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7 Factors Affecting Employee Adoption of eLearning

Written By Shalini Merugu

7 Factors Affecting Employee Adoption of eLearning

We are aware that one of the biggest hurdles to successful employee adoption of eLearning is the lack of an organization-wide eLearning culture. That apart, here are 7 more aspects that could affect employee adoption of eLearning and what to do about them.

1. The ‘What eLearning is and what it is not’ perception

Raising awareness about what eLearning is and what it is not will go a long way in helping lower resistance to change. Demystify the concept. Do not assume that everyone understands what eLearning is. To some it could mean watching a video from an online course, to another it could mean reading a bunch of online PDFs and PPTs, to yet another it could mean programs along the lines of computer games. Employees need to see that eLearning is another mode of delivering the same critical training and building skills that they need to be successful at work. They need to know that the medium will not detract from the message.

2. The ‘What am I supposed to do?’ question

Let’s face it – ‘self-managed’ could sound a bit scary, even to adults. Adult learning is based on the principle of the self-directed, self-motivated learner who can manage his own learning. However traditional models of learning had placed the learning controls firmly in the hands of instructors. It might take a while for learners to make the paradigm shift that with eLearning, they are truly in charge of their own learning. Some learners also might have apprehensions about being self-directed and may lack the required motivation and discipline to take it up. By assuring learners that they are not being thrown in at the deep end to sink or swim, you can allay any such fears. Let them know what kind of support systems have been set up to help them adopt eLearning successfully.

3. Worrying about ‘What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)’

Answer the WIIFM right at the outset. This should be done by holding brief sessions with various employee groups and letting them know what kind of learning needs the proposed learning programs address and what are the benefits of taking part in the eLearning program. If this is not addressed strongly, all other motivation strategies will fail.

4. The ‘How effective is it?’ concern

Employees need to know that the main advantage of eLearning is not that it helps cut down costs for the organization, but that it offers multiple benefits such as enabling faster-time-to-market of products and services than the longer traditional mode of learning could offer. When they see some statistics and examples that demonstrate these benefits, it helps in securing their buy-in.

5. The ‘How do I make time for it’ dilemma

Because eLearning is mostly about self-paced learning (except in synchronous events such as chats, virtual trainings etc.), employees have the freedom to take it up whenever it is convenient for them. While this flexibility could be a great benefit, it could backfire if there is no formal acceptance or approval of employees having allocated time during their work schedules to accommodate learning. Or if there is no legitimacy or acknowledgement given to learners who take eLearning from home or outside of office hours. Address this concern head on.

6. The technology/PC familiarity factor

Many older employees may be resistant to eLearning because they are not so tuned in to having technology delver their learning. A group that could be less tech-savvy such as blue collar employees may not look forward to the prospect of eLearning much. We cannot assume PC familiarity or a preference for this mode of learning. Communicate to employees early on that there will be orientation programs on using the required technology and plan for these sessions accordingly.

7. The technology availability factor

If your organization is known for its notoriously slow network most times, eLearning may not go down well with employees already frustrated with connectivity and speed issues. Don’t assume that employees have high bandwidth at home or internet connectivity either. To address such concerns you could provide employees options of taking courses via CD ROM, followed by online assessments which they could take connected from the office. Explore available options and communicate these to employees so that their fears are addressed.

What in your opinion is the most critical factor affecting employee adoption of eLearning? What is the top-most reason for employee resistance to eLearning and how can it be addressed? Please do share your insights.

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  • Michael J. Spangle

    Again, your site offers a most interesting question and discussion. I have looked at each of these questions and offer the following responses.

    The ‘What eLearning is and what it is not’ perception
    The biggest challenge that I see here is getting Management to understand what it is, and what it is not. Like it or not, there are two questions that Management asks when looking at a new program:
    1) How will this save me money?
    2) How will this improve the productivity of my people?
    Failing to effectively address those questions will prevent buy-in by Management.

    The ‘What am I supposed to do?’ question
    If Management possess a good grasp of Job and Task Analysis, then they will be able to more effectivly channel the learning process. With clearly comminicated expectations from Management, the employee will have a more effective road map to direct their learning by.

    Worrying about ‘What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)’
    Clearly communicated expectations will include clearly communicated benefits. This should take care of this problem.

    The ‘How effective is it?’ concern
    The elephant in the room, not addressed by the article is two-fold. One, how effectivly will the employee be able to apply the learning to improve their performance in a measurable way? Two, how long will they retain the information they have learned?

    The ‘How do I make time for it’ dilemma
    This one is especially difficult for managers with short staffs and tight schedules (and budgets). Contractual issues could arise in terms of having people train on their off hours. The question will come up of how they will get paid.

    The technology/PC familiarity factor
    Age is not always an issue here, but it does need to be addressed.

    The technology availability factor
    I have yet to find a company with a stable enough network to sustain elearning (or much eldse for that matter) over extended periods of time. Some are better than others, but none are great at it.

  • Richard K

    Most of the time it is not mandatory–when it is, it is adopted. Hopefully, if it is mandatory, the e-learning has been designed to be compelling, challenging, RELEVANT and satisfying to the learning audience.

  • #1 Most Critical Factor in Adoption of eLearning?

    …just as with anything else. Is it usable and is the content applicable? If people need it, they will embrace it.

    Other than the basic fear of change everyone has mentioned, I think the biggest problem facing elearning has been the fact that most of it just isn’t good. It’s often simply repurposed text books and classroom courses and that just doesn’t work.

  • M. Shalini

    Michael, thanks for your detailed comments. The underlying assumption for effectiveness is that critical factors of usefullness, relevance, and applicability on the job are tackled in the learning design phase and that the courses we are rolling out are instructionally sound and relevant to the learenr’s needs.

    Richard, you are right – optional courses sometimes stay right there. Till an organizational mandate comes along. If all else is in place, mandates are the most powerful way for buy-in.

    Clifford, what you have pointed out is sadly true in a lot of cases, and something that has to be given due consideration in the design stage itself. One bad experience with a poorly designed course can put off learners for life.

    Thanks for your inputs everyone!

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