogs, wikis, and discussion boards, as well as web-supported textbooks, and social networking using web 2.0.
This can be facilitated by the company intranet and it’s ideal if you can give access to the LMS (see below) virtually by using a cloud-based set-up or VPN access.
3. Choose Your Ideal Set-up
The infrastructure behind your training programme is a Learning Management System (LMS). At its most basic, this is software for administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery.
A good LMS should:
- Deliver your course content
- Provide for student registration and administration
- Manage (i.e., schedule and, track) events, within the training programme
- Manage your curriculum and certification
- Assess and manage skills and competencies of the course participants
- Analyse perceived skills gaps
- Generate individual development plans
- Generate reports
- Monitor training records
- Provide tools for authoring the courseware itself
If your IT department is up to the challenge, you can develop a system in-house, specifically tailored. No need to look elsewhere. However, most systems are commercially developed and have commercial software licenses. Further to this, a LMS is built and optimised by commercial companies in order to save time and money at the enterprise level. Whilst an IT department may have many skills when it comes to managing the company intranet, it may be too much of a big ask to set up a LMS through the IT dept.
4. Play, to Win
Competition. Incentive, and reward. The will to succeed. One of the latest developments in LMSs is the use of Gamification. The idea is to use the psychology and mechanics of games in a non-game setting, to engage users in solving problems. The “fun factor” encourages learning, and this can be further enhanced by providing incentives, such as:
- Merit badges, virtual currency (think BitCoin).
- Leader boards (for those who love to stay ahead of the pack – and be seen, to be doing so).
- Points, equal prizes (if your budget will stretch to that).
- The military in various countries and many large organisations use gamification, in their training. So why not you?
5. Work to Your Strengths
Reports generated by your LMS from test results, points scored, and individual profiles will help you identify skills gaps, and proficiencies. This may determine those employees for whom further training is required, or even suggest potential candidates for promotion.
At the proficiency level, results may suggest where talented individuals could be redeployed, and in what capacity.
The impact of this could mean serious benefits for you, such as:
- Getting your products to market faster
- Increased revenue
- Reduced training time and costs
- Improved employee relations
- Greater customer satisfaction
- Easier tracking and resource management
- Improved performance of your organisation, as a whole
So there you have it. There are so many benefits to using a LMS in the workplace that it’s all but impossible to list them all. In terms of the costs involved with staff training, whilst there will be some initial and ongoing investment, e-learning still wins out when compared to traditional training.
What’s more, modern technologies are converging to ensure that the use of a LMS in the workplace is becoming easier each year. The blurring between working and home life, the rise of BYOD and remote working, all of these conspire to ensure that learning and working go hand in hand in a way that’s less costly to the employer and more enjoyable for the employee.