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Evaluation or critique of eLearning

Written By Rini Baby

Evaluation or critique of eLearning

In a global economy, with a geographically dispersed workforce, with most communication being through mail and chat rather than face-to-face, most professionals are getting increasingly adept as using online communication – and adopting online learning. eLearning can cater to the needs of employees who speak different languages by being amenable to translation.

Let’s look at a few case studies of organizations that deployed eLearning initiatives for meeting specific business goals. The first case study is that of a new product course for a leading provider of professional services

  • Goal – to teach consulting methodologies to all employees consulting on IT strategy, selection, implementation
  • The solution – a blended approach, eLearning key
    • 5 standalone, self paced modules (18 hours)
    • A facilitated online discussion
    • A live workshop (16 hours)
  • Learners – 3000 primary and 5000 secondary learners

Typically, when one thinks of new products, one thinks of physical products such as equipment or automobiles, but here is an instance where eLearning was used to train employees in a methodology used in consulting. The goal of this initiative was to teach consulting methodologies to all employees who deliver IT strategy, selection, and implementation consulting, so that at every step of their engagement with the customer they could provide a consistent and high-quality service to their clients. eLearning played an important role in the training solution, with 18 hours of eLearning delivered to 8000 learners within a short span.

The organization achieved some impressive business results. The business impact was:

  • That the cost savings resulting from eLearning paid for the cost of the eLearning initiative within a year!
  • 100% learners said they gained knowledge they could use immediately on the job.
  • There was an increase in course completion rates.

The best case for eLearning is the fact that the worldwide corporate eLearning market continues to grow. The bottom-line is this – No smart company would invest in an area that shows little or no returns. You only have to look at the training budgets of Fortune companies to see the premium they place on training, and on eLearning in particular.

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  • marian casey

    Hi Rini,

    Interesting case study although I’d like more details. In addition to teaching methodologies in IT strategy and implementation, I imagine you also taught them soft skills to use when engaging with clients. Companies have found success in training employees in soft skills using immersive computer based training simulations. How did you address this in your blended training program?

  • Marian, you’ve nailed the biggest challenge- that of training people on soft skills, especially when it comes to engaging with clients. As a part of the classroom component, we usually show videos that demonstrate the skill. Just before learners are shown the resolution of the problem, the instructor pauses the video, gathers feedback on how learners would solve the problem (say an interaction with an irate customer). This strategy gives everyone a chance to think about the problem and provide their inputs. Once this is done, the video is continued and they get a chance to see how the players in the video resolved the issue. We’ve found Videos and role-plays to be the most powerful means of teaching and training people on people skills. The flip side is that making custom videos takes a great deal of planning and thought – and could be expensive. We have found that even using generic videos does help, provided the instructor can then give the learners a tailor-made situation soon after they have finished viewing a specific part of the video.
    As far as online courses go, the most powerful way to teach people is through meaningful scenarios that are relevant in the learners’ everyday context. This is sometimes a bit of a challenge because usually in a time-crunch, it is very tempting to make do with generic scenarios and not customize them to the learners’ everyday work reality. However, unless the learners can see themselves up there in the course, actively facing real situations, it is very difficult to engage them and make that transition from theory to practice. We usually ensure that scenarios are meaningful by introducing situations involving actual learners or people who face the fire – these could be technical support staff or others in a customer-facing role. In fact, most organizations have recordings of actual interactions. If you can get hold of problematic interactions, where an escalation was required, it makes some pretty good raw material for crafting real-life scenarios. With the added advantage of course that the actual learners do not ‘risk’ anything by the choices they make. By allowing learners to make their choices, we can also encourage them to go along a certain path before discovering the ideal response in such situations through feedback on their incorrect choices. Hope this helps!

  • Incidentally, there are some excellent resources on the Rapid eLearning blog from Tom Kuhlmann on using and creating scenarios: http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/building-scenarios-for-e-learning/

  • Thanks a lot for the blog article. Will read on…